China molds Sudanese man’s life
In 2004, 21- year- old Albadawe Abdalla was among 20 students who had enrolled in the Chinese program at the University of Khartoum, the top university in Sudan. But Abdalla had become frustrated because there were few opportunities to use the language in his country.
He had never even met a Chinese person.
“I wanted to transfer to an English major, which was the priority for most students in the faculty of arts,” Abdalla recalls.
After a semester, he had begun to find the language and culture more appealing, and his decision to stick with it led him to study in China and choose the language as the focus of his career.
Now 33, Abdalla is head of the Chinese department at the university, which has more than 300 students, the largest and the most popular department in the faculty of arts.
“Each year, only those with the highest scores can be enrolled at the college,” he says. “We will set up the curriculum for a master’s degree soon.”
The faculty at the department also has grown from one person in 2004 to more than 10, including some from China.
Hao Siyuan, a postgraduate student from Beijing Language and Culture University, has been a volunteer teacher in the department since 2015.
She says under Abdalla’s leadership, the department has developed quickly. “His schedule is packed with meetings and assorted routine stuff, and he is also the most popular teacher in the department,” Hao says.
“Abdalla is very much like the Chinese: punctual and hardworking, drinks hot water and likes Chinese noodles.”
Chinese is now an engrained part of Abdalla’s life, although learning the language started as a big challenge.
“It is the most difficult language because it is too strange to remember,” Abdalla says.
“I wrote and recited characters every day, but I found they were gone totally from my mind the second day,” he recalls.
During his first semester, Abdalla spent all his spare time memorizing characters. “I went to the library first, early in the morning, and repeatedly practiced until the room’s lights were turned off,” he says.
A friend bought him a cassette of Chinese songs in China as a gift. “I still remember the lyrics,” he says as he starts to croon a hit Chinese song of the 1980s.
Back in the early 2000s, there were few materials for learning Chinese in Sudan, since the internet was not widely available and there were few Chinese there.
“One day I saw a Chinese person on the way back from school. I called to the bus driver to stop the bus and ran to stop the Chinese person’s car and asked if I can speak Chinese with them,” he recalls. “Friends called me insane. But I really enjoyed it and wanted to indulge in the culture.”
In 2007, when Abdalla was in his third year of college, he got a chance to attend Beijing Jiaotong University in China as an exchange student.
“From that year on, I saw more job and study opportunities emerging in Sudan for Chinese majors,” he says.
Before arriving, he was concerned about finding Muslim food, the colder climate and pollution in Beijing, but everything turned out fine, leading him to opt for further studies