Serbian alumna’s 10-year bond with China

Updated: November 4, 2022

Editor’s Note: Marijana Stojanovic is a Serbian student, who received a master’s degree in translation from the School of Foreign Languages (SFL) at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU). She worked as an intern for the Serbian government and was then employed by the China Railway Construction Corporation Limited and the China Railway Design Corporation (CRDC). Currently, Stojanovic is working for the Serbian office of Haitian International. She has rich translating experience and her clients include Tencent, KPMG, Financial Times, Da-Jiang Innovations, Schneider Electric, Air China and DFS Group Limited.


Learning Chinese and taking root in China for 10 years

Stojanovic’s story with China began at the Belgrade Language Senior High School, located in the capital of her home country. It was the only secondary school in Belgrade to provide Chinese programs at that time. Following three years of intensive learning in bilingual courses taught in Chinese and English, Stojanovic improved her language skills and attended a Chinese language competition held by the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Her outstanding performance saw her receive an invitation to the First Chinese Bridge – Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign Secondary School Students held in Jinan, capital of East China's Shandong province. After the competition, she received a summer scholarship from the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban).

This short journey to China left a deep impression on the young Serbian girl. She said that she hoped to put what she had learned over the three years into practice and spend more time in China. Upon that, Stojanovic decided to continue her Chinese studies after graduating from senior high school. "I passed the HSK exam together with college students from the University of Belgrade at the Confucius Institute there, and I was the only senior high school student to take that exam.”

After receiving the HSK certificate, Stojanovic acquired the Chinese Government Scholarship for language research. One year later, she enrolled in the language program of Jilin Normal University, learning to improve her Chinese speaking, listening and writing skills. Stojanovic said her studies there made her believe that she could master one of the most difficult languages in the world through hard work and determination.

“For me, learning Chinese is not only a process of language acquisition. It has also improved my mindset, broadened my horizons, enabled me to communicate in Chinese, and helped me understand Chinese culture more deeply. These experiences have created who I am, which I am very grateful for."

Subsequent to her one-year study in Jilin, Stojanovic made a decision to go to Shanghai. "When my parents bought me my first computer in 2000, the very first picture I downloaded was of Shanghai. Later I learned that the landmarks in it were Lujiazui, the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Bund," she said.

After her arrival in Shanghai, Stojanovic first completed an advanced Chinese course at Donghua University, before receiving a bachelor's degree in economics. During her undergraduate vacation, she returned to Serbia and worked as an intern at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Serbian government. With proficient language skills and professional economic knowledge, Stojanovic assisted the government in formulating plans for economic and trade cooperation and infrastructure-related projects. She also analyzed China's policies and macroeconomic indicators, helped in the preparation of bilateral agreements, did translation work, and served as an interpreter for Serbian entrepreneurs visiting China.

As China stepped up efforts in reform and intensified opening-up to the international community, Stojanovic realized the necessity of unlimited communication between China and the rest of the world. Consequently, she decided to study translation and continue to enhance her Chinese skills to contribute to Chinese translation in Europe.


Stojanovic attends the Chinese Bridge competition and visits China with her teacher in 2008.

Studying at SJTU and delving into Chinese culture

Stojanovic chose to study at the SFL of SJTU, which enjoys a good reputation in foreign languages and translation circles. As a graduate student working for a Master’s degree, she often met with classmates at coffee shops near the university, where they chatted over tea and coffee. Stojanovic found her postgraduate studies rich and her Chinese peers supportive and friendly.

Stojanovic’s supervisor was Professor Zhu Yifan, whose professionalism, rich experience and patience ignited her interest in translation. She spoke highly of Professor Zhu, saying that she is not only a great professor, but also a very good person.  "In retrospect, writing my master's thesis under her guidance may have been the most enjoyable time in the past two and a half years," she recalled.

Stojanovic wrote about classical Chinese translation in her graduation thesis. With the help of Zhu, she translated Yan Fu’s Translation written by He Lin in 1925, which was filled with classical Chinese, vernacular Chinese and classical English poems, and conducted systemic research on these two master translators. During her translation, Stojanovic pored over many classical Chinese works and realized the difference between ancient Chinese and classical Chinese.

In addition to Professor Zhu, Tao Qing, head of the Department of Translation, also impressed Stojanovic. Tao has rich experience in interpretation and translation, and is a knowledgeable educator, she recalled.

Stojanovic didn’t confine her translation studies to the classroom. Instead, she visited mountains and rivers across the county to experience the charm of Chinese culture. Her travels to Beijing, Northeast China, Hong Kong and Macao SARs, as well as Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong and Hainan provinces opened her eyes to the magnificence and vastness of China. Through these visits, she got to learn about local cultural customs and traditional Chinese culture. Stojanovic said that she loves the 24 solar terms, traditional Chinese medicine and tea culture the most. As for food, her favorite dishes are Northeast China cuisine and Sichuan cuisine. “Eating spicy food can help expel the humidity inside the body,” said Stojanovic.


Stojanovic takes a group photo with her peers at SJTU.

Returning home and acting as a translator to bridge China and Serbia

After studying in China for 10 years, Stojanovic returned to her hometown, Belgrade, and worked for Chinese enterprises there. As a senior translator in Chinese, English and Serbian at CRDC, she translated various kinds of technical documents and served as an interpreter for engineers. Her job exposed her to different aspects of technical translation and pushed her to learn about different industries.

Stojanovic has witnessed the continuous development of Sino-Serbia relations in the past decade. Ten years ago, there had only been one secondary school in Serbia to offer Chinese programs. Nowadays, Chinese courses are provided by many private schools in Belgrade and well-known public senior high schools in other cities of Serbia.

CRDC, the company she worked for, participated in the construction and opening of the Hungary-Serbia railway, a key project in the Belt and Road Initiative and the debut of China's high-speed railway technology and equipment  in Europe. This project stands for the docking of Chinese railway standards with the UIC code adopted by the European Union for the first time. On March 19 local time, the Belgrade-Novi Sad section of the railway was put into operation, marking Serbia's entry into the era of high-speed rail.

As a witness of the economic, trade and cultural exchanges between the two countries, Stojanovic was very proud, "China-Serbia cooperation has a long history. It has harvested fruitful results which have been expanding in recent years. The cooperation is not only beneficial to both sides, but also to the entire Balkan Peninsula. China's investment in Serbia is increasing, and I hope this trend will continue."

This summer, Stojanovic attended the local Chinese Bridge competition as a referee with Chinese teachers from Confucius Institutes. From the Chinese Bridge in China to the competition held in her home country, she was filled with emotions. "Whether from the perspective of a foreigner or a translator, learning Chinese is an endless endeavor and pleasure."

China bore witness to the best 10 years of Stojanovic’s life, during which she learned a lot and chased her dreams in the country. The SFL at SJTU eyed her growth and she built profound bonds with the school.

The SFL has a time-honored tradition of foreign language education, which originated from the Translation Academy of Nanyang College, the predecessor of SJTU. The academy was the first university publishing and translation institution in modern Chinese history.

The SFL is also the birthplace of CET 4 and CET 6, and is the seat of the CET committee. Powered by its global strategies, it is committed to fostering international, versatile and elite talents. The MTI program provided by the school regularly invites senior translators and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the China International Communications Group and the United Nations to give lectures, with the aim of cultivating high-end translators and talents in international organization management. The SFL has established cooperation with multiple world-renowned universities in more than 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Japan, providing joint dual degree and exchange programs for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The SFL was the last stop of Stojanovic 's journey in China and also the start of her career. With adept translation skills and professional knowledge in economic and trade, she will continue to serve Chinese enterprises in Serbia and build a bridge for communication between the two countries.

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