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Global students forge closer ties in Zhejiang

ezhejiang.gov.cn| Updated: June 6, 2024 L M S

Cross-cultural communication is crucial in today's globalized world and is key for China and other countries to understand each other. 

This was the sentiment shared among students and teachers from the world's leading higher-education institutions as they gathered in Zhejiang province to compete in the 2024 International Elite Universities Water Sports Open. 

Over 400 participants from more than 20 prestigious universities, including Peking, Tsinghua, Zhejiang, Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge joined the event and immersed themselves in Chinese culture in a variety of exchange activities from May 28 to June 3.

"The most important thing we as a team gained was just coming here to China to experience it for a lot of our teammates," said John Lian, head coach for the Harvard University Dragon Boat Team. 

It was their first time coming to China, Lian said, and he hoped that they could experience a side of China "that is different than what they probably knew previously or see in the news in the United States".

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Participants compete in a dragon boat race at the 2024 International Elite Universities Water Sports Open, Huzhou, Zhejiang on June 1, 2024. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Jointly hosted by Zhejiang University and the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture, Radio, Television, and Tourism, the 2024 International Elite Universities Water Sports Open is the first event of its kind, featuring such competitions as a dragon boat 12-athlete 200m race, a recreational kayak 200m race, and a water sports tour (kayak, dragon boat).

"The 'dragon boat' is imbued with rich cultural connotations and symbolism," said Du Jiangfeng, president of Zhejiang University, at the opening ceremony of the event. "It represents the Chinese nation's unremitting pursuit of and good wishes for promoting world peace and development and building a community with a shared future for mankind."

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International students try their hands at a dragon dance on the campus of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on June 3, 2024. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"I've discovered about China personally," said Loann Marquant, a French student currently studying at Harvard University, as he and his fellow participants enjoyed the dragon and lion dances, watched traditional opera and folk music performances, and tried their hands at calligraphy and seal-engraving at Zhejiang University.

"They just reminded us of all the rich history and culture of China," he said. "These experiences help us better understand each other."

A top university in the world, Zhejiang University is one of the first in China to offer water sports as electives and is known for its commitment to promoting international exchanges through water sports competitions. 

"Not many students get many opportunities to go overseas for exchanges," said Ong Kai Xuan Nicholas, a student from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "It's even more important that we get to interact with people of different cultures and understand how they think or why they think this way." Lian, the Harvard University Dragon Boat Team head coach, concurred.

"To make friends with Chinese teams and universities, and to have connections of our own is a really good step," he said. 

"In the future, hopefully, we'll have chances to also invite some of the Chinese teams to come to the United States and share what we do on our campuses," he added.