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International Students Seek Chinese Summer Holiday

China is seeing a huge influx of students from overseas this summer as more international students choose to spend their summer break in the country.


Rather than sticking to popular tourist sites, students are taking up Gong Fu (Kung Fu) and Mandarin classes.


Since the beginning of the summer, over 300 students from overseas have studied the art of Gong Fu in Beijing Shichahai Sports School, which was set up by martial arts film star Jet Li.


The students fork out 60 to 80 US dollars every day for lessons, food and lodging. The apartments on campus are already full and some students have to stay miles away from the school.


"More foreign students, mostly in their 20s, are coming to learn the genuine Gong Fu. The number is increasing at a rate of 10 to 20 percent every year," said Liu Yanbin, vice president of the school.


Tom Baneby from Britain's Exeter University is trying to learn the Gong Fu basics after he came to China five weeks ago.


"I have read some Kung Fu books and was inspired by the early movies of Bruce Lee. It is a difficult art to master and flexibility is the major problem, but it is still lots of fun. I will recommend the course to my friends back home," Baneby said.


Other overseas students are opting to learn Chinese.


Greg McCarthy became fascinated with the Chinese characters a year ago after helping a Chinese friend to repair his computer but not being able to understand the Chinese menus.


"There are interesting stories behind each character and that made me want to learn the language," said the Michigan University student.


McCarthy is enrolled in a summer program offered by Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), which has seen more than 2,200 foreign students on its campus this summer. "The number has been on the rise every summer," said Yu Shucheng, deputy director of the International Students Department of BLCU, who believes the national total exceeds 20,000.


French student Celine has been learning Chinese in Poitiers Confucius Institute, the first Confucius Institute in France, yet she believes coming to China is the best way to learn the language. "I've enjoyed the grand campus of BLCU and there are so many things worth doing here," she said.


Although many students are shying away from the tourist track, visiting places of historical interest is still on the agenda.


"Chinese traditional buildings are symbolic and there is mythology incorporated into the architecture," Michael Weintraub, a summer exchange student at Beijing University, said. "It's a shame so many buildings that characterised old Beijing, such as the hutongs, have been demolished.


To students from overseas, like Shin Yun Hee from the Republic of Korea, even some activities regarded as trivialities by the Chinese, take on particular significance.


The girl used to believe that Chinese people were workaholics and lacked passion but her visit to China changed her mind.


"Many Chinese dance in the parks every morning, it is very romantic," Shin grinned.


(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2006)


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