Chinese students fall for Cuba

Updated: 2014-07-22 10:57

By Chen Weihua in Havana (China Daily USA)

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Having spent the last six years studying in Cuba, Xiang Juxuan, from Chongqing in western China, will graduate from a Havana medical school in one year.

But the 24 year old doesn't seem anxious to leave.

His plan is to pursue graduate study in Cuba, but he first wants to find a temporary job in Havana to put what he has learned to use.

"My study and experience here will benefit me for a lifetime," Xiang said.

Arriving in Cuba in 2008 as an 18 year old, Xiang said he has been most impressed by how friendly, generous and upbeat Cuban people are even in times of difficulty.

"I love Cuba, and I feel grateful to the country," he said.

The young man has also been impressed by the character of the Cuban people.

"A nation that believes in heroism is hard to defeat. It makes them strong," Xiang said describing Cuba and clearly implying a country under the US blockade that started in the early 1960s.

Xiang is one of some 3,800 Chinese students who have come to Cuba since 2006 to pursue study under a bilateral government education exchange program.

Chinese students from 12 central and western provinces and municipalities in China come to study everything from medicine and education to tourism and Spanish. All of them spend the first year studying Spanish.

Both the Cuban and Chinese governments provide scholarships for the students, many of whom come from underprivileged families in less developed parts of China.

Wang Zhili, from a small town in Gansu province, was among some 370 Chinese students graduating a week ago. With a major in education, Wang is planning to pursue graduate study in Spain.

Tarara, where Wang's campus is located, is a resort town about 20 km east of Havana. Blue seas, sandy beaches, palm trees and ample sunshine paint a picturesque Caribbean paradise.

The house where Che Guevara used to live briefly is nearby. It was here in the late 1950s that Che recovered from an asthma attack.

The medical school where Xiang has been studying, known as Julio Trigo Lopez Medical School, is not close to the beach.

There, Qu Yi, from Shaanxi province, is interning at the local clinic following Cuban doctors on their rounds.

She said the Cuban medical system is praiseworthy because it puts much more emphasis on disease prevention compared to China's system.

Wang Baozhen, from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, said Cubans are very friendly to the Chinese students.

He said that while small hospitals here were somewhat ill equipped, the major hospitals had all of the facilities.

Some 400 Chinese students are currently studying at the medical school and 300 of them are taking summer courses.

"My parents feel I have made progress and become more independent after living in Cuba for the past six years," said He Qijun.

From southwest China's landlocked Yunnan province, He has travelled quite a bit in Cuba and has fallen in love with the beaches and ocean. "Every picture looks just beautiful," she said.

Silvio Torres Beltran, a forensics teacher at the medical school, said Chinese students work very hard and respect the teachers. He pointed to Xiang as his best student.

Beltran said he hoped to travel to China and learn a bit about forensics there so he can better teach his Chinese students.

While the Tarara campus has already been empty since the last group of Chinese students graduated there this month. No new Chinese students have been sent there in the last few years. The medical school will also see its last group of Chinese students graduate in two years.

"I will miss them very much," said Beltran.

 Chinese students fall for Cuba

From left: Chinese students Xiang Juxuan, Wang Baozhen, He Qijun, Ye Zhipeng and Qu Yi pose at the Julio Trigo Lopez medical school in Havana. Some 3,800 Chinese students from China have come to study in Cuba since 2006. Chen Weihua / China Daily

(China Daily USA 07/22/2014 page3)