Yuanfen, or “fate”, is the word that Olga Fedorenko uses to describe how she ended up studying for her bachelor’s degree at Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU). For the seventeen year old Olga, the country seemed to be a land of limitless opportunity. “From the very beginning I had a huge crush on China, because everything seemed to be so big, so endless. But what I loved most of all was the feeling of freedom I got, well, it’s like you can do whatever you want without caring about what other people think about it,” she said recently.
Olga receiving her BA degree from SYSU President (Photo taken by Qin Zhiwei)
Olga arrived at SYSU to enroll in the Business Chinese bachelor’s degree course at the School of Chinese as a Second Language. Her father had been doing business in China for years, and Guangzhou is well known as China’s major trading hub and the focal point for the Pearl River Delta manufacturing and industrial area. This meant that studying at SYSU was a perfect fit for Olga. Beyond just the academic side of her time here, she has also grown as a person, saying: “I think I have become more open-minded. It happens when you meet people from all over the world…My best memories here are the memories of the people I was lucky to have met. You know, all the stories that I’m going to keep in my heart forever… Good, good times.”
Olga (front) posing with her classmates in front of the University's motto (Photo provided by Olga)
When looking at how comfortable Olga is in this international and face-paced environment, it would be easy to assume that she grew up in one of Russia’s leading metropolises, like Moscow or St. Petersburg. In reality, the opposite is true. “Oh you can’t even imagine how small my home town is! But this made my first impression about China even more intense,” she said, adding, “By the way, the Chinese and many foreigners always make fun of my hometown’s name, because if you translate it to Chinese it sounds like '矿泉城,'" (a Chinese word meaning something like “Mineral Spring City”).
When asked about her advice for other Russian students considering studying in China, she first cracked a joke (“Come on guys, there are already too many here!”) before getting serious, saying: “To be serious, I’d recommend future Russian students to choose a good well-known university like SYSU. According to the experience I got while compiling my dissertation survey, SYSU takes teaching foreigners very seriously.”
Olga (fourth from left) with friends and classmates on a school trip (Photo provided by Olga)
She has put her Chinese language skills to good use, joining her family’s business in trading electronics. She described her work with characteristic modesty: “Well, it’s nothing special, because Guangzhou is the trading capital of China, so it was quite obvious for me to do some business here. My family does business in electronic spare parts and accessories, and what I do is mostly the purchasing part of it.” Still, she cuts an extremely impressive figure, having undergone a transformation from a bright-eyed seventeen year old yearning for experience abroad to a fully-fledged business woman deeply immersed in the lightning-fast world of international commerce.
When asked about looking forward to the future, Olga brushed the question aside, saying: “To be honest, I don’t like long-term plans. It’s quite a hard thing to do. I like changes, and what I see for the next five years is staying (or you can call it moving) somewhere in between Russia and China.” No matter what her future holds, Olga’s time at SYSU has helped shaped her into who she is now, and helped propel her forward on toward her next adventure.
Source: Office for Overseas Promotion, SYSU