Good placement record and excellent academic culture bring students from China to VIT, Vellore.

As time-honoured civilizations, India and China share lots of similarities. Because of this, the two nations are often compared in terms of politics, economy, culture and other spheres. However, the co-existence of the two cultures is not that commonly seen.

But here in a university in Vellore, Indians and Chinese each show their fascination for the other.

Chinese students in India

Since 2005, Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) has cooperated with Chinese universities to admit students from China. It has admitted more than 450 Chinese students. About 200 undergraduates and graduates from China are studying at VIT. It currently has MoUs with 14 universities in China, including key Chinese universities such as Sichuan University and Wuhan University. Students choose to study here because of the reasonable expenditure, good placements and their fascination for India.

Liu Wei is a second-year undergraduate in Computer Science from Wuhan University. She enjoys a reputation as “Sister S” among other Chinese peers as she gets “S” in almost every subject.

Like Liu Wei, many Chinese students find courses at VIT highly intense with numerous exams. “In China, we have lots of exams. But it’s much less compared to what we have here. Once the exam starts, it goes on for a long time.” Chinese peers also find their Indian counterparts studying very hard. “To prepare for exams, they study overnight.” Admitting that the education system is exam-orientated, they say that the good side is one can learn efficiently and quickly.

Apart from studying, Chinese students travel during vacations. One of the students was invited to his classmate’s home in Delhi. “Although I had to get used to different traditions, it’s really an unforgettable experience,” said Yang Siyuan, a second-year undergraduate in Computer Science.

Most students here consider finding placements in China. A small number of students choose to stay in India, especially in Mumbai. Those who want to pursue further studies after graduation prefer destinations such as the U.S., Hong Kong, and so on.

Chinese students coming to study at VIT first attend a three-month language course to improve their English. “My English was very bad before I came here. Now I can manage in class,” Li Guangyu said.

Living on campus is not that difficult for Chinese students. They have air-conditioned dormitories and Chinese canteens. But quite a few still choose to dine in the Indian canteens. Those who do not get used to the food in India cook Chinese food.

Indians learning Chinese

VIT set up a Chinese language centre in partnership with HANBAN, also known as Confucius Institute (a non-governmental public institution affiliated to the Ministry of Education of China) in April, 2009. There’s a Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) centre at VIT. The China Director, Dr. Sun Peng, is a history professor from Zhengzhou University. Last year, more than 100 people registered for the course. During the winter break last year, HANBAN sponsored top 20 students who passed the exam to travel in China. “Indian students are so excited. They can’t wait to share their experience in China,” one of the Chinese volunteers said.

There are different levels of Chinese courses. The entry level of Chinese offered at the centre is free for VIT students. Normally, students are divided into two groups and have classes spanning one-and-a-half hours from Monday to Friday. Some Chinese students serve as volunteers at the centre to teach students at primary level under the guidance of the Chinese teacher. Apart from students, some professors at VIT and businessmen register for the course. Several Chinese cultural events are held in the university such as the Chinese New Year celebrations and Namaste China.

The popular Tamil festival Pongal goes on from January 14 to 17. Grand celebrations are held in many universities. Chen Chen and his girl friend Zhang Qian, an MBA student, also joined the grand college celebrations with other Indian students.

The writer is a journalism student from Hong Kong University and was an intern at The Hindu