CHINANEWS.COM | China in the Eyes of YCA International Students

Editor’s note: Ekaterina Kaligaeva (Belarus), Matthew Aaron Kelly (Ireland), and Ann Hermann (USA) from the 2022 Cohort of Yenching Academy sat in an interview with on their life and study in China. They had an animated talk about China in their eyes.

The following is the full report from

Home Is Where the Heart Is | China in the Eyes of PKU International Students

Ekaterina Kaligaeva from Belarus, known by her Chinese name Su Xiaoxiao, invited and encouraged her colleagues to talk about their impressions of China in Chinese. “We’re foreigners, but I’ve encouraged my friends to talk in Chinese. It’s a good habit, I think, to enhance our Chinese,” Ekaterina remarked.

Ann Hermann from the USA, known by her Chinese name He Zhenhui, and Matthew Aaron Kelly from Ireland are Xiaoxiao’s fellow students at YCA master’s program in China Studies. Unlike Ann and Matthew, who have only been in China for over two months, Xiaoxiao is known among her classmates as “a young ‘old China hand’”. She studied for her bachelor’s degree at Tsinghua University and participated in Chinese contests in China during her middle school days.

Su Xiaoxiao finds both the Belarusian and the Chinese kind and hospitable peoples, even though they have different cultural and religious traditions. She has felt the hospitality and warmth of her Chinese friends in all her years living and studying in China. “We have jiaozi in China and Belarus. But our [Belarusian] jiaozi tastes different. That’s like our cultures. We’re different, but we have many in common. I love them both.”

Matthew’s first impression of China is “big”. “Ireland is a small country; China is so big. The population of Beijing alone is roughly five times that of Ireland.” Matthew wants to go to Harbin, the Ice City, and visit the fantastic Harbin Ice and Snow World.

At first sight of Beijing, Ann felt the city was “very different” from her hometown, a small city in the USA. She’s interested in the countryside in China and desires to enjoy the idyllic life in China’s villages. Ann was deeply impressed with her short trip to Xi’an three years ago. “I’ll go to Xi’an and have the delicacies there again, for sure,” she noted

Chinese delicacies are undoubtedly captivating. Su Xiaoxiao is familiar with local food around China, like Chongqing noodles (xiaomian), Lanzhou beef noodles (lamian), spicy stir-fry hot pot (mala xiang guo), Sichuan-style hotpot, grilled fish, candied haws on a stick (bingtang hulu), and Beijing-style hotpot with instant-boiled mutton.

Matthew studied traditional Irish music and played the tin whistle. He sees something in common between Irish and Chinese traditional music. Music, as a form of art, is an access to Chinese culture and China. Ann agrees with Matthew, although she considered a different art form; for her, access to Chinese culture is film art. She held Film Night while studying in the USA, enjoying Chinese films and stories with her colleagues.

Su Xiaoxiao mentioned her admiration for China’s high-speed trains. She prefers the high-speed train to the airplane when taking trips since it takes her only three hours from Beijing to Shanghai using the Fuxing train. She had somehow taken the convenient life in China for granted, such as cash- and card-free mobile payment, online shopping, and door-to-door service, until she returned home.

Ann was excited at opening up her 11.11 parcel, “It’s like opening up your Christmas gifts.” In their first “11.11 Shopping Festival”, Ann bought herself a winter coat, and Matthew bought plants for his new dorm. They were amazed at the fast, convenient online shopping in China.

They all want to visit places of interest in China and have a first-hand experience of China’s speed of development. And they are determined to contribute to bilateral relations between China and their own countries after graduation.

Ekaterina Kaligaeva, 2022 Cohort

Ekaterina Kaligaeva comes from Minsk, Belarus. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree at Tsinghua University, majoring in Journalism. In 2017, she became Belarus State Chinese Bridge Competition Champion and represented her country at the world competition in Changsha, Hunan. After arriving in China, she committed herself to bridge China and Belarus. Kate organized Sino-Belarusian youth cultural exchange events, partook in education shows in China and Belarus, and hosted events for the Confucius Institute, Tsinghua University, and other organizations. Alongside professional training in journalism and TV broadcasting, Kate wrote and published articles about China and took part in short video competitions and talk shows. In the future, she hopes to contribute to Chinese language education overseas and promote connections between Belarus and China. At Yenching Academy, Kate wishes to deepen her understanding of Chinese society and China’s public policies.

Matthew Aaron Kelly, 2022 Cohort

Originally from Co. Kildare, Ireland, Matthew Kelly graduated from University College Dublin in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in International Commerce with Mandarin. As an undergraduate student, Matthew interned at Huawei and participated in various Sino-Irish collaborative programs at the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland. Likewise, he received several awards related to his studies of China, including a NUI Award in Chinese Literature and the 2021 Chinese Bridge Competition in Ireland. Matthew will pursue the Economics and Management concentration at Yenching Academy with a keen interest in business relations between Ireland and China. He plans to study the unique advantages, opportunities, and challenges Sino-Irish business collaboration presents.

Ann Hermann, 2022 Cohort

Originally from Iowa, Annie double majored in Computer Science and Chinese at the University of Notre Dame, where she graduated with the Distinction in Chinese award. She combined her fields of study through research by applying text mining algorithms to classical Chinese texts and a project in automatic Chinese calligraphy style detection using machine learning methods. She also spent time working in Silicon Valley as a data engineer for a PBC, which uses technology to facilitate food donations. At Yenching Academy, Annie plans to continue her fields of interest by researching comparative tech policy and social media algorithms in the US and China.

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