Desire grows for more educational interactions, closer bonds as dialogue rekindled. CHINA DAILY

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Desire grows for more educational interactions, closer bonds as dialogue rekindled. CHINA DAILY

YEREVAN, MAY 7, ARMENPRESS/CHINA DAILY.As this year marks the China-France Year of Culture and Tourism, there is a growing interest in furthering educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries, exemplified by the sister-city relationship between Hangzhou and Nice.

Cecile Claris, head of the Institution Saint-Joseph de Roquebrune, about 20 kilometers east of Nice, said her school is looking forward to having more exchanges with Chinese counterparts, especially resuming cooperation with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School, a bond forged in 2009.

Fruitful exchanges had flourished between the two schools until the interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I hope it will become more convenient for our students to renew cooperation with China, including traveling there and having exchanges," Claris said. She said she was happy to learn that China is offering 15-day visa-free entry to French nationals until Nov 30.

Yan Yu, a Chinese language teacher instrumental in building bridges between the Institution Saint-Joseph de Roquebrune and Hangzhou Foreign Languages School, said, "The pandemic had seriously affected bilateral exchanges."

Having been living on the French Riviera for more than 20 years, Yan, originally from Zhejiang province, fondly recalled her initial proposal for bilateral exchanges with Hangzhou Foreign Languages School during a trip in 2009. The response was immediate and positive, she said.

"They sent a delegation to visit our school right in 2010 and I then helped organize a delegation of teachers and students to go to Hangzhou in 2012," she said. The two-week China trip included a week in Beijing and a week of exchange at the Hangzhou school.

2014 was the peak year for exchanges when a formal agreement of cooperation was signed, she said. Two of Yan's students studied at Hangzhou Foreign Languages School for three weeks that October.

The students from Hangzhou were also warmly received in France, including being invited to the Nice City Hall in 2019, thanks to the sister-city relations between Nice and Hangzhou.

While the pandemic affected educational exchanges with China, Claris said her school has received great support from the Confucius Institute Cote d'Azur.

"I'm so grateful. In the last three years, the Confucius Institute has come to our school to hold various Chinese cultural events and achieved great success. Students like them very much," she said, citing events such as Peking Opera facial makeup workshops and Chinese cultural contests.

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Wang Yan, head of the Confucius Institute Cote d'Azur, said that in addition to language classes, the institute has been organizing events at local schools to foster students' understanding and appreciation for Chinese culture.

"The French are very interested in China," she said.

At a recent event in Nice, Paris-based Chinese tea culture expert Zhang Le captivated locals of all ages with her insights into this age-old tradition.

Yann Gravot, a laboratory worker from the University of Cote d'Azur, said he learned a lot about the different types of tea.

"Sometimes I do this tea ceremony at home, (but) may not be as beautiful (as hers)," he said.

Malcom Dorman from the United Kingdom, who has lived in Nice for 35 years, said he also learned a lot, especially about Chinese green tea.

"English tea is nothing special and there is no ceremony," he said.

As educational and cultural exchanges continue to evolve, China is witnessing a surge in people's desire to learn French.

Language learning can further enhance exchanges, said Chen Jianwei, Chinese director of Alliance Francaise of Hangzhou, an organization that aims to promote the French language.

The growing enthusiasm for French is evident in events such as the French Corner, held weekly in Hangzhou, Chen said. "In class, we teach students everything about France. The students are very interested in Cote d'Azur, a region with a perfect mix of nature and culture."

Fabien Gouez, a French teacher in Hangzhou, said he has seen an evolution in cooperation between French and Chinese universities with the opening of more Sino-French institutions across Zhejiang province.

Hangzhou native Shen Jiaqi, who studied French at Alliance Francaise and is now pursuing studies at the National School of Fine Arts at the Villa Arson in Nice, said: "French culture is fascinating. And I want to learn art here in Nice, a place from which many artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso have drawn inspiration."

Shen said she hopes to see stronger links between her hometown and Nice. She also hopes the Villa Arson and the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou can resume exchanges.


Armenia, Yerevan, 0002, Martiros Saryan 22


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