Islamabad: There were hugs, laughter, flowers and selfies as graduates, their families and friends gathered in Islamabad on Saturday to celebrate the first ever graduation ceremony of Chinese students in Pakistan.
More than 150 graduates — most wearing blue and with a few in red gowns and caps — smiled as they walked across the stage to the sound of music, waving to the crowd.
It was a moment of celebration for the students, and also for the people of Pakistan and China, as the event marked enhanced collaboration in education and cultural fields.
The Chinese students from National University of Modern Languages (NUML) and International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) represented a variety of disciplines.
Currently, almost 1,000 Chinese students are studying in different universities in Pakistan.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, praising the achievements of the graduates, said, “Pakistan is your second home where you have lived, studied and enjoyed friendship with our closest friends.”
He hoped the youngsters would further boost Pakistan-China relations with focus on “fundamental values of peace, development and friendship”.
Speaking about the future and dreams, he said, “China’s first dream is of a prosperous region, the second of peace and stability in China and Pakistan, the region and the world. The third dream is of cooperation and harmony among all nations.”
The graduation ceremony for the class of 2019, held at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and organised by Chinese Student Association Pakistan (CSAP), featured a number of cultural, music performances and video memories by students.
One of the proud graduates, Ma Zhi Wei, 34, who earned a PhD in Arabic from NUML, told Gulf News that, he experienced a “culture shock” after coming to the country that Chinese people consider their “best friend”.
“I realised how little I knew about the Pakistan. But now I am going back with not only my degree but also happy memories and lot of knowledge about the country.”
Li Yue, 24, graduating with a degree in Education, was glad to choose Pakistan as study destination.
“I made lifelong friends in Pakistan and also got a chance to explore the country a bit which I absolutely loved.”
She was both happy and gloomy as the course came to an end. “I’m sad that I’ve to leave my friends but glad to be reunited with my family.”
The ceremony was organised by Chinese Student Association Pakistan (CASP) jointly with respective universities.
Sun Li, representative of CSAP, said that the event coincided with the commemoration of 100th anniversary of China’s 1919 May Fourth demonstrations of students that lead to the foundation of China’s Communist Party.
“We are all dream seekers and the dream of Pakistanis, Chinese and Asians is the same. Our dream is to built a better tomorrow for future generations” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute.
He added, “Pakistanis are extremely proud of their friendship with China and grateful for all the support.”
Riaz Khokhar, former ambassador of Pakistan to China, said the students arrived as strangers but were leaving behind many friends and memories in Pakistan.
“The Pakistan and China relationship, built brick by brick over decades, is a model for many nations” and future generation will further bolster the ties, he added.
Wishing the students the best in life, Noor Amna Malik, Adviser to the Higher Education Commission (HEC), said: “Thank you for choosing Pakistan as your second home.”
She conveyed full support from the HEC to foreign students pursuing studies in different disciplines across Pakistan.
The cultural, educational and business linkages between the two countries have expanded with the launch of the multibillion-dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
More Chinese workers, students and tourists are heading to the neighbouring country, mostly to the capital Islamabad, which has an estimated 10,000 Chinese citizens and a growing number of Chinese restaurants and supermarkets.
Meanwhile, China has become an extremely popular destination for Pakistani students.
With 28,023 students, Pakistan was recently ranked third in the number of international students currently studying in China.
Nearly 7,000 of the students are studying on scholarships.
China has also announced plans to provide 20,000 scholarships for Pakistani students over the next three years.