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September 29, 2010

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Developing a global outlook

A group of 40 British students visited Shanghai and Beijing as part of the Prime Minister's Global Fellowship program, which encourages them to reach out to their Chinese peers and gain a new perspective on the world, writes Victoria Fei.

Young people with a global vision can stand out from their peers. What can help inspire a global vision then? The recently concluded Prime Minister's Global Fellowship program may provide an answer.

Since 2008, the fellowship program has sent 100 British students to China, India and Brazil each year to enable them to gain first-hand experience in these countries.

The program hopes to give the students a better understanding of what it takes to sustain economic growth and competitiveness, and better knowledge of the skills needed to compete for jobs in a global labor market.

"The idea of going to China sounded incredibly amazing to me as I had no experience in Asian countries,'' said Adam Lenten, a British high school graduate who has an interest in languages.

"After reading about the program in a local newspaper, I immediately applied online with an urge to explore one of the countries.''

The program does not specifically target elite students. It is open to all British high school students from 18 to 21 and is free of charge.

Lenten was among the 100 students who were selected from around 800 candidates to participate in the program. Forty were sent to China in July, 30 to Brazil and 30 to India.

"The students have been drawn from diverse social and economic backgrounds," Lenten said. "Most are self-starters who show initiative, an enterprising spirit, or they are communicators who are open-minded, confident, enthusiastic and independent, and have good ideas. I'm in the group to China, a country that always fascinates me. I couldn't sleep the night before I left for China."

Running from July 23 to September 4, the British students visiting China kept a tight schedule in Beijing and Shanghai.

For the first two weeks in Beijing, they were introduced to language, business environment and culture at Beijing Normal University.

"We learned common phrases and manners needed for greetings, politeness and working with Chinese people, as well as language and knowledge required for travel, everyday needs, health and business culture," Lenten said. "Speaking French and Spanish is a piece of cake to me. Now I have an interest in learning Chinese.''

The introduction session was followed by a business placement featuring community engagement in Shanghai.

Lenten was an intern at Wall Street English, one of the host companies supporting the program.

Lenten's two-week internship at Wall Street English included working as a receptionist and an English corner teacher. He also learned operation theories on human resources and IT departments through condensed lectures.

"The English corner composes 400 students. It's my first time dealing with Chinese at the same age," he said. "They are modest and motivated, trying hard as well.''

Patricia Lewis will be a freshman at Cambridge University this fall semester. She joined Lenten at Wall Street English.

"The program helps us look at ourselves and raise our awareness of China,'' Lewis said. "People here are driven, focused and structural. I can't believe we could be so 'lazy' at home while our peers here are ready for competition all the time."

For the last two weeks, the students homestayed with their Chinese peers' families to experience an authentic local life. They also completed a small research project about globalization at World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

Now, the students are back in the United Kingdom. However, it's not the end of the program. A summary event will be held and the students will automatically become members of the Fellowship Alumni Network, a group of globally minded young people. A longer journey of communicating and sharing what they have learned will begin.

Asher Harris, a high school graduate who used to coach soccer, said he will promote his experience with sports charities.

"It's my hope to achieve a strong connection between UK and Chinese students," Harris said.


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