Kazakhstan student embraces a decade of life in China
After living in China for 10 years, Sayat Kalimoldanov now considers himself to be half-Chinese, having witnessed the nation's phenomenal digital transformation during this time.
"When I first arrived in China, WeChat and Alipay were just starting to become popular. Now, the services offered by internet giants have infiltrated every corner of Chinese society, making life for everyone so much easier," he said.
Kalimoldanov, 28, a Kazakh citizen, is now pursuing a doctorate in international relations at Shanghai International Studies University.
He said his experience in China has made him fully aware that his home nation should learn more from its neighbor, and he also hopes to bring investment projects from China to Kazakhstan.
"What I have gained most from my experience here is that I have grown as an individual together with the development of China as a nation," he said.
Kalimoldanov first visited China after finishing high school in 2011, when he barely spoke any Chinese. Despite this disadvantage, he was impressed with the hospitality and kindness of Chinese people and the excellent facilities at the nation's higher education institutions.
He studied business Mandarin at Xinjiang Normal University in 2012, before pursuing a master's in diplomacy and a doctorate in international relations at Shanghai International Studies University.
Over the years, he has not only increased his proficiency in Chinese, but also found a home in Shanghai, where he now has a wide circle of friends, ranging from sales clerks to business leaders.
Kalimoldanov is determined to pursue a career as a diplomat for his country and serve as a bridge for communications between Kazakhstan and China. "I feel that I still have so much to learn in China, and hope I can use what I have learned here back in my home country," he said.
During his time in China, Kalimoldanov has also discovered the thrills of traditional dragon boat racing, which boasts a history of more than 2,000 years.
He has taken part in races organized by his college for the past four years and he hopes to organize a competition on rivers in his hometown of Almaty.
Kalimoldanov said he was excited to learn that China and Kazakhstan will introduce a visa-free regime allowing citizens from both countries stays of up to 30 days. He said the policy will enable people from the two nations to better understand each other.
"Many Kazakh people barely have any knowledge of China, and I hope they have the opportunity to see the country with their own eyes someday," he said.
"My mother also knows little about China, even though I have been in the country for more than a decade. She was surprised to hear it is safe here, even if I go out at 2 am or 3 am. I hope she will have the opportunity to experience the charm of Shanghai and the hospitality of its people."
Kalimoldanov also has high expectations for the China-Central Asia Summit this week.
"One of my favorite sayings is that the rise of the East started with the rise of China. Successful strong relations between China and Central Asia over the past 31 years lie in mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
"China has always sought harmony and peace, and that is why people from Central Asia look forward to the summit and hope it will deliver more results."