Zimbabwean student George Tabengwa has been studying medicine in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region for about four years, and one thing has remained constant during that time.
“My first impression of Xinjiang is also a lasting impression: a safe, free, beautiful and diverse place,” the 24-year-old said.
Now a senior student at Xinjiang Medical University in Urumqi, the regional capital, Tabengwa began his ties to Xinjiang in 2018. He was awarded a full scholarship to study clinical medicine at the university after completing preparatory courses in the Chinese province of Shandong.
He knew little about Xinjiang at that time, other than some sensational reports from Western news outlets. “After I arrived in Xinjiang, I discovered that this information was false,” he said.
“I haven’t seen any problems here. The place is safe. Everyone is free to do whatever they want,” Tabengwa said. “I also enjoy my studies and my life here, including the diversity of cultures and the easy access to different types of food.”
Among the main attractions for the student is the ethnic and cultural diversity of the region.
“My classmates come from different ethnic groups in China. They often teach me to speak their dialects and we have a lot of fun together,” Tabengwa said.
Tabengwa feels that people in Xinjiang are united in their work for a better life. “It’s a very fair place,” he said. “If you work hard and are diligent, you will definitely get your chance and succeed.”
The Zimbabwean student has visited many places in Xinjiang and now considers himself a Xinjiang local. “We foreign students are free to visit any city,” he said. “I went to places like Korla, Turpan and Hotan. I rode a camel in Turpan for the first time in my life, which was a truly unforgettable experience.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, several foreign students at the university returned to their home countries, but Tabengwa chose to stay.
“My family also wanted me to go, but I didn’t want to risk my studies,” Tabengwa said. “The result proved that I made the right decision. Everything is going well so far and I haven’t experienced any interruptions in my studies.
He said his family now knows a lot about Xinjiang. “I often tell them about my experiences here and they love the place as much as I do. My siblings hope to come to Xinjiang or other parts of China to study if they have the opportunity.
As for his future plans, Tabengwa said he was due to start his internship at a local hospital in September.
“I also plan to apply for a master’s degree in neurosurgery or cardiothoracic surgery in China,” he said. “I would like to stay here longer.”