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By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily USA)
Karunadilaka Amunugama and Bandula Gunawardhana have a political bond - Amunugama is Sri Lanka's vice-minister of external affairs, and Gunawardhana is the minister of education.
Now they also are fellow PhD students at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
Beijing Foreign Studies University is one of the 14 universities in China selected as the first to launch the Confucius China Studies Program - a talent-fostering program of the Confucius Institute headquarters.
Zhang Xiaohui, director of the Office of Confucius Institutes at the university, said: "Some of our overseas Confucius Institutes, after years of development, have become extremely popular. For further development, we need new projects like this to elevate our education to the next level."
Huang Xiaoming, director of the Institute at Palacky University in the Czech Republic, said the program was launched at the right time.
"The last generation of excellent Sinologists are growing old, and the new generation is not yet grown, so there is a talent disruption in Sinology research in the world," he said.
The university recruited 10 students from eight countries in Asia and Europe.
Seventy students have been recruited in the program since September, with 30 students engaged in PhD projects in Chinese universities and 40 in joint PhD projects of Chinese and foreign universities.
To help the students get an in-depth understanding of China, the university has created special mentoring groups for the students, organized field research and promoted student-expert exchanges.
For example, Amunugama's courses are designed to include the history of Sino-foreign cultural exchanges, history of cultural exchange between China and Sri Lanka, and China tributary trade and its cultural exchanges with South Asia, to help him better understand both his research theme - comparative literature - and the historical context concerning the two countries.
For Martina Turriziani, an Italian PhD student, the program provides a perfect chance to reach the most valuable material of national culture research.
"At the time I heard about this new Confucius China Study Program for PhD students, I immediately thought that it would be a great opportunity for me not only to find the materials and the supervisor that I needed, but also to directly experience Chinese PhD courses, researching and studying side by side with Chinese PhD students, and in the meantime have the opportunity to deepen my knowledge about Chinese language and culture," she said in an e-mail to China Daily.
Turriziani's research focuses on the image of Italy from Chinese scholar Kang Youwei of the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). She said the Beijing Foreign Studies University is "the first foreign-language university that excels in the teaching and studying of Sinology".
To train herself to be a good Sinologist, Turriziani also tries to get familiar with the Chinese academic research world, such as how to deal with attending Chinese conferences as speakers and how to write a scientific paper according to Chinese academic rules.
Visitors look through new textbooks at the eighth Confucius Institute Conference, which ended on Sunday in Beijing. Provided to China Daily