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[Special Report] IMPA Program in SYSU Brings Different Lives Together

Last updated :2015-07-05

Source: SYSU News Center
Written by: Chen Jinxia & Jin Feng
Edited by: Ian J. Heuer & Jin Feng

There is one special group of students who, even after years of successful career development and professional experience, have headed back to campus to recharge their minds and take on new challenges. Coming from different nations and a range of backgrounds, they are MA students enrolled in the Master of Public Administration in Chinese Governance for Developing Countries (MPA-CGDC) program in the School of Government at Sun Yat-sen University (SYSU).

Usually, this program is known as the International Master of Public Administration Program (IMPA Program), a one-year full-time program specially designed for government-sponsored students from developing countries with diverse backgrounds and a common interest in improving the quality of national governance in their home countries. Their target students are societal leaders from developing countries, including civil servants, senior corporate executives, etc.

As they prepare to graduate this year, four of them, Lakder Lakbak Berhanu from Ethiopia, Alicia LaDonna Rose from Jamaica, Charlie Wahe Namaka from Vanuatu, and Tulkin Atamurodov from Uzbekistan, are sharing stories of their experiences in this program.

A class group photo taken in the Huangpu Village in Guangzhou for the field trip of the course History, Culture and Economic Development
Lakder Lakbak Berhanu: Different Teaching Styles Bring a Challenging Experience

As Finance and Human Resource Development department head in Gambella People’s Unity Democratic Movement (regional party), Lakder saw a post in the civil service bureau in his region and also was informed of this opportunity by his friend in the bureau. At first, he didn’t have enough confidence in his application to SYSU because only one student in his region could get this opportunity. Fortunately, he finally won the chance and was awarded a full scholarship.

"Nice to meet you, President Luo Jun (of SYSU) !" (Photo by: Jin Feng)
Lakder remarked on the innovative and modern teaching methods in SYSU. In Ethiopia, if students want to give a presentation in class, they need to use movable LCD or projector. At SYSU, almost every classroom is equipped with certain set of multimedia capabilities. Another difference is that unlike teachers in Ethiopia (most of whom are doctors), lecturers in this program come from more academic and research-based backgrounds, meaning he has had the chance to have more in-depth learning experiences. Teaching styles also differ in Ethiopia: "Teachers challenge you, so you have to prepare for class and can be pushed to do more.” Lakder said. In Ethiopia, students have to submit term papers and take examinations. As for this program, a term paper for each course is required. To Lakder, this creative mode of examination serves as a driving force for students to explore the boundaries of their knowledge and to express their own ideas.

Alicia LaDonna Rose: Inspirational Courses Leave Extraordinary Impressions

Before joining the IMPA program, Alicia served in the Customs branch of her government. When asked why she came to SYSU, Alicia said, smiling, “The weather in Guangzhou is better. I prefer the heat.”

I've graduated! I'm so happy! (Photo by: Qin Zhiwei)

During her year’s study, some of the courses that have left a great impression on her include Public Budgeting, Chinese Government Innovation, and Leadership. For leadership, she got a chance to learn more about herself as well as to help others to do the same. Another favorite course is Public Budgeting, which has provided her with inspiration on how to improve the budgeting system in her own country. Lastly, for Chinese Government Innovation, she admired how the rural people came together to accomplish common goals and hoped to use such a lesson to help her country. In her eyes, these courses worked very well for her. “They push me to find out more about my country in some areas that I paid no attention to before, such as budgeting systems and government systems. I need to dig deeper into them.” Apart from those, this international experience has also offered her a chance to discover and understand the similarities and differences between different countries. “In most courses, we need to listen to presentations from presenters from 16 different countries all over the world.” Her class is a veritable international melting pot, with 24 students from 16 different countries and regions.

As for the most impressive thing that she has experienced at SYSU, Alicia thinks it must be the sports competition held in the East Campus on the 90th anniversary of SYSU’s founding in fall 2014. Students from her program were invited to participate as a team, and it was at that time that she felt she was part of the university community. She felt proud of this kind of feeling. She also participated in the student carnival as part of the 90th anniversary celebrations, wearing a white T-shirt and shouting some Chinese slogans. Alicia hopes to return to SYSU in 2024 to help the University celebrate its 100th birthday.

Charlie Wahe Namaka: A Colorful Trip, Full of Discovery

Charlie, a Policy Analyst, first ran into difficulty when his application to the program required a self-introduction of 5,000 words. What attracted him most in this program was the full scholarship and the opportunity to study abroad, attaining an international master’s degree in public administration.

"I'll go back and use the knowledge I've learned from SYSU to serve my country." (Photo by: Jin Feng)

In Charlie’s eyes, he prefers courses like Politics, Public Policy, Leadership, and Urban Management. He finds that politics in China shares some similarities with that in his own country, so that the lessons which he has taken from this program will be of great use when similar situations arise in Vanuatu. As for the greatest benefit he has gained from this program, Charlie told truthfully that it might be time. This program provides students the opportunity to spend only one year to get a master’s degree. What’s more, he regards the program as a highly valuable international study experience where students have chances to make acquaintance with friends from other parts of the world, like Africa and Asia. He also mentioned that the most interesting part of the study course was the opportunity to take a lot of field trips to places like Shunde, Foshan, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai. The trips served as practical reinforcement of the theoretical knowledge they were covering in class.

Tulkin Atamurodov: “Chinese people are very kind and helpful!”

An international organization gave information about this program to all universities in Uzbekistan, including the one Tulkin was working for. As a vice rector of University of World Economy and Diplomacy, and with the support of the administration of the university, Tulkin had the chance to join this program and become an international student at SYSU.

I've done well! I feel excited! (Photo by: Jin Feng)

He values very much this opportunity to study in China, as well as to make friends with students from all over the world. In addition, he thinks that this experience has helped him build a stable base for his children to learn Chinese in the future. During his one year’s study here, the kindness and helpfulness of the Chinese people have left a remarkable impression on him. Whenever he meets any difficulties, he knows he can always turn to the Chinese people around him for help. He recalled one experience during a trip to Shanghai, when it was passed midnight and he couldn’t find his hotel. The only information he had was a card with the hotel’s name, so he asked for help. One boy came to his help and willingly walked with him to the hotel, deeply moving him and leaving a lasting impression of the kindness and grace of the Chinese people.

Graduation and Beyond

All the interviewees told us that it’s a class custom to celebrate big events, like a classmate’s birthday or the completion of a thesis, in an Italian restaurant in Guangzhou. This time is no exception. As the organizer of these activities, Lakder cannot hide his happiness regarding graduation. He said, “You know, graduation is different and we have gotten our master’s degrees. Together with our classmates from 16 countries, I hope we can celebrate more. As for my personal plan, I would like to celebrate with my classmates, my colleagues, my countrymen, my families, and my villages. I would like to be with them and share my happiness with them. It’s them who have shaped me into myself today.”

As for the plan after graduation, they all expressed that they are looking forward to going back to their own countries. Alicia says, “I will go back to my own country to enhance my organization. And I will use my knowledge to recommend changes to the government. I’d like to work in the United Union and solve problems about poverty and peace. I will start this in Jamaica first.” Charlie added, “I will go back to work for my government and my country. The courses I’ve taken here will play their full role in my future work.” Tulkin says that he will serve in development of his country by using the knowledge that he got in SYSU. And he has a plan of study to get a higher degree within next few years in China.