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Young group puts education in sharp focus

By CHEN XUE| China Daily| Updated: February 7, 2023 L M S


Jood Sharaf, a student from Bulgaria studying at Tsinghua University. [Photo/China Daily]

New environments

Sharaf thinks that education enables you to learn from practically anything — and for that to happen, you have to keep a "blank-slate" mindset.

"Blank. Nothing. You know nothing, you assume nothing. This is extremely difficult to do, especially if your place of education is very different from your home, because you have the constant tendency to draw comparisons," Sharaf said in her speech for Youth Power.

Attending school in three countries and university in another three, Sharaf has constantly been exposed to new environments and cultures, so every time she moved countries, she erased preconceptions and prejudice from her mind.

For example, last year, when Sharaf arrived in China for the first time, she visited art galleries to get a glimpse of the country's culture. She used to believe that impressionism was the height of art due to its complexity and vivid colors, but visiting a calligraphy exhibition in China, she saw the beauty of blank spaces and balance, which is very different from Western art.

"Can you compare the two? Is one more beautiful than the other? No, because the philosophy, the styles, the tools, the cultures and the artists' minds are all different. This experience helped me broaden my view and realize that not every culture and society places the same value on the same things," Sharaf said.

Although she spoke little Chinese at the time, she also made every effort to approach local people. For example, she talked to members of the housekeeping staff in her university dormitory building, to those serving food in the campus canteen, and even to a random student buying the same bubble tea flavor as herself.

"It's through these people, not a textbook or news article, that you learn about China," she said.

Sharaf educates herself through everything she sees and everyone she interacts with. "I literally considered myself a child rather than a grown adult — a child that needs to learn the way of life in the place it is born into. Education is about observing life around you, taking note of it and applying it to yourself so that you may grow," she said.

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