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Strive for the development of China and Rwanda

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By Joselyne Umulisa | | Updated: Jan 27, 2022

[Rwanda] Joselyne Umulisa, Donghua University

Joselyne Umulisa [Photo provided to]

I grew up in an African family with open thoughts. I loved travelling since I was a child, and I love adventures and enjoy all kinds of fun. Exploring the world has been my dream since I turned 20. I often traveled to other countries adjacent to Rwanda and found in each trip that these cities/countries were advanced to ours in some aspects.

I often attended seminars in our cities. I heard of industrial revolution of China one day when I was attending a seminar about Gender and Enterprise Development held by the World Bank. I got to know that most manufacturing industries in the world had been transferring to China. I got excited by the news and wanted to know more about that country. Since then I tried every means to know more about China.

Later I contacted Eric Haguma, who was a friend of our family and graduated from Shanghai University. He was then working in a Malaysian information and technology company in Shanghai. I told him that I wanted to study in China. He helped me get in touch with a full-enlisted student of Environmental Science and Engineering College in Donghua University in Shanghai, Francis Ruzagiliza.

My communication with Francis helped me see the direction of my dream much clearer. He was one of the students funded by Shanghai municipal government and he encouraged me to apply for the scholarship and come to study in Donghua University. I submitted all the documents required for applying for the university.

I was surprised when I got an email very soon, which said that I won a scholarship for pursuing a master degree of Chinese language in Donghua University funded by Shanghai municipal government. This was a valuable opportunity for me to know more about China. I was more than happy.

The campus of Donghua University [Photo provided by Miao Junfeng]

When my excitement of getting the scholarship subdued a bit, I became curious about how it would be living thousands of miles away from my home country. I asked lots of questions and began browsing on the internet about life in China. I prepared for my trip to China, excited and nervous. After about 20-hour flight, I finally landed my dream city, Shanghai. When I arrived at Shanghai, I was warmly welcomed by an official of international exchange. My study in China officially started.

My study in Donghua University was full of challenges and opportunities. I was the only one from Rwanda in my class and had no experience living abroad. I was also trying my best to balance between study and social life and to break the stereotyped image foreigner students had been imposed on. I came from a traditional African community and it was hard for me to understand students from other backgrounds at the beginning.

I was shy sometimes and was afraid of communicating with others. However, living in the foreigner student apartment in the university was an exciting experience, because there were always diversified activities such as study groups, culture activities and various competitions. In the diversified campus activities, I met across various people from different backgrounds and nationalities. They came from different culture and religious belief. It was not easy to fit in the campus life here at first.

However, I tried my best to listen and learn in and after classes. I followed courses to learn Chinese and I exchanged and shared experience with my classmates. To my surprise I found that there was more similarities than differences and we shared the same value and belief.

This study experience enabled me grow into an open and inclusive people and helped me better understand and respect other cultures more. I began to know more and fall in love with China and Chinese culture. I actively participated in campus activities, such as language practice, culture festivals, seminars and culture experience. I won prizes for outstanding performance, which gave me more confidence and fondness of my life in the university.

After passing the language test, I was officially enrolled into a college to study my major courses. My second precious chance came, that is, the 6-month Shanghai EXPO was held. I got a cooperation chance with the Federal Republic of Somalia as a business manager.

This was a challenging position, and I tried my utmost to get adapted to the working environment in China. At the beginning, due to lack of managing Chinese colleagues and lack of experience in handling complicated tasks, I was exhausted in dealing with the ever-increasing inquiries and reception of visitors in the Hall of Somalia during Shanghai EXPO.

Fortunately, I got lots of help from my boss, the general ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia. With united teamwork, we worked as a team and successfully completed the project and achieved our mission. This experience has improved my work capability and laid a solid foundation for my later work.

The campus of Donghua University [Photo provided by Miao Junfeng]

I started my graduation papers from end of 2010 and beginning of 2011. I also got an offer working for the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Beijing. I was at a loss, not sure if I could be capable of working for the embassy in Beijing while at the meanwhile finishing my graduation papers. Waves of questions with no answers kept popping into my mind then: Will I put myself into financial and security risks if I go to work for the embassy leaving my study aside; will I lose my scholarship or will my graduation be delayed?

Lucky enough, after consulting my teachers in International Culture Exchange college in Donghua University, I got their full support and finally accepted the challenge. It proved to be the best decision in my career life. I then moved to Beijing Youth Hotel. I worked hard from Monday to Friday and I discussed my graduation papers with my tutor in Donghua University from Friday night to Monday night.

Fortunately with the help of my tutor, I completed my graduation papers successfully and graduated in 2012. I dedicated my heartfelt gratitude to our vice chancellor Wu Xiaojun and my tutor Professor Bao Xinren, who had provided continuous support and guidance to my career development.

Now I am a full employee of Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda and the personal assistant of the ambassador. I manage the ambassador office through cultural exchange, supervise all business functions such as cooperation agreements and business proposals, promote mutual beneficial diplomatic policies of Rwanda, maintain mutual and multi-lateral cooperation and promote cultural and talent exchange.

I am also one of the founders of Rwanda-China Alumni Organization, which has been run by graduates studying in China. It aims to help Rwanda promote health, education and welfare and create employment opportunities. It raises funds to help disadvantaged people nationwide.

Since its founding, it has held lots of activities influencing local communities, for example, donate TVs and food for Rwanda Refugee Camps, buy medical insurance for more than 300 people lacking social welfare, and visit and support in cash Association of Genocide Widows Agahozo (AVEGA). To better benefit the society, I become a member of The Commonwealth Society of Beijing (CSB). The CSB was founded in 1993 by female diplomats from the commonwealth countries and other people devoted to charity causes.

It has been widely acknowledged today and has more than 200 members. The CSB has donated more than 3 million yuan to multiple poor communities in China through the following organizations: China Charity Federation, All-China Women’s Federation, Xiajin Special Education, Xiajin Village of Dezhou in Shandong Province and Tongzhou Care Center.

Finally, but not least, I must tell the world that I am so lucky to receive my education in a well-known university in China. I am much thankful to the help and support Chinese people have given me and I believe that there will be more cooperation opportunities between Rwanda and China in the future.

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).