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Located in northern Guangdong, Ruyuan Yao Autonomous County of Shaoguan is home to the Yao people, an ethnic group in China. After spending two days in the county, 21 international students from nine countries witnessed remarkable landscapes, dynamic rural areas, and the resilience of local people.
The visit was organized by the Institute for International Education at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS) from March 27 to 28.
"I hope the event can give international students a chance to learn about the cultural and economic development in Guangdong's rural areas, and provide Shaoguan children a window to know more about the world," said Cai Hong, Dean of the Institute of International Education of GDUFS.
Special agricultural products increase villagers' income
"Hello everyone, I'm in Shaoguan, China, and I'm visiting black tomatoes, which are hailed as chocolate tomatoes," Chanisorn Torittichai, a student from Thailand, said to her mobile phone camera. She was recording her personal Vlog. Next to her was a 13,000-square meter test field of special tomato plants, with three different varieties of red, gold and black tomatoes.
The black tomato has a unique taste, according to Huang Shisheng, a member of the GDUFS Aid Poor Team in the county. Its market price is about 30 to 50 RMB per 500 grams, much higher than that of ordinary tomatoes, and it can be picked continuously for three to four months. "Therefore, expanding its planting area will significantly increase the income of local farmers," Huang stressed.
He explained that this new variety was developed by the South China Agricultural University. "In the future, we plan to cooperate with research institutions in Brazil and other Latin American countries to further improve planting techniques, tomato quality and yield".
The students also visited a taro processing factory in Guitou Town of Ruyuan County. The factory can process six to ten tons of taro per day, and it will create added value by producing taro-prepared food, taro chips, and taro pies.
"It is expected that the output value of the taro industry in Guitou Town will increase by over 30%," Huang added.
Benefit from a better environment
"The air is so fresh, and the scenery is splendid, especially the mist swirling around the top of the mountain," raved Marius Etrillard, a student from France. During the two-day visit, he embarked on an outing to farmland and met an ancient Diaolou, a defensive multi-storey tower-style building.
This well-preserved Diaolou is located near the taro processing factory. "While preserving the natural environment and resources, we have transformed the place into a tourist area, where people can admire distinctive buildings, climb mountains and taste local agricultural products," Huang Shisheng explained.
The paintings on the walls of villagers' houses have also amazed international students. The wall paintings, covering an area of 2,200 square meters, were completed in 25 days by teachers from the College of Arts at GDUFS. The purpose was to beautify the environment and tell the history of the village.
Since 2020, Ruyuan County has been exploring new modes of green development. It has developed a leisure tourism industry chain, based on hot spring resorts, mountaineering, fruit picking, and many other activities of agritourism.
With a beautiful environment and convenient transportation, this once-silent mountain village now bustles with energy, welcoming more tourists with each passing year.
World culture class launched for rural kids
As cookies and postcards from different countries were sent to children, the world culture class in Guitou Town Central Primary School had just about reached a fever pitch.
"They are so warm and lovely, and I hope our presentations and gifts could inspire them to explore the world," Thanyada Dulyasatien from Thailand said.
The "International Students' Mobile Class" activity has been jointly launched by Guitou Town and the GDUFS, according to Zhang Lufang, an official of the local government. The class will cover geography, language and cultural knowledge of countries from around the world.
"Such classes can not only promote overseas students' understanding of China, but also broaden the horizons of primary school students in the town," she said.
"I would love to volunteer here again during the summer vacation and give lectures to children," said Morillo Villasmil Angeli Sofia, a Venezuelan girl. "And I hope this kind of course can be offered in other villages and towns in Guangdong."
During the two-day visit, the international students also toured some ancient Yao villages and enjoyed lion dances performed by local kids.