African student revs up his future

(China Daily)| Updated : 2019-05-06

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Sergio Thompson practices assembling and dismantling a car engine with a blindfold covering his eyes at Lanxiang Vocational School in Shandong province. WANG KAI/XINHUA

Sergio Thompson, a 19-year-old boy from Ghana, never thought he would master car repairs at a private vocational school in China.

After four years of study, Sergio can now assemble and dismantle a car engine in 20 minutes with a blindfold covering his eyes. "The experience in China is just like Sergio's Adventures in Wonderland," he said.

Lanxiang Vocational School in eastern China's Shandong province, where Sergio studies, has long been known for education in practical skills, including cooking, auto repairs and hairdressing.

"I heard a lot about the vocational education in China when I was in Ghana," said Sergio, whose Chinese name is Liu Yang, literally meaning studying overseas, when he became the first foreign student of Lanxiang Vocational School.

Sergio used to know nothing about China except for Jackie Chan and kung fu movies, so understanding the language was his first mission.

"Liu Yang used to have a rough time when he just arrived in China. He could not understand anything," Sergio's roommate Chen Junyu said. "He cried a lot when he was making video calls to his mother in Ghana."

However, he managed to overcome the difficulties in a short time. He kept learning Chinese and put Chinese learning cards everywhere in his room.

To practice speaking, he often dialed the hotline of China Mobile, the country's largest mobile service carrier.

After one year, Sergio was able to speak fluently with his teachers and classmates, and became one of the best students in class.

"Assembling and dismantling car engines with a blindfold is an example of his ability," said Pang Zizhen, Sergio's teacher.

"In order to do that, the operator must be fully aware of the internal structure of the engine, which requires a lot of practice."

Li Baode, deputy head of Lanxiang Vocational School, said the school has admitted more foreign students, including those from Namibia, Japan, Germany and Australia. Most have chosen majors like machinery, cooking, and esports, according to Li.

Sergio will graduate from Lanxiang and go back to Ghana this summer. He and his father Benjamin Thompson are considering starting up a vocational school in Ghana, teaching local people to repair and maintain automobiles.