My China Story | Abdou Rahim Lema Mohamed (Benin)

Abdou Rahim Lema Mohamed is a Beninese student in Turkey. He studied International Relations and Economics at Ipek University & Hacettepe University in Ankara. In Summer 2017, he interned at “Dione” Center of Local Development in Greece under the Erasmus+Internship scheme, where he became involved in various Youth Exchange Projects, sponsored and supported by the European Commission. He also studied, for a semester, at Gdansk School of Banking in Poland under the Erasmus+Exchange scheme. At Yenching Academy, Lema studies Politics and International Relations. He is interested in broadening his understanding of the African International Affairs with a particular focus on the Sino-African relations. He is multilingual and looks forward to adding Chinese to his growing catalogue of international languages.

All our knowledge begins with experience—there is no doubt about that. 

— Immanuel Kant


As I prepare my journey to China, cheerful friends and curious classmates wonder why I’ve chosen to further my studies in China. It is a reoccurring scene.

The truth is, it is neither the first nor the last time I (or any international student) would encounter such queries; that is, the questions of why one has decided to pursue his/her studies in this or that country. To be sure, the wording usually differs, but the content, the idea is always the same. I know that too well because I’ve been dealing with such questions since 2013!

Interestingly, however, I often find myself giving different answers to different people (or to the same people who happen to ask me more than once!) depending on the circumstances, for some people would ask with a genuine curiosity, some with a mocking smile, and still others with an unhinged indifference. Surely, each student, in deciding to study abroad and in choosing a particular country, has his/her distinct motives, which may include the availability of scholarships and targeted programs, the quality of education, etc. But it is not always easy for one to make such a decision; indeed, it is a curiously exciting task to think about: embarking on a new journey, a new adventure; the opportunity to discover new places, meet new people, make new friends, encounter new cultures, and have a new lifetime experience.

Now, before me is a new page, a blank page on which I intend to write a new chapter of my life. There is no doubt, it can be an exciting moment as well as a period of undeniable anguish, ambiguity, and uncertainty.

I’ve never been to China before, which nourishes my curiosity even more; and writing about “my China story” is, to me, akin to writing a fictional story to satisfy my youthful fancies.

The partial truth is that I’ve chosen China as my destination to carry on my graduate studies because YCA has offered me a uniquely generous scholarship to attend a prestigious and groundbreaking program at a globally renowned university, Peking University. It feels like a dream come true, a liberation, a site of boundless possibilities, and I intend to make good use of it.


What is more, the program neatly meets my projected career objectives, as I aim to broaden and deepen my understanding of the African International Affairs in this era of pacing globalization. Today, when one talks about the African international relations, China is highly likely to come first to our mind, given the ever-growing prominent role it has been playing in the continent in recent years. In order to fully fathom the Sino-African relations, what better way could there be than being an inside/outside observer for clear insights, objective analyses, and impartial conclusions? YCA provides me with that unique opportunity, and I’ve decided to take it.

Furthermore, it is almost impossible to resist the international environment YCA provides to its students, and its interdisciplinary curriculum that fosters cross-cultural understanding through constant interactions and exchange is nearly irresistible to a young and curious mind! I need not mention China’s vast and historically rich culture.

But that is not all there is to my decision to pursue my studies in China. My experience in the last two years of studying in Turkey has not been the most memorable episodes of my life. In fact, I wish it were a blank and unfilled page, an empty memory. Instead, it was overloaded with agonizing despair, a disheartening helplessness, a stormy sea of infinite troubles. My journey to China, I hope, will provide me with a fresh start, a different and better experience, and a catalogue of vividly memorable souvenirs.

My hope? It is that my China story will be that of further academic accomplishments, cultural enrichments, ever-expanding network, etc. I hope the will-be filled blank page before me, the will-be new chapter of my life will be a new (personal) discovery, the end of the restless sea of troubles, and a sound refuge from haunting memories. That is, a respite, an opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive.