Kenyatta University Harriet Makasi Excels Represents in the 2020 19th Global Chinese Bridge Competition

“My name is Harriet Makasi, a student of BA Gender and Development in Kenyatta University School of Humanities and Social Sciences. I also study Chinese Language and Culture at the Confucius Institute at Kenyatta University.

Harriet Makasi displaying martial arts moves.

I learnt about Confucius Institute and Chinese Language in November 2018 from a friend who had enrolled for a Beginners in Chinese Language and Culture course that semester. It sounded very interesting especially because the school fees was only Ksh.2000 per semester for Bona fide Kenyatta University students like myself.  He told me about the many opportunities that came with studying at the Institute. Key among them were opportunities available to students to go to China through scholarships and the Summer Camp Program. ‘Summer Camp’ I later learnt is a program by the Confucius Institute that gives opportunity to excelling students to go on a fully paid two weeks trip to China. For two weeks students get to visit very many interesting places throughout China in a move to spur more interest in the language and enhance their understanding of the Chinese culture. Language and culture cannot be separated. I enrolled to study the Beginners in Chinese Language and Culture Course the following semester, around January (2019). The classes were so much fun because of the hype of learning a new language and a whole lot of new things. I finished my Course in August 2019 but I continued studying the language on my own.

I also learnt about HSK Exams (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) which is a global Chinese Proficiency Test, like TOEFL. By sitting for this exam and being certified according to different levels from Beijing, one can use the certificate to apply for scholarships to study in different Universities in China. I applied and sat my first HSK exam in October 2019.  I started with HSK 3 and scored 289 out 300.  I then sat for HSK 4 in February 2020 and got 244 marks out of 300. With these two certificates I applied for a one year Scholarship to study Chinese Language at our partner University, Shandong Normal University in Jinan city China. I got the opportunity and would have physically reported in September 2020 but due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic I couldn’t travel. I have postponed the scholarship and I will be reporting in March of 2021 as the effects of the pandemic ware off.

As exciting as getting the scholarship is, there is a more exciting opportunity I got that put me on the global stage. I had the chance to take part in the Chinese Bridge Competition, which is an annual competition for Chinese students that tests their mastery of the language. The best Student from every country goes for the final competition in Beijing, China. I was the best student in Kenya in 2020, but again we couldn’t travel to Beijing China as is customary, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire competition was done online. I first had to compete against competitors from other African countries where the best six would be selected to proceed with the competition. I attained the first position in the Africa Top Six category. Quite an achievement I must say all thanks to the dedicated team of lecturers that prepared me for the competition. We then had another competition, still in Africa where they’d select the best three, to go compete with the best three from other continents. In this second competition, I attained the fourth position. Participating in the Global Chinese Bridge Competition comes with many other opportunities like winning Scholarships to study in China and Media exposure as the completion is broadcasted nationally on Chinese television stations.  It also gave me a lot of exposure and broadened my horizons a great deal. I thank my lecturers for their unending support throughout the competition because I wouldn’t have made it that far without them. My fellow students at the Institute also spent sleepless nights participating in a global online popularity vote that I won in Africa. Thank you family! And that is what we are at the Confucius Institute, a family!

The Art display that made Makasi Winner of the Kenyan Chinese Bridge Competion

There are many other activities at the Confucius Institute that are open for all students of Chinese Language to take part in. For example, I joined the Martial Arts team, the Choir, and the Drama club. Through participating in these activities and excelling other students have gotten scholarships to go study in China, all fully sponsored. They are also very good avenues for advancing one’s spoken Chinese ability as the lecturers are extremely social and can be contacted any time for consultation. The Institute also holds some traditional Chinese festivals that help students to learn more about the Chinese culture and understand China better.

I look forward to studying the language further to be able to speak fluently like a native Chinese. I am planning to do a Master’s Degree in Chinese Language and Culture. When I put that together with my undergraduate degree I know I will be extremely marketable in the job market. With over 50,000 Chinese nationals currently living in Nairobi, the Institute receives very many requests from Chinese companies that seek qualified Chinese translators and interpreters to work for them. It has been a wonderful journey so far, and I thank the Confucius Institute for this chance to study Chinese at such an affordable cost. I also thank my lecturers and classmates for their support in my journey at the Institute.