China Language Exchange Forum

Oana Bucescu

Between 22nd and 25th March 2019, I was given the opportunity to participate in the "The Belt and Road Youth English Speaking Competition", which took place in Hangzhou, in China.

Jointly organized by the English-Speaking Union and the China Daily newspaper, the event brought together 31 young speakers from 30 different countries around the world. It was a wonderful experience that broadened my horizons and helped me gain self-confidence.

The trip to Hangzhou went very smoothly and didn’t seem that long despite the many hours of flight. At the airport, volunteers were waiting for the candidates and, on arrival, they accompanied us to the hotel which was located in the district of Xiaoshan.

The first morning, I met several other candidates and we decided to take advantage of our free time to explore the neighbourhood together. The district was very quiet and modern, with many impressive skyscrapers under construction.

In the evening, we finally met all the candidates at the welcome reception party. We enjoyed a traditional Chinese dinner following which games had been organized to break the ice and enable us to get to know each other. This was a great success, and quickly created a very good atmosphere among the group. The semi-finals were held on March 23 at the International Expo Center, an imposing and very modern building that hosted the G20 Summit in 2016.

All candidates had to deliver a prepared speech on the theme "Let us be true to one another", followed by an impromptu speech and questions from the jury.

The atmosphere at the competition was excellent and the jury gave each candidate very useful, individual feedback and valuable tips to help us all improve our future performance. Six participants, representing China, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea and South Korea, qualified for the finals.

All six candidates delivered very personal and passionate speeches on the theme "The Great Truth is Simple" before sharing their thoughts on current topics or philosophical questions during their impromptu speeches. After a very close competition, the Malaysian candidate, Nicole Young, finally won the coveted first place.

During these three intense days, we also had the chance to discover the city of Hangzhou.

We first visited the headquarters of Alibaba, the number one e-commerce company in China, after which we boarded a small traditional Chinese boat to visit the Xixi Westlake National Park.

The last day, we went to West Lake to admire the beautiful and peaceful scenery, known for having inspired many Chinese poets and artists.

Participating in this event has been very enriching from an intellectual, cultural and human point of view.

For me personally, it was a great opportunity for me to express myself, strengthen my public speaking skills, and gain self-confidence. Preparation ahead of the competition was an intellectual challenge that pushed me to develop a critical view and demonstrate creativity.

But taking part in this event was above all a wonderful opportunity to meet talented young speakers from very different backgrounds and to forge new international friendships. It is very exciting to see how the English language can unite people from such different origins around a common goal.

My thanks to the English Speaking Union and the Committee of the ESU Loire Valley Branch for allowing me to participate in this incredible event, and very special thanks to Mrs. Curd for supporting me at all times throughout my preparations for my adventures in China.