BUDAPEST, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- "It was a very heartwarming thing. It really lifted the mood at the school," Erdelyi Zsuzsanna, head of Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual School, smiled when talking about Chinese President Xi Jinping's reply to a letter from students of her school.
"We were very happy that there was a reply so quickly," Erdelyi told Xinhua recently at her school in Budapest. "We were very happy, because we thought that a person in such a high position would not be sure to respond to the students' letter."
"We are very proud of our students for writing such a letter and for receiving such a nice response," she said.
Yang Chao (R), charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Hungary, presents a book to Erdelyi Zsuzsanna, head of Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school, at the school in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
Before the Spring Festival, Varga Bonita and Imre Tamara, two Hungarian students whose Chinese names are Hu Lingyue and Song Zhixiao, wrote a letter to Xi and his wife, Professor Peng Liyuan, on behalf of all students in the school, conveying their New Year's greetings.
In their letter, they also spoke about what it felt studying Chinese in the school for 12 years, and expressed their willingness to study in Chinese universities and contribute to the Hungary-China friendship.
Days later, Xi replied, saying he still remembers chatting with teachers and students of the school in 2009, while encouraging Hungarian youths to learn more about China and become envoys of the China-Hungary friendship.
On Friday, Yang Chao, charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Hungary, officially delivered Xi's letter to the school.
Varga Bonita (L) and Imre Tamara, two Hungarian students whose Chinese names are Hu Lingyue and Song Zhixiao, speak in an interview with Xinhua at Hungarian-Chinese Bilingual School in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 7, 2023. (Xinhua/Deng Yaomin)
Speaking in fluent Chinese, Varga and Imre said they are "very excited and honored" to receive Xi's letter, and hope to go to China for their college study.
After winning the Chinese Ambassador Scholarship for the second time in January, "Imre and I decided to write to Grandpa Xi to express our gratitude and convey our Spring Festival greetings," Varga told Xinhua.
"Our dream is to be a translator. This letter will encourage us to continue working hard to study Chinese and become an excellent translator," said Varga, who loves Chinese tea culture and enjoys online Chinese food programs.
Stifter Adam, deputy state secretary for Development of Oriental Relations of Hungary's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the school has been "one of the best examples of cultural and educational cooperation" between Hungary and China.
Students perform a poetry recitation in Chinese at Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
"By getting to know the history and culture of China's language, the students' knowledge increases, and this greatly contributes to the development of cultural relations and friendship between the two countries," Stifter said.
"Getting to know each other's culture was the primary goal" in the school's development, said Lebanov Jozsef, head of the Public Education Strategy Department of the State Secretariat for Public Education of Hungary's Ministry of Interior.
"I feel that the past two decades have proven with absolute certainty that our vision has succeeded," he said.
"Today's event also shows that there is a living close relationship between the school's students and China, and that the students studying here are particularly attentive to the cradle of the Chinese language and culture they learn here," he added.
A student views drawings at Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
When the bilingual school was founded in September 2004, Erdelyi recalled, most of the students were Chinese native speakers or children of mixed parentage.
"However, as time went on, there was an increasing interest in learning the Chinese language here in Hungary, and it gained momentum in 2008 after the Beijing Olympics. Since then, the development has been unbroken," Erdelyi said. "Today, most of the students are Hungarian native speakers and study Chinese continuously for five hours a week."
Currently, the only full-time school in Central and Eastern Europe that uses Chinese and the local language for instruction has 12 grades and 20 classes with more than 530 students.
Students practice martial arts at Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
"We can proudly say that many of our students have passed the baccalaureate exam and advanced baccalaureate exam, and obtained language exams in Chinese. Some of them have even gone to China as scholarship students," Erdelyi said.
"In 2009, when Mr. Xi Jinping, China's vice president at the time, visited Hungary, he assured our school that he would support and help its development. I think he fulfilled this promise to the maximum, fulfilled it, and created all the opportunities for the students studying here ... so that teaching could go well and all tools and help should be available for us," she said.
A Chinese teacher instructs students on Chinese calligraphy at Hungarian-Chinese bilingual school in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
In his reply letter, Xi also said that he hopes the students have the opportunity to travel around China, learn more about today's China as well as its history and culture.
Erdelyi, who has visited China several times since 2007 and had "fantastic experiences" there, said Xi's words resonated with her, stressing that it is important for the students to "test the knowledge" they acquire in Hungary.
Looking into the future, the school head said she expects more programs of this kind, so as to further strengthen the cultural exchanges between Hungary and China.
"The school can form a bridge between the two countries, where the students studying here can later work a lot in building relations between the two countries, since they speak the mother tongue of both countries very well," she said.
"Many Chinese companies have already settled here in Hungary and started operation. There is also an opportunity here to develop the students' knowledge and Chinese language skills. They can help to strengthen and develop these relations," she added. ■