BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Since childhood, Palestinian Dima Albughdadi dreamed of going to China to learn the Chinese language.
"When I was a little girl, I used to stare in wonder at the Chinese ornaments displayed in shop windows and imagine going to China myself one day."
She remembers copying down Chinese characters crookedly in her notebook and seeing them on T-shirts. "Although I had no idea what they meant, joy would fill my heart whenever I saw them," she said.
However, in Palestine, it was never easy for girls like Albughdadi to go to university. She applied to study Chinese at the University of Jordan after high school, but as a Palestinian her options were limited and she couldn't enroll in her dream major unless she paid double the amount in the tuition fees.
Out of practical considerations, she eventually studied engineering. "My mind grew numb with dull formulas and mechanical thinking, and I derived no pleasure from it," Albughdadi said, recalling her two years of engineering study.
As her request to change major was repeatedly denied by her family, she realized that she had only herself to rely on in the pursuit for learning Chinese. So she began seeking whatever way possible: searching free online materials, watching video courses, and looking for Chinese-major students as language partners.
During her final year in college, Albughdadi was granted a scholarship by Dalian University of Technology for a one-year study in northeast China's port city of Dalian.
She said China gave her a sense of "deja vue" upon arrival, but the country is "far more beautiful that I thought, and the people here much kinder ... I've brought myself closer to my dream. My dreams of learning Chinese have come true over and over again."
Learning Chinese has become increasingly popular overseas in recent years, especially after China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013. Like Albughdadi, more young people from around the world have become fascinated with the Chinese language as well as Chinese culture.
The ever closer ties between China and countries along the Belt and Road have provided ample opportunities for young people to realize their Chinese dreams.
Hamid Gholami from Afghanistan began learning Chinese in 2010 at the Department of Chinese Language and Culture of Kabul University, where he now teaches Chinese.
Calling the Chinese language a "magic key" that has unlocked a new country for him, Gholami said China's long history, warm and friendly people, and continuous striving for self-improvement all fascinated him.
With the implementation of China's Belt and Road Initiative, Gholami said, the two countries will see their ties enhanced.
"I hope to compile teaching materials suitable for Chinese teaching in Afghanistan, pass the magic key of the Chinese language to more Afghan people, and contribute to the friendship and development of the two countries."
Not only do these young people learn Chinese to grasp the language, understand Chinese culture and mentally enrich themselves, they do so also with the aim of using the Chinese language as a tool to bridge peoples.
Izabela Flis, a 23-year-old Polish girl, now takes advanced Chinese courses at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
"It all started with my interest in the Walt Disney feature animation 'Mulan'," Flis said recalling her first encounter with the Chinese language. She was referring to the 1998 Walter Disney film based on a Chinese folklore dating back to the fifth century about a girl joining the army to replace her father.
"Although I was only six when I first saw the movie, I still could not help falling in love with Mulan's typical Asian eyes," she said, adding that she used to squint and lift the outer corners of her own eyes in front of the mirror to make her eyes resemble those of Mulan.
Flis has been closely following the development of China-Poland ties on all fronts, and speaks with great familiarity of the diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Highlighting Poland's beautiful landscapes, long history, profound traditions in culture and art, and warm and friendly people, Flis made a strong pitch for her home country's tourism industry, saying she hopes more Chinese will come and visit.
"Exchanges between China and Poland are ascending," she said, "so I hope I can master the Chinese language and be able to promote China-Poland friendship in the future."