BEIJING, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Before Javaria Ikram even arrived in China, the Pakistani woman had heard a lot about the country from her father.
"China is my father's second home," she said. "We grew up seeing photos and hearing stories about it."
Ul Haq Ikram was among the first group of Pakistanis to study in China in the 1970s.
From 1974 to 1979, he studied Chinese and radio communications at Beijing Language and Culture University and Tianjin University. He then returned home and became an engineer in the military. In 2005, he came to China again, this time earning his doctorate at Beijing Institute of Technology.
Ul Haq Ikram has travelled around the country with his family, and encouraged his six children to study there.
"The peaceful environment and friendship between our two countries are the main reasons why we like China," said Ul Haq Ikram. "I enjoyed the academic atmosphere here, the teachers made our studies and daily life easy."
Javaria Ikram, 30, and her siblings all followed in the footsteps of their father. Elder sister Maria Ikram came first, earning her doctorate at Beijing Institute of Technology.
"Before arriving, I had been told Chinese are quite industrious," Maria Ikram said. "It is true. They work very, very hard."
When she arrived in 2005, Beijing had only several metro lines. "Now underground covers the whole city," she said.
Javaria Ikram came in 2008, and will complete her doctorate this June.
She told Xinhua that when she arrived, she could barely understand Chinese. "Sitting in class, I had no idea what the teacher was talking about," she said.
When Javaria Ikram told her teacher that she could not read Chinese characters, the teacher gave her an English version the next day.
"I gradually gained confidence," she said. "I will never forget this experience."
The sisters' husbands also studied in China. Both Maria Ikram and her husband Abdul Waheed are now professors at Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication. Javaria Ikram's husband Syed Hammad Hussain Shan Bokhari works for a Beijing company developing automotive electronic equipment. Javaria Ikram hopes to find a job as well.
"We would like to be a bridge for exchange between China and Pakistan," she said.
"In the past, young Pakistanis liked to study Arabic, French and German. Learning Chinese is a new trend," she said.
Chinese language courses for foreigners are now available in many colleges and even primary schools in China. The booming economy has attracted an increasing number of foreign students, and like the Ikram family, many have benefited from Chinese government scholarships.
In 2016, more than 440,000 foreign students from 205 countries and regions studied in China, according to statistics with the Ministry of Education.
According to plan, China will set up a Silk Road scholarship, allowing 10,000 foreign students from countries along the Belt and Road to study in China each year.
With the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be developed, creating a lot of job opportunities for technicians, especially those who have studied in China, Javaria Ikram said.
She hopes the corridor will improve the economic and living conditions in Pakistan.
"Blackouts often occur in Islamabad due to power supply shortages," she said.
The cooperation mechanism will carry out many infrastructure and cultural projects, which will improve the quality of life in her hometown, Javaria Ikram said.