by Xinhua writer Zhou Xiaoli
BEIJING, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Richard Coward, a British entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of China Admissions, an education platform that helps international students get into Chinese universities.
The 31-year-old comes from a family that has historical ties with China dating back 100 years.
Coward said he "was blown away by the scale of growth and opportunity" when he first arrived in the country. Two years later, he managed to find niche for his own business in China's education industry.
Coward's great grandfather was the owner of a trading company in London in the 1920s, importing high quality clothing materials such as silk from China to Europe.
Like his great grandfather, Coward gained his first-hand experience with China through business activities. At the age of 15, Coward started to sell ebooks, wristbands, and other tech products from China on the internet.
Coward said that this early experience made him "see the opportunities" in the country.
Coward's interest and curiosity about China continued to grow in college. "I was studying politics, philosophy and economics, and in everything I was studying, I found China was the most interesting part," he said. "I didn't want to learn about it just in books, I think it's better to come (to China)."
He made his decision in 2007 and studied Chinese as an exchange student at Peking University for one semester.
After the exchange program ended, Coward taught English in a private boarding school in Wuhan, capital city of central China's Hubei Province, and co-authored a book on English essay writing for Chinese students.
Recalling his first year in China as "incredible," Coward said "I became so fascinated with China, Chinese culture and Chinese people and I think it is going to be a thread that continues my whole life."
Coward went back to Britain after the program, but he maintained his bonds with China in helping his friends with their applications for Chinese universities and listening to their stories in China.
He decided to return 2010. "I really missed being in China ... I wanted to get back out there into the unpredictable and fascinating world."
The British businessman wanted to help more international students gain access to first-hand experience in China.
"I think there is so much the world can learn about China and its culture," he said. "I want to help more people to understand the country and make it more accessible for them."
Soon after the establishment of China Admissions in 2010, Coward signed his first contract with China University of Political Science and Law to help with its overseas student recruitment.
The British entrepreneur and his team have now helped students from more than 200 countries to get into over 30 Chinese institutions of higher education. Five hundred overseas students used the service last year alone.
LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
China ranks third on the list of the most popular destinations of studying abroad in the world. The Chinese government's efforts to attract more foreign students have provided a superb opportunity for Coward's business.
According to China's Ministry of Education, more than 480,000 overseas students from 204 countries and regions studied in China in 2017, the highest number in Asia. And China aims to attract 500,000 international students by 2020.
Coward pointed out that many international students have chosen China because of the expanding scholarship coverage.
Statistics from China's Education Ministry show that around 59,000 international students were supported by scholarships provided by the Chinese government in 2017.
Coward said that the expanding enrollment of foreign students in China would be beneficial to both sides.
"When Chinese people and companies want to go abroad, there are many people overseas that understand the country and are friendly to them," he said.
"It also brings a lot of opportunities to international students. Even if people come to China and go back, they can benefit from the experience."
Xinhua writers Zhang Jianhua and Huang Kangyi also contributed to the story.