By HAROON HAYAT
Global Business Journalism reporter
Nico Gous had proven his versatility by working for eight years in South African media as a print reporter, video journalist and web editor, among other roles. But he wanted to expand his horizons by experiencing other cultures and continents.
After a few years of work, one of his friends told him about the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University. Immediately attracted to the program, which is known for its multicultural makeup and international outlook, he applied and was accepted in 2019.
“I wanted to experience a new country and culture, something different than Western and African countries that we see a lot of on South African television,” he said. “The GBJ program appealed to me because it is taught in English and is presented in partnership with Bloomberg [News]."
Gous was rewarded for his efforts. On June 25, he graduated with a master's degree and won the best thesis award for his insightful portfolio of journalism stories on the impact of the Chinese short video site TikTok on South African culture. The 2021 graduating class represented 11 countries on five continents.
For Gous, it was an unpredictable path to success. During his two years studying at Tsinghua, his classes shifted from in-person to online after the coronavirus outbreak spread worldwide from Wuhan. The COVID-19 pandemic forced him to spend three of his four semesters away from the Beijing campus that he found both beautiful and inspiring. As a top student at China's top university, Gous has received several job offers in China, but he remains unable to return from Africa due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Still, Gous says coming to China for studies enabled him to connect with people from diverse backgrounds, giving him a better understanding of many cultures, particularly Chinese culture. He said that the experience at Tsinghua has had a profound impact on him.
“Many people I know in South Africa have misconceptions about China," he said. "However, it is such a different country, and the only way you can really learn about it is to experience for yourself."
A sports fanatic, Gous played multiple sports on campus, including soccer, and spent countless hours at Tsinghua's gyms. He said this biggest challenge in Beijing was the language barrier – his Chinese was not fluent – so he usually needed help from friends.
“I was surprised by how many of my classmates could speak or had a working proficiency of Mandarin," he said. "Sometimes I am unsure how I would have managed without their help and that of other students on campus." Tsinghua was not Gous' introduction to China. In 2006, he visited China for ten days as a tourist and saw places like Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an. That visit, along with his Global Business Journalism experiences, have changed Gous' outlook on the world.
He recommends that others see China for themselves. And he advises students who are in China to meet new people from different parts of the world so they can see things differently, without projecting biases or prejudices.
“The world is such a wonderful and diverse place if you are open to it,” he said.