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One of the University of Chester’s visiting scholars and two Chinese students had their first experience of taking part in the Chester Marathon as part of ongoing links between the country and the University’s China Centre.

Professor Hui Zhang, from Hubei Minzu University, China has ticked one of the boxes in his life-long to do list by completing a full marathon in the UK. In addition, visiting students Jianhui Qi and Xiaoqiang Liu from Shanxi University, who are currently studying with Chester China Centre’s visiting programme, have successfully finished their first ever attempts at a marathon.

Professor Zhang has been a Visiting Scholar at the China Centre since April 2019.  Prior to taking part in the Chester Marathon, he ran the Chester Half Marathon in this year. A Professor of Physical Education from Hubei MinZu University in China, Professor Zhang is a well-established Researcher in the area of Physical Education and has been awarded National Social Fund of China (equivalent to the Economic and Social Research Council in the UK) to investigate the education of water safety, with a focus on drowning prevention, for college students in China. His research has helped to identify key weaknesses in the existing education mode and has developed a multi-level comprehensive education framework to enhance students’ knowledge, attitude and technical skills in water, including self-saving and onshore rescue abilities.

Professor Zhang is also a Practitioner in supporting sport and physical development in daily lives and since his arrival at Chester, he has been leading sporting events and competitions among the Chinese community, students and community clubs in Chester. This includes a weekly badminton competition held every Sunday at the University’s Sports Hall, which has proved to be a highly popular event among Chinese staff and students. He has also engaged with the local community in cultural events, such as volunteering at the Storyhouse Grosvenor Park Open Theatre during the summer.

For many students, Professor Zhang has been inspiring, encouraging and engaging in supporting their physical development. In many ways he has been acting as personal PE coach for many of the staff and students, his theoretical knowledge, practical skills and personality has made him highly popular among the group. In short, he has brought the community active.

Ziyang Wang, Master student in Popular Music said: “As overseas students, we tend to spend time together watching Chinese programmes on our phones or computers, which we know is not healthy. Professor Zhang’s enthusiastic approach in getting us to play badminton every week really works for us. Not only do we get the opportunity to have more physical exercise, we also get the chance to meet other people outside of our circle, which is great as it helped us to make new friends.” 

Ying Zhao, Researcher at the China Centre, said: “Professor Zhang has a thorough knowledge about how our body works in terms of exercise. He told me which exercises to do and what not to do in order to get fit. I really benefit a lot from having Professor Zhang’s constant advice - he’s like my personal PE coach in some ways, which is great!” 

In addition to Professor Zhang, there are over 20 Chinese visiting scholars based in the China Centre, University of Chester.

Dr Wing Lam, Director of China Centre, at the University of Chester, said: “Visiting scholars have always been important assets of the China Centre – they foster joint-university research collaboration, strengthen cross-university programmes and enhance our competitiveness in international recruitment. Most importantly, many visiting scholars are multi-talented like Professor Zhang, who inspires, encourages and supports physical exercise among Chinese staff and students, which is very important to the health and well-being of our staff and students.

“Many other visiting scholars are multi-talented too. For example Professor Xin Wu from Zhejiang Gongshang University, who performed Chinese opera in the 2018 Chinese New Year Gala, or Mingxiu Zhu who demonstrated Chinese calligraphy during the events. All these have helped enormously in enriching Chinese staff and students’ life at Chester. We will continue to welcome Visiting Scholars and staff from different universities to Chester, and for the first time this autumn we have welcomed our first cohort of university staff from Shanghai University of Electric Power and Dalian Minzu University to attend formal staff training at Chester, in addition to our highly popular visiting programmes.”

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