When Ma Chi returned to China in 2012 to recruit students for Thailand’s Chiangmai University, there were few applicants. However, the number has been increasing markedly since 2013, Ma said.

Ma, 41, a former teacher at Yunnan Normal University in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, was sent to Thailand in 2005 to teach Chinese, before staying there and working at the Faculty of Humanities, Chiangmai University, responsible for the recruitment of Chinese students.

Years ago, some Chinese parents and students believed that only students with poor grades would study in Thailand and that they could not find good jobs after graduation, Ma said. While Thai teachers also held the misconception that Chinese students were poor at studying.

Misunderstandings between the two sides brought difficulties to Ma’s work. “At the very beginning, high school graduates admitted to a domestic university were reluctant to apply for Chiangmai University,” Ma said, adding that she hoped to introduce more outstanding Chinese students to Thailand’s prestigious schools.

Since China put forward the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, the economic and trade ties between China and Thailand have become closer and closer, while bilingual job-seekers are in great demand, said Ma. “The number of applicants including those with good grades has increased from a few to dozens or even hundreds each year.”

In 2014, Ma set up a recruitment and training centre in Kunming, Yunnan provincial capital, to provide training in Thai language, English and some specialised courses to help applicants better adapt to study abroad.

So far, the centre has sent nearly 500 students to Thailand. The students can apply for 60 majors at Chiangmai University, Chulalongkorn University and Mahidol University as well as other top institutions in Thailand.

Situated in the heart of the Indochina Peninsula, Thailand is a key partner along the Belt & Road. The BRI has created new opportunities for education cooperation between Thailand and China, said Dr. Kulnaree Nukitrangsan, with the Chinese studies centre of Institute of Asian studies, Chulalongkorn University.

“Some Chinese investors have come to Thailand to invest in education, while many high school students choose Thai international schools, and more and more Thai students are studying in China,” Kulnaree Nukitrangsan said.

Statistics show that about 32,000 Chinese students studied in Thailand while about 28,000 Thai students came to study in China in 2018.

In recent years, Yunnan has continuously strengthened education cooperation with Thailand. In 2017, Yunnan University cooperated with Chiangmai University to launch an undergraduate education program of logistics management with joint training. Teachers from Thailand and China share the teaching tasks and more than 120 students are involved in the program.

In early November, Worawit Janchai, a teacher sent by Chiangmai University, arrived in Kunming to teach a two-week course for the program. He told Xinhua that the construction of the China-Thailand railway and other connectivity infrastructure will boost the flow of people and logistics.

The joint training of logistics management professionals by the two universities serves as a preparation for further cooperation between Thailand and China in the future, he said.

The improving education quality in Yunnan has attracted more and more Thai students. As of April 2019, the number of Thai students studying in Yunnan reached 2,083, accounting for about 11 percent of the total number of Yunnan’s overseas students, according to the Yunnan provincial department of education.

Jedsadakorn Luengwipat, an undergraduate from Nakhon Pathom, worked in Thailand for two years before he came to China. In 2017, he got a chance to pursue a master’s degree in international relations at Yunnan University. “Nowadays, bilingual graduates have an advantage in finding jobs,” said Jedsadakorn Luengwipat, who is now confident his future is bright.