The 20-year-old arrived in China in 2019 and initially studied Chinese in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi. She is currently a freshman at the Gansu University of Chinese Medicine, the only university in northwest China authorized to grant a doctorate degree in TCM, a medical system with thousands of years of history and widespread international popularity.
Located in Gansu Province, a key TCM production base in China, the university has so far trained students from 22 countries, including the Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan and Laos.
When Prihardinni was 10 years old, she suffered from persistent headaches. So, her mother took her to see a TCM doctor near their home. "I still remember the strong, refreshing scent of herbs in his clinic," Prihardinni said.
The doctor checked her pulse, examined her face and tongue, and wrote down a prescription. After several weeks of consuming the bitter herbal remedy, her symptoms diminished, and she found comfort.
"His medical skills were like magic," Prihardinni recalled. The memory of being cured by TCM was etched in Prihardinni's heart and it encouraged her to pursue TCM study majoring in the clinical science of Chinese and Western medicines.
Hailing from the island of Java in Indonesia, 21-year-old Banon Putri Nilam Sayekti is one of Prihardinni's classmates. As she has never been exposed to TCM therapy before, Sayekti found it hard to understand this branch of medicine at the beginning of her first semester.
"Chinese people, for instance, believe that good health requires a balance of 'yin' and 'yang,' and TCM practitioners not only pay attention to a patient's ailment, but also to his or her overall physical condition," Sayekti said. "It appears that healing a patient is both a medical and a philosophical challenge."
"TCM is becoming increasingly popular worldwide and has become an important cultural symbol for China," said Zhao Zhongting, associate professor at the Gansu University of Chinese Medicine.
"Many overseas students, however, face difficulties in fully understanding the meaning and function of TCM medical terms due to cultural and language barriers," Zhao said, adding that in order to help them, the university offers various training courses for freshmen, including biochemistry, language study, and Chinese medicine culture and diagnostics.
Exchange activities between local and international students, lectures and study tours are also provided to help students better comprehend the academic course.
"Our professor also invited us to spend the Spring Festival together with his family. I ate handmade dumplings and enjoyed a beautiful firework show that night," Sayekti said, adding that studying TCM involves learning a different culture and demands an open mind and consistent effort over time.
The two girls are currently enjoying their summer holidays. During this fall semester, they will take some practical TCM courses together with Chinese students. Despite the rising strain of coursework, they are nevertheless highly motivated.
"People in my country are becoming increasingly interested in TCM. Numerous social media vloggers are documenting their experiences with Chinese medicine," Sayekti said, adding that she plans to return to her hometown after graduation and open a TCM clinic. "I want to tell my parents and friends that Chinese medicine is also a good and trustworthy choice."
As for Prihardinni, she wishes to pursue a post-graduate degree. "TCM study is a lifelong endeavor. I know that it is not easy to persist, but I would like to give it a try because I like TCM and my life here in China."