SHANGHAI, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Raised in a remote village in Laos, La Thor had never seen a train or railway track in his childhood, nor did it occur to him that he would become a railway operations maintainer someday.
On Friday, the China-Laos Railway, a landmark project connecting Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan Province with the Lao capital Vientiane, officially started operation.
The railway connects people along the route, where La Thor's career on track will take off.
La Thor's encounter with the railway has not come merely by chance. In 2018, the Shanghai Institute of Technology teamed up with Souphanouvong University in Laos to launch an educational exchange program. The first batch of nine Lao students, including La Thor, went to Shanghai in China for their undergraduate course.
To date, 31 Lao students have participated in the program in Shanghai, which is the first time China has helped nurture technical railway personnel for countries along the Belt and Road.
"When I came to China, I carried with me the hope of my parents and folks," La Thor said. Now he has graduated and returned to his country, becoming one of Laos' very first railway engineers with an undergraduate degree.
"I am extremely grateful to the Belt and Road Initiative, which contributed a lot to transforming my motherland from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub," he added.
To help people in the two countries learn about the newly-built railway, the program's Lao students, together with their Chinese peers, set up an official WeChat account last November. On the social media platform, they keep updating information about the railway in both Chinese and Lao languages.
"We all cherished the opportunity to study in China, so we tried our best to absorb knowledge about railway technologies. We will be the first railway engineers in our country, and will make our own contribution to the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Chengxue Thoryiachor, one of the Lao students of the program, on the official account.
Jing Ying, vice president of Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said that the Lao students participating in the exchange program embody the deep friendship between the countries.
La Thor still recalls the medical and food supplies including face masks and fruits provided by the association during his stay in China.
"I hope the launch of this railway will help further improve relations between our two countries, and people on both sides will always be good friends," he said.