|March 20,2017--Sonam Tsering spends almost every minute of his waking hours studying for the national college admission test, which he will sit early June.
"I cherish every minute of my school days. They are running out so fast," the 18-year-old Tibetan said Wednesday from his classroom at Chengdu Tibet High School in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
A top student, Sonam Tsering hopes to attend Xiamen University, in coastal Fujian Province, to read economics.
"I heard Xiamen has China's most beautiful campus, with coconut trees, a beach and a climate vastly different from my plateau hometown."
Three years ago, Sonam Tsering was selected to study in Chengdu, 2,000 km from his hometown in Xaitongmoin County in Tibet Autonomous Region.
He said he enjoyed school in Chengdu.
"The school is much better here. My teachers are kind and knowledgeable, and I've made many friends."
More importantly, Sonam Tsering said he has gained a confidence, and a lust to achieve his personal best in everything he does.
For three decades, gifted Tibetan children, particularly those from poor backgrounds, have gone to study in big cities, under a program to train more professionals for the underdeveloped plateau region and subsequently boosting Tibet's development.
From 1985 to 2016, more than 110,000 Tibetan students have secured scholarships for inland high schools, according to data provided by Tibet education department.
About 36,000 of them eventually graduated from vocational schools and colleges before returning to Tibet.
The central government, determined to equip young people with the skills to earn a living wage, has also increased the education budgets for ethnic areas over the period.
Seven years ago, Choden was among 50 Tibetan middle school graduates granted a scholarship to study at a vocational school in Chengdu. The grant covered all his tuition fees and gave him a monthly 600-yuan stipend.
Upon graduation, Choden secured a job as an electrician in his home county of Luhuo in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in Sichuan Province. He soon worked his way up to his current position as head of the power station, responsible for 150 km of wires that supply electricity to 2,710 rural families.
"Most of the time I'm busy with checks or repairs on the power supply network, but I feel happy to be able to do something for my hometown," he said. "In my younger days, we often suffered power cuts in winter. Nowadays, I play a part in ensuring uninterrupted power supply."
Some young Tibetans have managed to survive in big cities through vocational training.
As a child, Shofang trained to be a dancer with a troupe in Jiuzhaigou County, Sichuan. At 20, she was preparing to retire from dancing to get married and be a housewife.
A free education program in Sichuan changed the course of her life. In 2009, she was accepted to a vocational school of the railway bureau and trained to be a train driver.
Upon graduation, she became the first Tibetan female subway driver in China.
Six years into her job, she has driven over 110,000 km.
Last year, she married a co-worker and settled in Chengdu.