I am currently sitting in the Shunde building at Tsinghua University. Today is probably the last time I come to this beautiful campus for a long time. Classes ended two weeks ago, I’m one month into my internship, and I officially moved out of my dorm to my aunt’s house last week.
I came back to campus with Jenfay and Mike, after Jenfay and I got our nails done at Liudaokou this morning. Their flight is this afternoon, so I’m here to see them off to the airport. I have a few hours to myself right now because I’m waiting for my Er Sao (my cousin’s wifey with whom I stayed in Shenzhen three months ago) to come to campus in the afternoon. She’s in Beijing for one week for training, and she wanted to visit the most prestigious university in China—Tsinghua University!
Before settling down to write this post, I biked around campus by myself for a little bit. It felt strange. How can I describe it? This campus is full of some of the best memories I’ve had with some of the greatest people I’ve met, but because all of them have left already for home or for travelling, it feels empty.
The memories are here, but the people are not.
Whenever I pass by Building 19, I’ll always remember room 423, my cozy dorm room. I’ll remember it as a hub where my favourite people would come, knocking to work on group projects or 90% of the time, just to hangout. I’ll remember the dozen or so friends I had in Building 19 who I would randomly call up to talk—and I would always use the free dorm phone, whose boisterous ring would always make them jump up from out of their chair, haha! Building 19 was my home-sweet-home. It wasn’t only because I lived here, but because I could always come back to a family of caring, fun, and outgoing people. I’ll also always remember the hospitality of the staff at Building 19. Thank you for always looking out for us and keeping our rooms in check.
Whenever I pass by Taoli canteen, I’ll always remember “Taoli, 11:30?” so we could snatch some of that fish meat. Whenever I pass by Zijing Track Field, I’ll always remember performing at Tsinghua’s Got Talent Show in front of 1000 people after only one day of practice. Whenever I pass by C Lou, I’ll always remember the awesome store that supplied everything we ever needed—toilet paper and snacks, basically.
I’ll always remember Dongbei Mer as the gate from which we would leave to go explore Beijing, and the gate from which we would come back home after long days and nights out. I’ll always remember the huge hill on Xinmin Lu that we would curse when we were late to class because it was exhausting to bike over. I’ll always remember the streets lined with trees as the paths that led me to meeting great people and experiencing things I now keep as cherished memories.
The people I met were my favourite part about exchange. Before exchange, I asked my friends who went on exchange before what the best part about exchange was. All of them said the people. I don’t like copying others, but I do have to say that the people I met on exchange were definitely the highlight of my exchange experience. I met some of the sweetest, kindest and most wonderful people here, many of which are now great friends for life. We had classes, we travelled, we ate, we explored, we went out, we learned, we experienced. I met awesome people from all over the world; I can now travel to a great number of places and know that I have at least one friend there.
To my best friends on exchange—you know who you are—it was hard to say goodbye to you guys because it won’t be the same in Beijing now. You guys made my exchange everything I could ask for, and more. There’s so much I could say, but if I had to only say one thing, it would be thank you. Thank you guys for making my time at Tsinghua one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you for always being there, for always understanding, for always encouraging, for always caring. And last but not least, for always being fun! I miss you guys already and I can’t wait to see you again.
To say I learned a lot on exchange would be an understatement. While I learned quite a few things in class, most of the learning I did was outside of class—when I was with friends exploring and experiencing China. This semester was a semester of cultural learning, widening perspectives, and personal growth. I can decipher 85% of Mandarin text messages, and sort of read a restaurant menu. I understand more about the culture that my family grew up in. I saw nine different cities in China and want to read books on China when I go back to Canada.
Before I came on exchange, I promised myself that I would be open to experiencing new things. The craziest things I did were the infamous plank walk at Hua Shan and bungee jumping. Some other highlights include volunteering for a water project in Gansu province, attending two family weddings, dyeing my hair for the first time, paintballing for the first time, and performing at Tsinghua’s Got Talent Show. There was not a single day on exchange that I didn’t love. I learned, I experienced, and I had fun each day. Looking back, I now see that I’ve grown a tremendous amount.
Although I don’t want exchange to end, there just happens to be a nice little ending that ties things up well. On the day I was moving out of my dorm, I met Zac, who had just arrived in Beijing from London and had just moved into his dorm room on my floor. He’s staying at Tsinghua University for the summer to do research.
Like all of us on our first days at Tsinghua, Zac had no idea of how anything worked on campus—how to get internet working, where to get a meal card, where to buy things, where to take the bus, etc. I had just finished packing everything up and thankfully still had my guides to Tsinghua in a pile of papers, textbooks, and notebooks that I was going to throw away. I happily gave them all to Zac. I also told Zac to download WeChat on his phone—you cannot live in China without that thing!
Then I realized how much I got used to things at Tsinghua, how much it became home. I still remember the first day I arrived at Tsinghua: my uncle dropped me off at Building 22 where Joseph, my friend from UBC, was waiting for me. We walked into Building 22 together and registered at the International Students Office, after which I checked into my dorm room in Building 19.
Exchange was one of the best experiences I’ve had. I will cherish the memories forever, and keep in touch with all the wonderful people I met here. Although I’m still in Beijing until the beginning of September, I know that this part of my time in China has come to a close. This chapter is over, but the next one has already begun, and I’m having an absolute blast so far.
This blog post is getting to be very long—actually my longest post so far—so I will share more about what I’m doing in Beijing later. Until next time, my friends!
Safe travels and I will see you all soon.
Dina : )
P.S. Jun, Wendy, Peter, Kathy, and Howard, thanks for letting me steal some of your photos!