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A discarded return ticket

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By Ouattara Sie | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: Jan 29, 2022

[Côte d’Ivoire] Ouattara Sie, Beijing University of Technology

Ouattara Sie goes to primary school to attend activities. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In August 2006, I departed from a remote West African country – Côte d’Ivoire – to study in Beijing, China. Before my departure, I had booked a round-trip air ticket valid for three months due to many anxieties in my mind, such as not speaking Chinese, worry of racial discrimination, fear of not adapting to new life.

However, I decided to cancel that return ticket after a month of studying in the Chinese capital city. Now, I have been studying and working in Beijing for 15 years, and every time I think of this scrapped return ticket, my heart is full of infinite emotions, joy, satisfaction and happiness...

Study in China, a blending of bitter and sweet

The first time I entered into the campus of Beijing University of Technology, I felt in love with the modern teaching facilities and sports fields, and the clean and tidy accommodation environment. There are so many amiable teachers, warm-hearted and patient dormitory aunts and humorous and cheerful janitors. Although I couldn’t understand what they said to me, the smiles on their faces have always warmed my heart and soothed my anxiety after my arrival.

The teacher arranged a French-speaking international student to help me to adjust to the campus life at the Beijing University of Technology. He took me to every corner of the campus, visited supermarkets and parks around the university and shared with me his own study life. I watched him with great envy as he greeted and talked to the people he met in fluent Chinese. I made up my mind that I could also learn Chinese skillfully one day.

At first, I felt very embarrassed when learning Chinese. I couldn’t remember Pinyin and I failed to follow the stroke order of Chinese characters, so I was frustrated. I was the oldest student in the class. My classmates said to me, “Never give up, big brother!” I found that imitation and repeated practice were effective ways to learn Chinese. I then increased my study time outside of classes. I turned my dormitory door into my chalkboard and reviewed the vocabulary I had learned that day from 3:00-4:30 pm every day.

I often chatted with aged Chinese people strolling on the campus so that I could practice the vocabulary I had learned. Slowly my Chinese got better and better, and I learned a lot of vocabulary from the ordinary people after class.

I felt very warm in my heart, and I also understood the saying “you can rely on your parents at home and your friends outside” in real life. My classmates were amazed at my progress and said to me, “Brother, you are our role model!” My teacher said, “Shea, you’re making great progress!” Listening to these encouraging words, I feel happier than eating honey.

The group photo of Ouattara Sie and the graduates of Beijing University of Technology [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

At the Beijing University of Technology, I have completed my preparatory course, master’s and PhD studies, and then applied for postdoctoral research. Artificial intelligence is my research interest. I have participated in my supervisor’s 973 project, Beijing Natural Science Foundation project.

My research and practical ability in the field of vision system and control system has been greatly improved. On weekends, I would invite my friends to my house, cook hometown food for them and introduce the culture of my home country.

During my living in China, I met many teachers and classmates who had given me patient guidance and assistance in my studies and life.

For many years, I have kept in touch with them. On my mentor’s birthday, I planned a birthday party with my fellow classmates and sent him sincere wishes; when my classmates left school after graduation, we had a farewell dinner together at the school’s canteen; when my classmates made success in their jobs after graduation, we exchanged good wishes in a WeChat group...

My love with China goes on in new era

I still remember the first time I stepped out of the Beijing Capital International Airport in 2006, I saw a lot of skyscrapers and flashing neon lights, wide roads and busy traffic.

I could only take pictures with my digital camera because there were no smartphones at that time. I couldn’t wait to take lots of pictures in China World Trade Center, Central Business District, Wangfujing, Tiananmen Square, Xidan and send them to my friends and parents, who couldn’t believe this is China.

In 2008, Beijing successfully held the 29th Summer Olympic Games, which attracted the attention of the world, and China’s influence parallel to that of developed countries in Europe and North America.

I found that there were more international students in my neighborhood. More and more young foreigners, like me, came to Beijing to study. In 2014, the APEC Summit was held in Beijing. Since then, the blue sky in Beijing has become more frequent, the subway is getting more accessible, and the gap between Beijing and the world metropolises has been significantly shortened.

In 2018, Beijing successfully held the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and I had the honor to participate in the reception of our president. As an African, I am deeply inspired and I want to pass the baton of China-Africa friendship and contribute in the construction of the China-Africa community of shared destiny.

During the past decades, I’ve witnessed the speed, power and spirit of China. The year of 2010 saw the emergence of WeChat, which altered the perception of interpersonal communication; the development of Taobao, Jingdong and Meituan, which led to a radical change in shopping and life.

I gradually integrated into each new development, cherished the unexpected surprises, and constantly made progress by changing myself and becoming stronger.

During my study in China, I met my current wife, an authentic Chinese girl. After the test of time, we walked hand in hand into marriage. I am now a foreign teacher at Beijing University of Technology, and I manage to help young international students who have the beautiful dream of China like me, assist them to plan their academic development and learn Chinese culture.

Together with them, I can experience the rapid development of China! Together with them, I portray our different Chinese love stories!

I want to express my gratitude to the discarded air ticket because it not only makes my live experience rich and wonderful and makes my work happy and meaningful, but also makes my life sweet and happy.

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).