《From foreigner to friend: Chronicles of embracing campus life in China》 | studychina.chinaservicesinfo.com

《From foreigner to friend: Chronicles of embracing campus life in China》

By ASHNA SHARMA POUDEL chinadaily.com.cn Updated : 2023-12-12

University:Zhejiang Normal University

My journey to embrace campus life in China began on a crisp December day, a day that marked not only my first step onto foreign soil but also my first foray into a world of new experiences, cultures, and opportunities.

The purpose that led me here was pursuing an International Masters in Business Administration (IMBA) degree, but little did I know that this academic pursuit would also shape my personal growth in unimaginable ways. As the plane touched down and the doors opened to China, I was stepping into a realm of enchantment and learning that would soon become an integral part of my life's narrative.

Visiting the university for the first time. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Amidst the excitement, however, there was a cloud of uncertainty that hung in the air, primarily due to the ongoing global pandemic. COVID-19 had disrupted life across the world, and China was no exception. As I arrived, I found myself grappling not only with the language barrier but also with the new safety protocols and the unexpected isolation that these circumstances had imposed. I was, quite literally, a foreigner in a foreign land, attracting curious glances and the occasional exclamation of "外国人!!" from local children. It was amusing and endearing how these encounters often led to impromptu photo sessions with their parents, making me feel like an inadvertent celebrity.

The initial days were spent in eager anticipation, as my university, Zhejiang Normal University, remained temporarily closed due to the pandemic. Peering through the gates on a rented bicycle, I caught glimpses of the sprawling campus, lush with greenery and grand buildings. It felt surreal, as if I had stumbled upon a set from Chinese drama. The feeling of awe was only amplified by the fact that I was going to be a part of this vibrant academic community. Eventually, as the situation improved, the campus reopened its gates, and I embarked on my journey into the heart of this educational haven.

Visit to Hotel Marriott with my classmates for IMBA associate activity [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

I still remember the first time I stepped inside the gate. Stepping through those gates was like crossing into a world of possibilities. The campus was a vision of serenity, adorned with majestic trees, tranquil lakes, and students from all corners of the globe. As I walked through the bustling walkways, the scent of knowledge and cultural diversity permeated the air. The myriad canteens offered a culinary adventure, each plate revealing the diverse and delectable palette of Chinese cuisine. The classrooms were not just rooms of learning but spaces that resonated with the dreams and aspirations of countless students.

Participating in trail walk where I made new friends. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The faculty, a confluence of talent and mentorship, stood ready to guide us on our academic journey. Among the many educators, one figure stands out—the Chinese teacher who, through patient guidance, helped me navigate the labyrinth of Mandarin. It was through her teachings that I embarked on the voyage of language acquisition, seeking to bridge the communication gap and connect with the local community on a deeper level.

Securing Third position in Badminton Match. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

However, the true essence of my transformation from a foreigner to a friend lay in the relationships forged beyond the classroom. The campus was a melting pot of cultures, and every interaction was an opportunity to explore and celebrate our differences. The weekends became a canvas for global gatherings, where students from diverse backgrounds would congregate beside the lake, under the shade of the towering trees or at a restaurant of Baimen. These gatherings transcended mere conversations; they were cultural symposiums where languages, traditions, and stories converged. It was here that friendships bloomed, and I found myself part of a mosaic of backgrounds and beliefs.

But campus life wasn't limited to leisurely weekends alone; it was an immersive experience of growth and participation. Encouraged by the vibrant atmosphere, I plunged into a myriad of activities, from competitive sports to artistic pursuits. Trail walks, badminton matches, and even a Chinese Sachet-making competition became avenues for self-discovery and connection. These endeavors transcended the language barrier, allowing us to communicate through shared passions and common goals.

Celebrating my first birthday away from home with my new friends. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The education system itself was a revelation. The holistic approach to learning, blending theory with practical application, opened new horizons of understanding. The talented and supportive teachers transformed classrooms into spaces of engagement and empowerment. The lessons extended beyond textbooks, teaching us to navigate cultural nuances and decode the intricacies of international business.

As time passed, the metamorphosis from a foreigner to a friend was evident not just in my interactions but in my role within the community. Recognizing my enthusiasm and adaptability, I was appointed as the Overseas Publicity Officer of Jinhua—an opportunity that granted me the privilege to bridge the gap between international students and the local community. This role, a testament to the bonds formed and the integration achieved, exemplified the harmonious blend of cultures that had come to define my life on campus.

Letter of appointment as the Overseas Publicity Officer of Jinhua [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Reflecting on this journey, I find myself amazed at the evolution that has taken place within me. From that day when I was a foreigner unsure of where to find my place, I have blossomed into a friend, a part of a network that transcends geographical boundaries. The language that was once a barrier has become a bridge, allowing me to initiate conversations, share laughter, and exchange stories with locals and peers alike.

"From Foreigner to Friend: Chronicles of Embracing Campus Life in China" encapsulates not just my personal transformation but the narrative of countless international students who embark on similar odysseys. It is a testament to the power of education, cultural exchange, and human connection.

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