I moved to China in 2010 booking a flight to Xiamen when I was twenty-seven and lived there through the first half of 2016. Xiamen is an island city in the southern part of the country. I’ve been passionate about Asia since middle school and I had the chance to study Chinese in Beijing with a scholarship when I was 20, but at the time I had a million excuses as to why I shouldn’t and lost my chance.
I chose to take a course in Far-Eastern languages and civilizations at a university in my city in Italy. My family wanted me to get a degree and the most significant people in my life, my friends, were going to get one as well. That wasn’t something I could take lightly, it was required of me. The correct way to conduct myself according to the norm was to go on to college following high school.
In haste, I followed suite without considering my own feelings. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have enrolled at that time.I continued in a sort of frenzy with no solid focus on anything. I started part-time jobs and saved money, but my studies took a short detour, I’d had enough of sitting and reading. It seemed like hundreds of pages had to be read just to show to the professor I knew plenty about the subject. At the same time my spoken Chinese, my supposed main focus, was poor as I was surrounded by Italians besides having many other subjects to study. Home wasn’t a place where I could improve either because the peace and quiet it required wasn’t present there. Studying East-Asian cultures and languages from books in preparation for my trip to Asia was interesting, but it seemed the more I tried to prepare from home, the more it put off the real action-taking I needed to get there.
During my second year of studies I was offered, along with other lucky students, a free Chinese language course for four months at a university in Beijing. I’d refused on the basis of feeling guilt for leaving my dearest friends and family in order to widen my horizons. It seemed I was reluctant to live my own life.
I had to wait another six years for a second chance to cross the sea to reach what would become my second beloved home. This time it was without remorse with loads to gain in all areas of my life. Most of the six years spent in limbo had mysteriously vanished from my memory, including all regrets of staying in Italy.
On an occasion that appeared to be a typical weekend night out, I met an old friend at the pub. I hadn’t seen her in ages and suprisingly was told she studied Chinese too. She still wasn’t able to communicate with the natives, so this called for studying in China for a while and I was “in” without a second thought.
In my particular case, it was essential to embark on this type of endeavor with a friend, but later I’d learned students in China that left their countries alone were still doing great.
As a Chinese language student I can tell you that meeting new people and making new friends on a regular basis is an absolute. During my first few months, I learned to find places for dinner and places to spend my free time; I got to know how things rocked and rolled by the Chinese standards in their great city. Everything everywhere is a new source of surprise and feeling bored would render impossible.
Chinese universities are huge. The government invests greatly in education and Chinese campuses are home to thousands and thousands of students, teachers, and workers from all parts of China. The number of international students is growing exponentially. Studying and living in a Chinese university allowed me to share life experiences with students from five continents while I improved my Chinese and English simultaneously. Just a couple of weeks after I’d arrived in Xiamen, I stopped missing home and eventually, when it was time to pack and return to Italy, I pouted. Such a wonderful experience, and it had to come to an end.
After finals, my friend and I returned to Italy, but in less than two months, I was ready to go back to my beloved China, the one place I felt belonged to me. And this time, I would do it on my own.There I decided to work in China and stayed for a few years. Incredibly, I learned more about Chinese culture and had improved my Chinese in 5 months time, less than six semesters of studying Chinese in Italy.
Nevertheless, China is a big country with travel destinations of all kinds and just a few hours flight from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and so many other places.