Two Years in My New Home ——China
Two Years in My New Home ——China

When I think about the two years that I am soon leaving behind me, the first thing that comes to my mind is growth. A whole lot of it.

Content

As clichè as it might sound, spending two years in China really has changed me. As a quote from my journal, dated the 12th of December 2018 says: “The past year hasn't been easy. But it was in the past year I found myself, my opinions and my values”.  Coming here I thought that these two years would teach me about the world - and though they definitely have done so, I think I have learned just as much about myself.

  • Dressed up to welcome King and Queen from Norway (Author, 2nd from right)

 

Moving away from home, starting a rigorous academic system and starting a new life in a country that is overwhelmingly different from what I was used to has been far from easy. I have been more stressed, homesick and scared at UWC than I have ever been before. But through this I have grown - and I would not have had it any other way. One of the first speeches I ever heard when coming to the school was then Principal Robert Clarence’s speech about Resilience. Though my English capabilities were at the time far from good enough to understand what this word meant, I have, as my adventure is coming to an end, come to understand the meaning of it.

 

My years here have taught me about the incredible strength that lies both in me and in the students around me. I am continuously impressed by the willpower, the intelligence, and the capability of the people in this school. Being around these people has taught me that I can do so much more than I thought I could, and that though the challenges I have faced here have been tough, they have helped me grow into a better, stronger person, ready for the next challenge.

  • UWC Day

 

Not to say that the two years here have been only hard. As I am writing this in the beautiful space that is my school’s library, a DP1 student walked around giving all stressed second years Kinder Bueno. I performed at the One World Concert with the Big Band, which I started with a friend at the beginning of the year. I have been going to events ranging from a philosophical debate about the Personhood of Pigs to a workshop on the two movements Black Lives Matter vs. All lives matter. Wherever you walk around the school, it is filled with small and big things that are happening, from kinder bueno fairies to grand shows. It is this that has made me fall in love with the school; it is always alive. There is always something to go to or someone to be with. And if you choose to do so, there is so much to be learned from this - and such an opportunity for growth. Student-led events and workshops have become my favorite way to get educated and learn about the world. But what I have come to find as my two years here are almost coming to an end is that there is an endless amount of growth and learning in the small things that you maybe wouldn’t think were opportunities for growth at first glance. Though a Kinder Bueno might just seem to be a cute gesture at first sight, it teaches you something about how easy it is to make someone a little bit happier - and how important that is. A trip to a restaurant with a waiter that you don’t share a language with teaches you about how to overcome language barriers. Conversations over dinner teach you about cultural differences. Actually, simply what people put on their plates for dinner teaches you about cultural differences. By simply just being in a community like the one in our school, there is so much to be learned.

  • My House members

 

When asked about what their favorite thing about the school is, UWC CSC students often answer “the people”. I answer the same. It is the people of the school that make the community, who make it possible to face the challenges that we face, who make it all worth it when you’re so homesick that you just want to go home, and who are the ones you learn the most from. I often say that my three native English speaking best friends (who I became friends with on the very first day here) were the ones who taught me English. Though I say that rather jokingly, it is good metaphor for what joining this community has done for me. So many of the things that I know today, and the values that I hold, are a result of the people that I am surrounded with every day. Through discussions in the canteen, common rooms or just in my bed I have learned just as much, if not more, than in any classroom. The spectrum of backgrounds and opinions that can be found in our school, and the students’ willingness to share these, is something that I think is in many ways unique to UWC. The student body of UWC Changshu China is simply just extremely intelligent. There is a culture in our school of challenging ideas, asking questions and wanting to educate each other - and through this there is an endless amount of knowledge to be taught.

  

Another honorable mention in the growth that I have had over the past two years is naturally the country in which I have done so. China is immensely beautiful, crazy, and grand in its own very-different-from-everything-I-am-used-to way. I have over the past two years fallen in love with my new home country.

  • During Project Week in Jiangxi with Chinese students

 

Prior to departing home, friends and family were very quick to warn me about this foreign nation located very far away, and it would be a lie to say that I wasn't nervous when receiving the news that I had gotten a place in China. There exists a ridiculous amount of preconceptions about this country, maybe particularly so in the Western world.

 

I no longer really know what I expected when I left the plane at PVG airport, but I do know that it was not what China turned out to be. It is very different than Norway, but it is also very different than what people in Norway think that it is. Coming to this realization has in itself been a learning experience. It has taught me a lot to see how the people of my nation view themselves and how they view the rest of the world from a (little bit) more global perspective.

 

Further, I really think that China can teach the rest of the world many lessons. Firstly, it has struck me how helpful and friendly China and its people are. Coming from a culture where people constantly and actively make an effort to avoid talking to other people, China has proved itself to stand in stark contrast. When I managed to take the bus in the wrong direction on a trip to Beijing, I did not have to stand long looking confused before a miracle in the shape of an old lady took my hand and led me to the metro station with instructions of where I needed to go to get to my final destination. When my travel group and I managed to buy only one bed for six people in our first Golden Week, we did not have to wait long until the hostel had placed us in a new room - with six beds. I strongly believe that the student group of UWC CSC has managed to collect quite a few stories of Chinese people saving their lives over the past years. It really has made me reflect on how people at home communicate with each other, and has taught me about how easy and important it can be to reach out to someone who needs it - be it a friend or a stranger.

  • Trip to Jiangxi Province

 

Further, China is an extremely innovative country. Even though I don't necessarily agree with putting stairs on mountains, I do strongly agree with daring to invest in sustainable energy - which are both examples of creative, Chinese, innovation. I really do wish that the rest of the nations in the world, especially my own nation, would take more innovative steps.

 

China really has helped me grow. Living in a culture that is very different than my own, in good and bad, has been crucial in helping me reflect on my own culture and the values that I hold as a result of it. When saying that UWC has changed me, China has been extremely important in doing so.

 

UWC Changshu China has become my new home. The past two years of my life have been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, from moments of stress to moments of absolute bliss. I will forever miss getting lost in new cities, losing track of time talking in the sun and laughing till my stomach hurts at dinner. This school holds a community that is so warm, welcoming and friendly that I am genuinely scared I will not find anything like this later on. As I move on to new adventures, I will make sure to keep in mind the spirit of the past two years, and hope that it will not be long until I am back to the place I fell in love with.