Reflections on Xiamen
By Michael Cheng
As usual, in the morning we had our Chinese classes. After lunch, we continued our student project presentations from yesterday. Like yesterday, everyone had 7 minutes to talk about a Chinese culture topic they’re interested in. My project was on educational inequality between urban and rural China; some others were on pregnancy restrictions, the effect of the 2016 US Presidential Election’s outcome on the Chinese government, the situation in Xinjiang, Chinese martial arts, and so much more.
At 5pm, we started our closing ceremony with all homestay parents, NSLI-Y students, teachers, and Xiamen University tutors in tow. We were first treated to speeches from Dr. Chen on the program overall, the Vice President of Xiamen University on continuing to understand Chinese culture and improving US/China relations, and Betty, a Xiamen University student tutor, who talked about the experiences of the student tutors and growing emotionally attached to all the NSLI-Y students.
Then, we ate pizza in a variety of flavors, from “Classic US American” to “Fruity.” Afterwards, we had eight wonderful acts performed by UDNSLI-Y students, which included graceful fan dances, riveting songs, epic Chinese yo-yo stunts, and Chinese-only renditions of “Snow White” and a mash-up of Romeo and Juliet with Chinese folk tales. At the end, I was so sad to see everyone go and leave XMU that I cried fountains of tears with Betty.
After close to five weeks in Xiamen, today is our final day. Tomorrow morning, we leave at 5am for Beijing. Looking back on the program, I feel conflicted– both depressed that we’re leaving and happy that we’re moving on. Even then, I’m going to miss a lot of people: from the shopkeeper on the 2nd floor of the dorms who sold us Pocky to the friendly Xiamen University student tutors to the teachers lived to help us learn Chinese.
I’m going to miss waking up at 6:30 in summer to go to class in the morning and complaining about not getting enough sleep. I’m going to miss being surrounded by hundreds of Chinese students taking pictures of us at lunch in the canting. I’m going to miss the stares of all the Chinese people taking pictures around us, and the shock on their faces when they find out that I’m not Chinese. And I’m going to miss slow-walking through the tunnel surrounded by beautiful murals and the sounds of honking bikes, bustling tourists, and nervous students.
But at the end of the tunnel, there’s another day.