Assalamualaikum dan salam sejahtera.
Ini kabar agak telat sih. Alhamdulillah sekitar dua bulan yang lalu saya memenangkan sebuah kompetisi menulis esei yang diadakan oleh CUCAS, sebuah agen yang membantu pendaftaran murid asing untuk masuk ke universitas di China. Esei berjudul “Seek Knowledge, Even if You Have to Go to China for It” saya ternyata dapat juara satu. Hadiahnya nyampe sebulan setelah pengumuman via pos, iPad mini. (Special thanks buat kakak senior yang sudah berbagi info lomba dan mendorong saya untuk berpartisipasi 🙂 )
Senang? Pastinya. Alhamdulillah. Tapi setelah itu otak jadi buntu, mau nulis apa-apa jadi susah, haha (Entah apa hubungannya sih). Buktinya? Ini postingan jadinya pendek sekali, nggak jelas alurnya pula. Jadi… mari kita copy paste dari sini, esei saya itu.
Seek Knowledge, Even if You Have to Go to China for It
“Seek knowledge, even if you have to go to the China for it”. That is one of Arabic proverbs that I remember strongly until now. Since I was a kid, I have heard this proverb for so many times because I studied in Islamic school since kindergarten until high school. This proverb makes me wonder, what is so special about China? Even since I started my high school study, I already planned to further my study in China. Besides, I also have another strong reason of why going to China.
There is another reality that also interest me. I bought pencil, and it is made in China. I bought drinking bottle, and it is also made in China. I bought shoes and clothes, where they are also made in China. My uncle bought a motorcycle, and surprisingly it is also made in China. “Wow, China is super amazing! Everything comes from China.” That was what I thought, and apparently “Made in China” is everywhere now. Even Islamic dress which is often used by east countries’ people like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, or Jordan, are also made in China, whereas in China itself, Islam is the minority. My dad bought some souvenirs after going to Mecca to do Islamic ritual and prayer, and they are also made in China! So, let’s go to China and find out why.
In Indonesia, and even in global world, Mandarin has become an important language that is used by majority people. In my country itself, Mandarin has developed tremendously, which is proven by its existence recently. For example, it is common for any school to have Mandarin Language as its curriculum and subject that has to be taken by its students. Mandarin tuition class is also opened in many places, with relatively high price. Not only that, recruitment of new employee often need those who speaks and write Mandarin. The phenomena of Mandarin become important language in Indonesia and global world increased my interest to further study in China. I wanted to master Mandarin, be able to write and speak fluently, and be able to understand one of the most important language in the world.
After I graduated from high school, I started to research and browse for where and which university I will be going. Then one day my father came with a newspaper and advertisement in it. Seminar from Shaoguan University about studying in China. Yeah, I am so grateful that in Indonesia, the information about China higher education is very reachable. There are so many education agencies that hold a China higher education exhibition annually, and this seminar from Shaoguan was one of them. The presentation from Shaoguan University makes me fall in love at the first sight. It is a small university in a small city near Guangzhou. That was my first time to hear about this city and university, and as I love small city, this would be great. Shaoguan is also near to Guangzhou which I can see the big city if I want to. The fees are reasonable and bearable, which is only RMB 16000 for the study fee and RMB 9600 for the dormitory. So I decided to take my first short course there. This decision of mine really is the right one. In Shaoguan, I learnt from zero and got a big improvement. This small city somehow forces me to speak Chinese more because they basically do not speak English. The people are welcoming, the atmosphere is just nice and fits me.
After the decision is made, I directly apply to the University by the help of Universal (an education agency based in Surabaya). Everything goes well, except this one thing: JW 202. Well, actually it also has no problem as at the end it is finally released, but the waiting process somehow fed me up. Without any news, until I thought my application is rejected because of the very long time (about 2 months) and I already applied for Indonesia’s test as my plan B and thought of Indonesia’s universities as option and alternative. I called Universal so many times but they did not give me a good news. They said normally JW 202 is kind of complicated to release because it is connected to China Government in China. I nearlygave up, until the end of August Universal called me and told me that the JW 202 already out. Finally! Everything ran smoothly after that, and at September 9th, I flew to China with another Indonesian friend who is from Universal too.
What can I say about my first impression on Shaoguan? I love almost everything about it. The University itself is categorized as one of the small universities in China but still big enough for me, especially compared to Indonesia’s universities. The dormitory is impressive and lux, one of the best dormitories among China. One room for two persons with toilet, balcony, free water and electricity for a specified amount, what else do you want? Oh, air conditioner, water heater, television and refrigerator are also
available, and of course the wardrobe and study table. Besides, there is a kitchen and washing room at third floor that all of us can use it as our wants. Maybe it only lacks of one thing: no elevator, which also means that we have to go up and down by stairs. In the bright side, let’s just count it as a free and healthy exercise. The city atmosphere is just perfect, where fresh air is unlimited and green area is everywhere.
Even I love most of the things in Shaoguan, culture shock still distracted me somehow. What I remember most is how mess up the cleanliness in China. It is normal to see people spitting out in the middle of the way, in front of me and my friends and doing that without any guilty feeling. Besides, I was often surprised by the condition of public toilets, from campus toilet, park toilet, restaurant toilet, until shopping mall toilet, all of them are generally horrible. As the time goes by, I learnt to compromise with this conditions and always preparing myself with both wet and dry tissue, and also a hand sanitizer, just in case I suddenly need to go to the public toilet. However, in my humble opinion, China government still needs to work hard on this. Cleanliness and hygiene are important, especially since the amount of foreigner coming to China is increasing day by day, for travelling, studying or even work purpose.
Besides, as a moslem, that was my first time living in a place where moslem is minority. It was so awkward and strange to see my friends drink and drunk, and to see people eating pork everywhere, totally contradict my belief. I was also surprised to know that many locals do not believe in God. How come is that? But then again, my friends also felt so strange seeing an “alien” like me, who doesn’t drink and doesn’t eat pork, who believe in something invisible called God and obey all of the rules that what they said complicated. Slowly but sure, I learnt to see things from other perspectives. I learnt to respect, tolerate and appreciate others, at the same time uphold my own belief. For any moslem who is also going to study in China, dare yourself to be brave and experience unique moments and situations. However, halal food and prayer convenience are available and reachable, two important basic things for any moslem.
Because I have no Mandarin basic at all, I was placed at 初级班 (Beginner class) with another 10 friends of mine. The difference is that they already had some basics because they learnt it in their previous school and take some Mandarin courses in their countries, on the contrary I really had nothing. Even to say “Thank you” and “Hello”, I could not say it in the proper way, in the right tone. At the first time I was feeling inferior and desperate. How come Mandarin has its tone? I mean, in my language or English, tone is for expression and not for meaning, but Mandarin is different and unique. Different tone has different meaning and I have to say it clearly and properly in order to make people understand. First and fourth tone is relatively simple and easy to catch and speak, what challenged me was the second and third tone.
Mandarin consists of thousands Hanzi (Chinese character) with their own strokes order, is another big question for me. How come? As far as I learned some languages like English, Arabic or Javanese, their alphabet never reach out of 30 alphabets. Thousands character seems too much for me. Besides, can you spot the difference between these characters: 大 and 太, 折 and 拆, also 汉 and 汊? The first time I see those characters, they looks very similar and it was hard for me to spot the difference between each two similar characters. What makes them different is just the dot! But their meaning are completely different and sometimes are not correlated at all. Can you imagine how complicated Mandarin is? However I have read some articles that these complicated Chinese characters enhance student’s intelligence and memory. It is shown that people who learns Chinese character has much less difficulties in remembering things and details than those who does not learn Chinese.
Somehow this feelings of desperation and inferiority encouraged me to study and learn harder. Fortunately, Shaoguan people are generally helpful in improving my Chinese. They are always welcoming me, a foreigner who is trying hard to speak Chinese in a proper way but failed. After every class, I practiced what I learned that day. I loved to go somewhere by myself without any Indonesian friends accompanying me, so that I can practice more. I love to meet my Chinese friends and communicate with them. At first we had this mutual relationship, I taught them English and they taught me Chinese. But at the end, we speak fully in Chinese. Thanks to wechat and Hanping (Chinese-English dictionary), because of them I can communicate with many of my Chinese friends effectively, and if I don’t understand some sentences I just need to copy and paste it in the virtual dictionary.
One day, almost the end of winter holiday, a friend of mine from Indonesia contacted me via message. She told me that she is going to Guangzhou for a week to import clothes from China to Indonesia but she cannot speak Chinese at all. So, she asked me to be her interpreter. I was of course rejecting her at first, because I have only been learning Chinese for one semester, and my Chinese itself is not fluent yet. Not only that, but also the fact that I was living in Shaoguan, not Guangzhou. I was not really that familiar with Guangzhou and its shopping center, wholesale markets and even hotels. However my friend was okay with all of that and forced me to accept her request, so I took the challenge for her. Soon after approving her request, I research about Guangzhou and the places we were planning to visit. When the days came, I did my best to be a great interpreter but somehow when the locals talked too fast, I just used my instinct and tried to guess what they meant. Overall I did well. My friend bought so many clothes from wholesale center and she satisfied with my job. Not only that, I was also paid for the seven days accompanying her. My first time earning money as an interpreter!
At the end, how you started does not really matter. What matters most is how you struggle and strive hard. I got the first rank in the class and Shaoguan University granted me a scholarship for my achievement; two things that were really unexpected by me. My friend who also started from the beginner class attended HSK 5 test at the end of the course duration and she passed with a good marks. Well, these two true stories are solid prove that anything is possible to reach, right? So for anyone who is thinking of going to China for academic purpose but have no basic Mandarin, no need to be afraid. What you need to do is just a little hard work that is bigger than others’ and a little spirit to learn as much as you can. Believe me, with hard work, nothing is impossible to happen.
Other than academic story, Shaoguan also offered me with a bunch of new life experiences. Let’s say, tai chi, Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese New Year, making dumpling, eat Chinese foods, and many others. China is always interesting with its rich culture and tradition, and experiencing all of those activities broaden my knowledge and point of view. The one year experience of mine in Shaoguan impressed and taught me so much, but I don’t think that one year is enough to understand China: the language, the people and the culture. So here I am taking Chinese Language for Foreigner as a major of my undergraduate study in Jiangxi Normal University. Shaoguan University doesn’t provide foreigner class for undergraduate study in Chinese language, which is why I look for another university. Still, the same criteria for the chosen university: not a too crowded city, fresh air and reasonable price. I am expecting for other great and awesome experiences to come and going to grab any interesting opportunities to live my life to the fullest.
I thank my parents for giving me such a big trust to choose my own way and decide what I want to do, and to always be there supporting me, mentally and spent a lot of money for my study here. I also thank my friends and teachers here, because without them I would never feel all of the great things I just wrote above. They make my day here, colorful, memorable and wonderful that will never be forgotten all my whole life. When I come back to Indonesia for good, I will proudly tell them my beautiful memories in China. Thank you, China.