Before I begin, I am thankful foremost for the opportunity to come here, without which I would hardly find the opportunity to explore another culture – especially the Chinese culture which I love. The chance to know China through experiencing it personally is rare, and I am really grateful that the school allowed me to come for this programme.
The beginning of anything is as important as the end, and the opportunity to experience this beginning is rare to come by. From the very first day we got to experience the feeling of nostalgia – it is hard to imagine that I would be gone from Singapore for 3 months – which is a feeling that I rarely encounter. Arriving at China on the night of the first day, I was happy to see the hospitality of the person-in-charge, who took care of us and brought us from the airport to our accommodation – it was a great experience.
The very next day, we went to create our phone card. We were brought there by the teachers, who taught and shared with us the procedure to do so. This day was an amazing one – I spent my time exploring the entire school as I waited my turn, tasting the amazing food and watching how the locals pass and bide their time. I saw many children, many parents, and scenic places. It was surprising how vast the school campus can be. After exploring for 6 hours, taking pictures, I went back for a rest. I also purchased my cleaning materials on this day – with the Family Mart close by, it was really convenient to get everything I needed. Truly, Zhejiang is an amazing place.
The day after, we went to collect our bank cards. On this day, it rained and most of us were drenched. Even so, it was nice to watch the many students go about their day, and explore the entire school in the process. I walked around the many places in school, and even went to the Nanhua Garden – a small cozy place. I made a friend along the way in Zhejiang, and I learned much about the local student culture here – they face the same problems we do, except on a larger scale because of the scale of the student body.
Tuesday was spent exploring the school’s exhibition. We learned about the school motto to Seek the Truth and Innovate – it was really inspiring. We heard of the famous 2 questions every Zhejiang student is supposed to ask themselves – Why did they come to Zhejiang and what do they see themselves accomplishing here. These reflective questions remind me that all my actions should lead to a greater goal, a greater purpose – an overarching reason why I make my choices the way that I do.
And my answer to the first is that I want to know and see for myself the nature of Zhejiang and China, by immersing myself in their culture, to become moulded by their perspectives and experiences and broaden my perspective.
The answer to the second is that I wish to open my eyes to the life of China. Not the words dead and lost in writing, nor the sayings which are espoused by visionaries, but instead the actions taken by each member of society, regardless of their opinions and thoughts toward each other. What I want to see is the grandness of China’s culture the way it has developed into today.
The 4th day was spent exploring the Jing Ci temple (the temple Ji Gong hails from), and going out to the Dream City. It was nice to see how local temples have changed and differ from Singapore in its size and maintenance, and how the monks within practice daily and consistently. The Dream City was nice to look at – we learned more about the local startups and manufacturing companies, which shared with us some insight into their manufacturing areas.
The 5th day was spent entirely exploring Xi Hu. I visited the entirety of Lingyin temple and the other temples in the vicinity, such as the Fa Xi monastery, Fa Jing monastery, Yong Fu monastery, Tao Guang monastery, and the Cai Fu temple at the top of North Peak. I also walked around the different parts of Xi Hu, traversing the beautiful Sudi Causeway and taking public transport for the first time. Here I experienced the Zen of the area, experiencing the cooling atmosphere alongside the beautiful scenery of the entire lake. It felt very calming and soothing – akin to a break from society.
The 6th and 7th day was spent similarly, exploring Xi Hu in all of its glory. On top of that I had a meeting with the Theme Mentor, who was Professor Sun – a really nice person. He introduced us to what we had to do, and we were matched with some local students doing their IDI projects. They were all really nice people. We also went to the different places on Buddy Day, in particular I explored the Yu Quan campus and Zhi Jiang campus, where I experienced the culture of both other campuses firsthand, on top of learning about the thought put into the design of the campus.
All in all, the first week in Zhejiang was one of the most wonderful I have experienced. From the amazing sights, smells, food, scenery, and culture, I experienced the vibrant richness of the local culture. It would not be an exaggeration to say that I would not have the first week any other way.