First Day Being a Student in China

About a year and a half ago, I saw Maudy Ayunda’s story in her Youtube about her life in Oxford back in 2016. I loved it very much. (It’s long before she’ll know and announced her dilemma over Harvard and Stanford just today). I’m not a fans, but her kind of story of her life, the college library, the time she visited the market, riding the bicycle, were kind of stories that made me dreamt of going abroad for study also, back when I was in high school (beside working).

I had applied for a master scholarship (all deadly went for universities in America) for more than 5 times since I was in the year end of my college. Unlike how Maudy ended up with her submissions, I didn’t pass any. Some applications, my brother noticed. Yet many, they didn’t. Until one day, my brother offered me something. “You could go to China to pursue your dream to study abroad,” he said. “And to learn Chinese”, for sure.

Though it wasn’t a country I dreamt of for living, I, of course, took his offer gratefully. After many asking, researching, and surveying, I made my choice for when and where to go.

Long story short, I landed in Guangzhou, China, right few days before today, 4 years ago.

The day I arrived was closed to the end of winter in the southern part of China. Although we’d been told and prepared for a jacket, the cold still bite me a bit. About 15 of us were led by one teacher from Indonesia who was previously student in the university we were going to attend. So, he guided us all the way once we landed in the airport to the dorm.

First Day Being Student in China

Sun Yat Sen University was the place I chose. After getting many offers from the agency, Sun Yat Sen University (SYSU), is located in Guangzhou, won my heart.

First reason was that many said it has less Indonesians students (sometimes this is a thing you will and need to consider when studying abroad – although some preferred the other way). Second, I was bought with the university brochure where the campus looked very nice and green. Last but not least, SYSU is on the top rank of top 3 universities in southern China. So, I had no doubt. Guangzhou, I chose, for I didn’t want to stay in too metropolitan city like Shanghai (because it’s expensive). Just like my previous reason to choose Surabaya over Jakarta, that’s how I ended up with Guangzhou instead. :)

With my intention to study Chinese, I attended The School of Chinese as a Second Language (SCSL) for one semester. This was an intensive program attended by foreign students who want to learn specifically for Chinese. Not only that China population was 1,37 billion alone that year, portion of foreigners who study in this university were also big. From Monday to Friday, almost 6 hours a day, we learned speaking, writing, and listening to Chinese so reading sometime like this wasn’t a problem 4 years back, until tonight. Any of you could read? I believe there was no secret written here.

First Day Being Student in China

Sun Yat Sen University isn’t located in the suburb area (as I thought of most universities were located). Instead, it’s located in one crowded area not far from the central city. Just accros the campus, lies a trade market where many people from Africa, India, and even Indonesia bought wholesale stuffs especially clothes, and did the delivery just at the same location. One stop shopping, I called. Just like a common campus area, it has also many restaurants nearby and of course McD.

The campus itself, was in one big area. Every building looked so pretty and reminded me of the French building style with a lot of bricks. Trees were everywhere. Many students were walking on the pedestrian because car wasn’t allowed to pass the university area, except for a bicycle. Were you reminded of University of Indonesia? Because it’s pretty much alike.

First Day Being Student in China

My dorm was about 5 minutes walk form the main entrance. While dragging my big orange luggage, I’d imagined how my life would be when the school started (that I couldn’t wait!).

Once we got the dorm and spoke to the receptionist, the teacher led us to the room we’d booked in advance. I got a room with Sherly, a very active girl from Jakarta who was 6-7 years younger than me. For you to know, I was the oldest among the group. That’s why, weeks after, everyone in my Indonesian group called me “jie-jie (姐姐)” or older sister in Chinese. What a title! :)

Our room was in the second floor, only two rooms before the corner room. The building was quite old room and so did the dorm, but for me, it came with a sensible price we paid. This building had total of 4 floors with perhaps 70 rooms. I remembered settling my luggage to my bed after picking up my side, on the left, and Sherly on the right.

First Day Being Student in China

There was a small alley In front of my room where I could stand and saw a small garden lied in the middle of this square building. There were two public kitchen, on the first and third floor. That afternoon, sitting in one of the table, a couple who were reading to a book, perhaps for studying. Next to a security post in front of the building, there’s a small shop where we ended up buying coffee after the class or ice cream on the lunch break in the following days.

Few days later, our teacher told me that there was a traditional market about 15 minutes away from our place. The place was then become our favorite place to go almost every day and night for a good food, cheap bedroom and bathroom stuffs, and of course delicious desserts.

I still can feel the cold on the first day I had when I first stepped down the airport, and so did the happiness on my first week in this country. While digging up the old photos in my desktop to put in the blog, I can’t stop smiling remembering how the picture was taken back then. I have many memorable stories of my living in the most populous country on earth.

First day just started and I knew the moment that this ride would be fun!

First Day Being Student in China

***

March 2, 2015

First Day in Bangkok

It was one fine morning. After few hours of sleep, I finally got through my first night in Bangkok in peace. Though the flight arrived Bangkok past midnight the night before, I was glad that the room arranged for me was a nice one (clean and white). At least I could save some energy to just put all my luggages aside before unpacking them tomorrow.  

This would be my first day working as an ‘expat’, or that I prefer to call “an overseas worker”. Yes, the kind of life I dreamed of since I watched Sex and The City eleven years ago. Ever since, I’d been wanting to work a ‘proper’ job overseas. It wasn’t like I didn’t appreciate people choice to go abroad and try working at the restaurant or Starbucks. For my wild dream that time, I just thought of working in an office once I finished university, holding a cup of Starbucks on my way to the office every morning, stepped into the elevator where everyone dressed up nicely, and walked in confidence as Ally McBeal’s moment where the Barry White song was playing. So, it had to start from the work in the office.

Now, here I was. Starting that life, today. The day I would remember. The day that started my new life all the way through to this day. 

First Day in Bangkok

The room I got was a 7 floors building. It wasn’t an apartment. People here called it “residence”. In Indonesia, it’s like a premium boarding house you could find in Kuningan area 5 times more expensive than normal rooom. My room was on the second floor just a few rooms after the elevator. This, I’d planned to to just take the stair rather than elevator.

First Day in Bangkok

I woke up early that day. Dressed up as how I usually was in Jakarta; in long pants, shirt, flats, and my tote bag. Only this time, I chose to walk. My friend has told me before that the office was only 1.3 km away form my place, so it was under my walking distance. 

8.45am, I stepped out from the house, greet the security by bowing my back a bit. I wish I could say “good morning” in Thai, but too bad I couldn’t. So, I just smiled. He smiled back at me. “He looked nice,” I thought. Which opinion turned out right, after my last day in this house. 

First Day in Bangkok

The environment around my building was also nice. There were one old apartment next to my building, a small cafe, and 2 (turns out to be a famous) Japanese dining restaurant. Trees were planted along the way. I took about 200 meters to reach the front of the small alley. Next to my alley, there was Starbucks (where I ended up buying 1 cup of coffee only for my whole staying in that house), and Big C – a big supermarket chain in Thailand (that became my first and only stop after late night office hour).

First Day in Bangkok
First Day in Bangkok

I kept on walking. Perhaps it’s because that was a Monday morning, so the traffic was quite jam. Motor, car, taxi (not a taxi like ours, I’ll show you later), were all over the street. Even it was only 1+ km distance, I’ve met 3-4 traffic lights along the street. There were also 3 Seven Eleven shops and small restaurants on the left and right side of the street. This was indeed a crowded area (again, my friend has told me this). A first thing I noticed that made this place was different than Jakarta, people were driving in silence. No horn, no people shouting, only the motorbike who tried to rule the world but cutting left and right – this one made them the same as Jakarta or other cities in our country. 

First Day in Bangkok

After 15 minutes walk, here I was. Arrived at my office located in one tall building, with over 30-sh floors.

First Day in Bangkok

I smiled again. I was so ready to start my first day in Bangkok. Living my dream from real, as an overseas worker. 

19 March 2018