As I stepped out fromSanxiaAirport three years ago, I froze. Not from sadness, or horror, or even an overwhelming sense of fear and trepidation, but in the very literal sense of the word. It was the end of November in China's illustrious Hubei province and, according to the locals, this was the beginning of winter. As a person who had lived his entire life in a city where the word "winter" simply meant half days at the beach, this was shocking. I stood there, huddled next to my future classmates, as waves after waves of ice cold air washed over my already blue and numb face. I distinctly remember an old Chinese woman, with nothing more than a light coat on, laughing at our chattering teeth and mocking us with a lighter. I was so desperate for warmth that I nearly grabbed it and attempted to warm my chilled bones with the tiny flame. Nearly, It would have been fatal.
My first glimpse of China now seems like ages ago. Since then I can say with certainty that I've matured and grown into a person who can one day be proud to call himself a medical graduate of china three gorges University. Also, I have less susceptibility to the cold now.
Immersing myself in Chinese culture was difficult at first. No one spoke a word of En-glish. But that didn't stop them from coming up to me and rattling away in Chinese! I think the first words I learnt in Chinese were: “tīng bù dǒng” (means
do not understand). The second words were my name (LiuHong). I'm glad to say that I now have an average knowledge of Mandarin, at least enough to get around. I have to thank WuFang lǎoshī for that. Bless her soul for her patience and understanding in dealing with the class from hell (popularly known as S-1402).
Compared to Indian, Chinese people are extremely fast paced. They're always moving, rushing, working, (yelling their wares). But the upside to that is efficiency. Hospitals, public transport, police stations and banks all work with a lightening efficiency that put India's public sector to shame. Although I do kinda miss taxi conductors screeching "J Building! J Building! Ma, where you going' Ma?" on No. 8 University Avenue.
And did I mention the technology? I fell in love the day I walked into CBD and wall mart.
Perhaps my biggest stress was food. As a person with numerous allergies and intolerances, food that didn't make me barf up my intestines was hard to come by. Did I sample Quemen and street food? Yes. Did I get horribly ill for three days afterwards? Well... also yes. But it was worth it. You simply cannot live in China without sampling the local cuisine. However, to this day, the words ”méiyǒu” (meanshave not) is forever indelibly engraved on my mind. I can never again eat mayo. Just can't do it.
In retrospect, if I say that my life and experiences in China were all sunshine and roses, which would be a blatant lie. It took me a long time to adjust and find my niche with more than a few tears shed along the way. But I truly believe that this has made me a stronger person and I know this will make me a more understanding and compassionate doctor. I never regret the day I stepped onto that plane(ChinaEasternAirlines) to start my new life and career. For all that I miss home, China has given me the opportunity that India never could: the opportunity to study medicine and make a difference in peoples' lives. Imagine if I had listened to my inner fears whilst in India (I'm too young. It's so far from home. It'll be so hard), I would never be where I am today: a successful medical student in his fourth year of study.
Name- Olympak Chatterjee
College of Medical Science
China Three Gorges University