Coming to China was such an incredible happenstance. I used to learn Chinese as a hobby back in my hometown and now I’ve been living in Xiamen for almost 3 years!
来到中国是一个不可思议的巧合。我在家乡的时候，就喜欢学习中文，它曾是我的爱好，一晃我已经在厦门生活了将近 3 年！
I still remember my first day here so vividly. I had stars in my eyes the moment I landed at Gaoqi airport in February 2019. Everything was so foreign to me yet strangely familiar at the same time. My Chinese was still not good enough to have a decent conversation, all I could confidently say was “你好”. But that didn’t stop the overfriendly taxi driver from talking to me. He still continued to make conversation and made me feel so welcome. A long 40-minute drive later, we arrived at the East Gate of Xiamen University. He dropped me off right at the entrance since he couldn’t go inside. I was standing with my huge suitcases just taking in the whole scene. This was it. A new beginning.
来到厦门第一天的情景，仍印在我的脑海里，栩栩如生。2019 年 2 月，飞机降落在厦门高崎机场，那一刻我的眼睛里充满了星光。一切对我来说都是那么陌生，但陌生中又带有一丝熟悉。我的汉语仍然不够好，无法进行像样的对话，有信心脱口而出的词只有“你好”，但这并不能阻拦那个过于友好的出租车司机与我聊天。他一直和我闲聊，让我感到宾至如归。漫长的 40 分钟车程后，我们到达了厦门大学东门。司机不能进去，所以就在门口把我放下了。我提着巨大的行李箱站在那里，欣赏着眼前的一切。这就是厦大，一个全新的开始。
I was so clueless about where to go from here. Being a painfully shy person, I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone for help. Thankfully, two students saw me and approached me, then helped me drag my bags all the way to the dormitories. Day by day I realised that everyone here is so friendly. I never felt homesick.
My first year was spent in Xiamen University where I was learning Chinese; all my classmates were from different countries and I had never even heard of some of them in my entire life. My social skills improved significantly; I broke out of my shell and made a lot of friends. We’d explore all of Xiamen in big groups and also travelled around other cities in China together. 2019 was the best year of my life.
Attending classes didn’t even feel like school; every day was so fun and interactive and the teachers were so friendly. We had classes for listening, speaking and literature. They were spaced out very nicely during the week so we didn’t feel burdened by it. The beginner classes were the hardest and most of us were taking longer to understand certain topics, kudos to the teachers for being so patient with us.
With a lot of happy memories also came a lot of sad memories. There were a lot of farewells at the end of each semester since many students had to go back to their home countries, it was so heart breaking. I still try my best to stay in touch with them, even until today!
My hometown is Mumbai, which is the financial capital of India. Although Xiamen and Mumbai are both coastal cities, they each have their own different charm.
Xiamen has a population of about 4 million but Mumbai’s population is almost 21 million! Mumbai is known as the city that never sleeps; even at 3AM in the morning there is traffic outside and people going on about their day. The food there is also something that I really miss. You can find literally anything and everything. Restaurants in Mumbai love creating their own versions of popular international food items, which they call a “desi twist”. Even McDonalds in Mumbai has a different menu compared to other outlets around the country, that’s how enterprising they are. I once took my Chinese friends to a Chinese restaurant there thinking it was authentic at the time, but boy was I wrong! They were surprised to see that there wasn’t a single authentic Chinese dish in the menu. I’d like to believe they still enjoyed the food anyway.
厦门的人口约为 400 万，但孟买的人口多达 2100 万！孟买是座不夜城，即使在凌晨 3点，外面依旧车水马龙，人们继续他们的生活。我真的很想念孟买的美食。在孟买你可以找到任何珍馐美味。孟买的餐馆喜欢创造本土化的异国美食，他们称之为 “desi twist”。甚至孟买的麦当劳菜单也与全国各地的其他门店不同，这就是孟买人的创新精神。有一次，我带中国朋友去孟买的一家中餐馆吃饭，当时我以为这是家地道中餐馆，但是我错了！他们惊讶地发现，菜单上没有一道正宗的中国菜，但我相信他们还是很喜欢这些美食。
Speaking of food, I was not familiar with any authentic Chinese food when I first came to Xiamen. All I knew was Chinese people ate fried rice. Learning to eat with chopsticks was the first hurdle I had to overcome and now it all feels so effortless. Some of my friends are also a few of the restaurant owners around here, they really love to chat. I love eating Malatang so much, I even started posting about it online and about all the other interesting food you can get here.
I was initially supposed to leave China in 2020 but then the pandemic struck and flights got cancelled. I fell into a deep depression and was on the fence about what to do. I really missed my family even though we videocall almost every single day. My intuition said I should continue staying here in Xiamen and I’m so glad I listened to it. I met some really amazing people here who have given me the same warmth and compassion similar to what my family would. I never took any of it for granted. I felt so happy and content here. I came to a realisation that this is where I wanted to be. This is home now. Of course I did have days that made me feel miserable, but being here changed me for the better. I learned to be independent and hardworking. I learned to be courageous. Coming here really shaped me into a better person.
我本来应该在 2020 年离开中国，但由于新冠疫情，航班被取消。我陷入了深深的忧郁之中，到底该何去何从，我着实犹豫不决。我几乎每天都会和家人视频聊天，但我还是很想念他们。直觉告诉我应该继续留在厦门，庆幸自己听从了直觉。我在这里遇到了一些很棒的人，他们给予我家人一般的温暖和关心。我从不认为这一切是理所当然。我在这儿感到非常幸福和满足。我顿觉这就是我想要居住的城市，这儿就是我的家。当然，我也有难受的时候，但生活在这里，让我变得更加优秀。我学会了独立，学会了勤奋，我也学会了做一个勇敢的人。这里真的把我塑造成了一个更优秀的人。
Currently, I’m still a student at Xiamen University learning Chinese but now it’s all online. It’s a completely different experience compared to the one I had in 2019.
我仍然是厦门大学的学生，但目前只能在线上学习中文。与 2019 年相比，这是一种完全不同的体验。
My goal is to crack the HSK-6 exam and later get my Master’s degree. I still have quite a while to go but living here keeps me motivated enough to continue persevering.
Thank you for reading my story and I hope it inspires you all to chase your dreams as well!