Beginning an aerospace dream in China
By Ishimwe Irene Fidele  ·  2022-12-02  ·   Source: NO.49 DECEMBER 8, 2022
Ishimwe Irene Fidele practices pottery-making at Sanbaopeng Art Village of Jingdezhen City, Jiangxi Province (COURTESY PHOTO)

I first became acquainted with China through famous kungfu movies and I was especially deeply fascinated by Jet Li's martial arts action movies.

After receiving excellent results in the college entrance examination, I was admitted to the best medical university in Rwanda. My family was so proud of me. After studying for a year, the Ministry of Sports and Culture offered me an opportunity to visit the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. I was very excited about the prospect of such an adventure, tried my best to perform well in the interviews and was lucky enough to be selected.

After I told my family the good news, my mother was a little worried because she wished I would continue my medical studies. I explained that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: I would not only learn martial arts and Chinese at the Shaolin Temple, but also continue to study medicine or pursue other interesting careers. In the end, I came to China with the support of my family.

At the time, I didn't realize that in addition to the long-awaited kungfu, countless surprises awaited me in China. To begin with, I was not prepared for the cold weather in Beijing, where I landed; it was an unprecedented feeling. It was a difficult transition from warm Rwanda to cold winter in China. I still remember that the first time I saw snow, my hands were so numb that I could barely feel it. But the beautiful northern scenery also surprised me.

The language barrier was a huge obstacle for me as well. I had never spoken Chinese before coming to China. Getting used to Chinese cuisine also seemed impossible then, but now I'm a great fan of the delicacies here.

The kungfu training was far from easy and the first week was the hardest. My whole body was so sore, I could barely walk. We got up at 5 a.m. and practiced morning, afternoon and sometimes at night. The remaining time was used for having meals and studying Chinese language and culture. Although the martial arts training was very exhausting, the repeated and lengthy exercises not only tempered my will, but also cultivated persistence in me. They made me physically and mentally fit. The values and habits taught by our master monks have made me realize how important politeness, respect and perseverance are to the basic spirit of Shaolin kungfu and that they should be practiced throughout our daily lives.

Gradually, I came to notice that China is a place full of opportunities, a place where hard work is rewarded and a place where if you respect others, others will respect you in return. The biggest gain I have experienced in China so far is not to be afraid of difficulties but instead keep striving for excellence.

I had the honor to represent foreign students studying in the Shaolin Temple by participating in the Spring Festival Gala broadcast on China Central Television Station CCTV-4. I also took part in several international cultural exchange events and traveled with the monks of the Shaolin Temple to perform all over the country.

I eventually fell in love with Chinese culture and the Chinese people. That's the reason why I decided to stay and continue my studies in a domain that I have been interested in since childhood but haven't had the chance to get into before: The aviation industry. I think one of the aspects among which my home country Rwanda can learn from China is the development of the aircraft industry.

I'm completing a master's degree in aeronautical engineering at Nanchang Hangkong University in Jiangxi Province. I have learned about the history of the revolution of the Communist Party of China-led Red Army and how it started in Jiangxi. I have been inspired by all of the changes and sacrifices made for the greater good of the population. Hopefully, Jiangxi will be the beginning of my successful career in aerospace.

The world is becoming better united and all our cultures are amazing. They deserve to be shared and mutually respected. Our differences should be the reason for helping one another and building a better future. I will definitely be a good ambassador of China to the world, sharing the awe-inspiring stories and facts of an inclusive, open, people-centered and free country. BR

The author is a student from Rwanda at the Nanchang Hangkong University in Jiangxi Province

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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