A Spiral of Events

Noah S. is currently a senior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from Robert Louis Stevenson School in California.

Since my last blog post, a few things have changed. SYA China 2020 could not make the move to Italy due to the spreading Covid-19 virus. This has had immense implications on the student community both for the China and Italy students. The SYA Italy students, much like the China students, have now felt the sorrow of leaving the place they called home. In a way, both campuses have now gained a closer connection with these developments. Now Italy and China students will attend online classes or go back to their home schools. These options come with their changes.

Personally, I have endured a tumultuous period of my life. After leaving China, I stayed with my grandparents in Japan and later joined my father in Tokyo. While attending my online Chinese class in Tokyo, I realized the true value of my time in China. I came to feel the true fragility of my time in China as I anxiously listened to Ding laoshi to get my small Chinese language part of my day in. I realized the importance of being abroad to language learning. In China, I would be engaged in Chinese almost 24 hours a day. Elsewhere, I simply have the designated hour and a half to practice. I ached to keep learning Chinese. I noticed myself trying to read Japanese signs and posters in Chinese. I squinted to read the Chinese under the Japanese in the subway. I listened to the Chinese tourists debating their lunch while walking the Shibuya crossing. I found myself aching to go back and swim in the Chinese language I experienced in Beijing. 

After returning home to my mother in California, I felt relief as I had gotten home knowing the routine and surroundings. I met with some friends back at Stevenson. For the first time since becoming friends with my Chinese peers at my school, I could communicate with them in their native language. It was a great moment to be able to understand and contribute in Chinese conversations. I can only thank my Chinese teachers and my experiences in China for this small moment. Although I had to leave China, I still felt the warmth of my friends who supported me to continue learning. 

I arrived in New York a few days before the scheduled departure for Italy. I had the chance to meet with my SYA China peers in Chinatown and grasp for what we felt together a few months ago. Although the old men spoke Cantonese instead of Mandarin, they played 斗地主 (Doudizhu) like any other group of old guys in 牡丹园 (Mudanyuan) back in Beijing. As the old men in Columbus Park smacked their cards against the cement tables while puffing Winston cigarettes, we smiled at each other remembering the times back in Beijing. 

At this point, all you can do is smile. The times we had in China were memorable and important. It’s useless to pine and mourn for those good times, because in the end the fragility and adversity of our time is what made it beautiful. Now we must continue to make more out of what we have. 

SYA’s mission statement stays true even at home: “Central to the SYA experience is the adventure of understanding different languages, cultures and peoples.” After my return home, I came to understand the changes I endured from going abroad for the shortened time I had. In a strange way, coming home I still feel the spirit of SYA through going on the adventure to understand my changed self. As a changed person, I must understand the differences I have created within myself. SYA has given me the tools to discover what the world’s differences have to offer but also the ways to discover myself. 

In a few weeks, I plan to go abroad again. This time to France. If I can make it to SYA France, I plan to continue my blog and continue my studies of differences in both myself and others. Until then, wish me luck.

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  • SYA China