Kudaibergenov Adilet, Kyrgyz: “When Chinese students work together and look after each other on the football field, it looks as though the team is made up of brothers rather than just players.”
By Kudaibergenov Adilet, Kyrgyz. Beijing Jiaotong University. Confucius Institute Scholarship student
I grew up in the countryside, running across vast, boundless fields, and frolicking high up on the hills and in dense forests. My happiest memories are of childhood, as that period of time not only gave me a strong physique, but also left me with an enduring love for sports.
My relationship with China began in 2014 in Kyrgyzstan’s Confucius Institute where I studied Chinese. It must be noted that in Confucius Institute every student was completely captivated by China, and as a result of my efforts, in September 2015 I was lucky enough to receive the Confucius Institute Scholarship and came to Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) to study for one year.
It’s true that prior to coming to BJTU, I was excited about Chinese language classes at the university and integrating with life there as soon as possible, but I was also anxious to find my feet. So having just set my bags down after arriving at BTJU for the first time, I was eager to find something familiar in my unfamiliar surroundings. I soon discovered several ping pong tables surrounded by the thicket just in front of the south gate and a large sports field near the west gate. I felt both excited and settled as it looked I wouldn’t be lonely at BJTU.
After classes had officially commenced, I found that like me, others at BJTU were similarly keen on keeping fit and passionate about sports. At 7 or 8 in the morning, people were already shadow boxing and practicing sword dances on the campus, while on the large sports pitch by the west gate you could regularly see people exercising and working out. In the break after lunch I often strolled round the campus enjoying the surroundings and frequently came across people playing at the ping pong tables or on the football pitch. I itched to join in, but at first I was too shy to speak in Chinese and also worried whether Chinese students would be willing to play with a foreigner. I often stood beside watching for a long time before eventually timidly saying, “Excuse me, can I join?” Unexpectedly they would always warmly invite me to take part. On the sports pitch we truly bridged the divide between our countries, overcoming the language barrier to become friends.
“I often stood beside watching for a long time before eventually timidly saying, “Excuse me, can I join?” Unexpectedly they would always warmly invite me to take part. On the sports pitch we truly bridged the divide between our countries, overcoming the language barrier to become friends.”
I got to know my two closest Chinese friends on the football pitch, where we often chatted while kicking a ball about. When they said they were impressed that I could not only play football well but also speak good Chinese, was extremely flattered. When Chinese students work together and look after each other on the football field, it looks as though the team is made up of brothers rather than just players. Besides playing we also encouraged each other along, “Good kick!” “Beautiful!” “Over here, mate!” Through football we became close friends, adding each other into our WeChat and arranging to meet on the field at the same time every week. In fact we were more than just friends on the pitch, and they also helped me a lot in other aspects of my life. The Chinese are exceedingly welcoming and friendly, and we often ate dinner and chatted together after playing football, talking about life, the future and international affairs. They expressed a keen interest in the situation of our country, and I was always very willing to answer their questions. They also really cared about my life at BJTU, helping me with a number of problems like how to set up and use my university card, or explaining how to buy food in the canteen. They would always give me a straightforward reply and never refused to help, as they had already taken me a “brother” of theirs.
As BJTU is full of youthful energy, overseas students like me who enjoy sports have plenty of opportunities. We have our own basketball team for overseas students and the school community also warmly welcomes those of us who wish to join them. Overseas students have a variety of options for continuing their sport interest at BJTU.
Exercise keeps me healthy and happy, and has helped me make more friends. It also gives me a more positive attitude to life, something that I think other BJTU friends who play sports also feel. Sport has changed my life. It has helped me embrace Chinese culture and integrate into a network of Chinese friends.
Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 49. Volume II. March 2017.