by Ming Yang
Many people ask what Warwick means to me, and I see it as ‘a beautiful accident’.
When I was applying to universities, I didn’t even consider Warwick at first. When I was waiting for offers, Warwick was not the one I wanted the most. When my UK student visa got rejected twice and term at Warwick had already started, I felt like it just wasn’t the right place for me. Yet, here I am, happier than ever! All of my doubts about uni suddenly went away after I arrived, at a beautiful campus filled with good energy. The inclusiveness of the University wrapped around me when I needed it the most.
Before I came to the UK at the age of 14, I was a quiet child. Scared of talking to anyone, I hated public events where I needed to interact with people. After I moved to Durham and settled into my old boarding school, I changed. I started to force myself to socialise with people, and became friends with almost everyone during the four years I was there. I tried to fit in with my British friends so hard, tried to be nice to every single person, and to do what they’d expect me to do, to be ‘normal’. However, I became more and more unhappy, as I realised that I didn’t like gossiping with all the girls about the rumours going around, and only ever talking about boys. I didn’t like going to parties every weekend and getting drunk. I started asking myself: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I fit in? Am I weird? Once during a phone call to my mum I told her about these doubts, and she replied: “You are who you are, and you don’t have to change because of who you are”.
I am who I am. Simple as that.
I have a different family and cultural background, which means that sometimes I have very different experiences and interests from everyone else, but that is what makes me ‘me’. After this ‘phone consultancy’ with my mum, I picked myself up and started doing things by myself and in my own way, even if everyone else thought that I was insane and did not understand why I was doing it. I went to talks which interested me by myself, I said ‘no’ to the things I did not enjoy doing, and I even travelled by myself to Vienna (5 days) and Barcelona (4 days) earlier this year. During the visits to both cities I felt as relaxed as I haven’t done in a long time. I stayed at hostels, and met lots of new and interesting people, some of whose contact details I kept and became friends with. I went around most of the galleries, museums, and saw interesting architecture in the two cities. I was so impressed and happy, because I finally had the time and space to myself… Most importantly, I didn’t give a damn about what other people thought of me. I knew I was going to University after the summer to meet new people, and would leave behind Durham and those I met there. During those four years, I didn’t make any real friends – it just wasn’t the right place for me. As summer came closer, a ray of sunshine shone through my heart.
However, during my summer holidays before I came to Warwick, another thing happened to me, and it brought me right back to the time when I lost confidence in myself in Durham; my UK student visa got rejected twice in a row. During that period of time, the cost of reapplying for a visa was one of my concerns, but another, bigger concern was time itself. When I finally handed in my visa application for the second time, it was five days until Warwick officially started (the whole UK visa process is really complicated, the first time I handed my application in was around the end of August, because I had to wait for A-level grades to come out in order to hold a university offer and be able to apply for the visa). I got rejected twice and when I finally got my visa and came to Warwick I was two weeks late. The stress I had over the rejections was unthinkable. When you are used to doing things by yourself without help from others, it felt terrible that my parents had to worry about me. When my visa finally came, I didn’t feel any less stressed – in fact, I was worrying about how I was going to fit in at university and make friends, as most of the people would have probably formed their groups by now. And what if no one likes me? But saying goodbye to my parents has always been the worst thing for me. It is just that moment, when you turn your back to them, and all of the sudden tears start falling, which I don’t have any control of for some reason. Carrying all these thoughts, stress, and wishes, I boarded the plane from Beijing to London.
I am so thankful that I am surrounded by so many lovely teachers and friends. Thanks to modern technology, almost everyone from my course knew who I was when I first arrived. They all offered me help and support, and I never felt so loved by so many people. When I came to the realization that they are mostly international students or have similar experiences and thoughts to me, I felt content: we have endless conversation topics, jokes and interests to share, and we always take care and look out for each other. The inclusiveness here at Warwick is something that I never expected. And it’s this inclusiveness which made every one of you at Warwick so unique to my heart and made me regain my confidence. I am who I am, and I have finally found the place for me to fully be who I am. As a single human being, I can’t do much to express my thankfulness: all I can do, and have been doing every day is loving everyone I can, making them feel loved and valued, through a smile, a hug or a conversation.
Finally, to anyone who ever doubted their own value: don’t. You are who you are. And even if you still haven’t found ‘your’ place, once you have, you will shine brighter than any of the stars in the night sky. This Christmas, I want everyone to feel loved, and to share that love with others to make them feel loved too. After all, love is what makes the world go around. ❤