A Brave New World

The Mandarin homophone “sea turtle” is an animal, but also represents a person who is born in China and travels to a far-off land to study and later brings back the new knowledge to their birthplace. What can happen in a year away from home?

business people and lawyers discussing contract papers sitting a

This summer, I might have done a particularly brave thing.

In April, I decided to study at the University of Glasgow. As such, I prepared almost everything. I booked a dormitory, bought tickets and started researching interesting spots in the city. A few months later, I received an another offer from the University of Warwick.

I quickly realized that changing schools is the equivalent to giving up everything, which meant money. For several days, I fretted over the choice between just a school and a dream. Finally, I decided to cancel my tickets and go to Warwick.

My biggest problem dealt with my pre-paid dormitory. After paying a deposit in China, canceling only typically loses that money under normal circumstances. I assumed it would be the same in Scotland.

Right when I decided against Glasgow, I began looking for a subtenant. Nothing came, but I wasn’t in much of a hurry since I believed that I’d only lose my deposit if could not find a replacement. On the verge of giving up the search, I received an email from the dormitory.

My heart beating wildly, I was concisely told that if I couldn’t find someone to take my place in the next few days, I’d have to pay 7,000 GBP (60,000 RMB). They also threatened legal action if I tried to run. My brain went blank; I was cold to reality and my entire household ached.

To make matters worse, the accommodation in Warwick was also clamoring for their rent. Until this point, I had never expected to bankrupt my family in order to study abroad.

As the situation further deteriorated, my family members began to suppress their emotions as much as possible, creating additional strain. My parents called out to all their relatives and friends who had lived in the UK and asked for advice. Meanwhile, I furiously sent mail after mail to free legal advice organizations in the UK.

Not one got back to me.

I scoured the Internet in search of other international students who had faced a similar experience. In desperation, I published the sublet information on every platform, WeChat group, forum and blog I could find. At a certain point, I became an unfeeling machine: search, copy/paste, repeat. Search, copy/paste, repeat.

Despair was swallowing me and I was suffocating. With my door locked, I shouted at no one and everything. There was an old Hong Kong TV show that featured bankrupt merchants hysterically crying in public. I finally understood what they meant.

Despair was swallowing me and I was suffocating. With my door locked, I shouted at no one and everything. There was an old Hong Kong TV show that featured bankrupt merchants hysterically crying in public. I finally understood what they meant.

I even went so far as to go to the Huangqi Mountain’s Goddess of Mercy Temple and pray for relief, while stuffing my bag full of a variety of protective talismans to ward off doom.
I wondered if my plan to study overseas failed. Should I have given up on my fantasy, I contemplated. I kept imagining being taken away by the police and brought to court. Would they all shout “guilty?”

Sleepless nights became the norm.

The next day, I realized that worry is useless. What was done, was done and all I could do was to solve it. I became a warrior unafraid of death. Then and there, I put 200 RMB on my phone to continue negotiating with the dormatory. Before long, even the customer service officers could recognize my voice. “Oh, it’s the girl from Flat 158 again,” I imagined.

Meanwhile, I became even more confident in the student networks, while I searched for a lifeline that never came. After much reluctance, I decided to absorb some of the dorm’s cost. Very quickly fish started to bite. I was reborn.

That night, I joined my family out to dinner to celebrate.

“It was very hard to accept when I first heard the news that we had to pay so much. I cried for a while in the room,” my mother explained cautiously. “After 10 minutes, I knew I had to pull myself together. My first reaction was to go exercise. I went to the living room and began to jump rope. In a situation like this, I knew we absolutely could not afford get sick.”

The subletting procedures are deceptively complex and bring many problems. My studying abroad is still a long way to go and larger problems are probably yet to come. However, I aim not to worry and fear the future. Why? Because no what happens, my family will always stand behind me. In the end, near tragedy brought us closer together than ever.

View the Chinese version here