The 60th anniversary celebration of Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) was on October 28, 2018, a Sunday and a big shindig befitting the occasion was planned. I never let a party go to waste so decided to join the festivities and hoopla. “This is a fortunate coincidence, when will I get this chance again”, I thought to myself.
Chen, who had accompanied me throughout most of my trip as interpreter and guide, volunteered to take me to the campus. The day was picture perfect; bright, warm sun and azure blue sky, ideal for partying.
I took my camera and daypack, got into the waiting car and headed for the university. On the way, Chen explained to me the history of WMU. It was founded in 1958 and has, since then, established a reputation for research and teaching. It is at present a Priority Development University in Zhejiang Province and has an impressive history.
Wenzhou University (WU) and Wenzhou Medical University (WMU) are next to each other and students from both institutions were out celebrating. At the entrance to the campus there was a large stone slab with ‘Wenzhou Medical University’ engraved on it in big, gold Mandarin characters. I took a picture and looked around. The first thing that struck me was the architecture; it was a mix of classical and modern.
Some of the large buildings would not be out of place in any major Western University. They had big domes, arches and massive Gothic pillars.
Second, the campus was beautiful, clean and well maintained with many trees and flowering shrubs. It was October, and the flowers were in full bloom.
We meandered through the campus enjoying the activities. There were stalls for food, a live band and games for adults and children.
I saw students from many countries and met several Indian students studying at the International School of WU. They had set up a stall for the “Limbo Dance”. Some were studying the height of the rope. Skepticism was evident on their faces.
But Chen, who is into sports and very limber went easily under the rope which was held, it seemed to me, very low to the ground. I remembered having done this when I was a young graduate student years ago, but the mere thought of trying it again made my back hurt. Luckily, nobody encouraged me to attempt the Limbo dance.
Two students dressed as mascots for WMU were welcoming the visitors. There was a line to have pictures taken with them. It had almost a Disney-like atmosphere.
There were stations with volunteers standing ready to help. I noted how smartly they stood at their posts.
We came to a stream and sat down in the shade of a tree to take a breather. In front of us was the gymnasium reflected in the stream along with the surrounding green hills. Scarlet flowers outlined 1958-2018 highlighting the 60th anniversary of WMU.
There were swans and ducks swimming, searching for food and swaths of lotus plants with their big leaves swaying gently in the breeze. To the right I saw a stone bridge, the Marie Curie Bridge which the students cross on the way to class. It was a very pretty campus.
We continued our walk. The library was the most impressive building with a sculpture of a big open book in front. How apt! This was a popular spot for a photo and I too, lined up for one. This is one of my most memorable photos and succinctly captures the progress China has made on many fronts, including education.
I saw many students on mopeds and bicycles and was told that was the preferred mode of transportation on campus. There were parking lots in front of all buildings.
This simple mode of transportation cuts down on pollution and parking space as compared to cars. For a country of over a billion people, this makes eminent sense. I looked up at the clear blue sky and the surrounding green hills. I saw very little smog. Granted that Wenzhou is a much smaller city with less population and pollution than Beijing or Shanghai, but I wish this could be emulated in all the large cities of the world.
I came back to my hotel with pleasant memories. I had seen a side of Chinese students I had not seen before. So far, I had only seen their serious side, their diligence and capacity for hard work. That day I saw their fun side. They laughed, sang, danced, played and put on a great celebration. I really had fun that day. They were like students all over the world. They dream of attending elite universities in other countries to further their education.
This young generation gives me hope. They are connected globally via their cellphones. The graduate students of Wenzhou have similar hopes, dreams, and aspirations as any graduate student in New York or New Delhi. As they mature and become captains of industries and governments, one hopes they will value their similarities more than their differences. And therein lies hope for mankind, when we look upon ourselves as members of one species, Homo sapiens, inhabiting this planet together.
In my hotel room I quickly glanced through the pictures I had taken. There were many. Finally, I took one last look at the slides for the lecture I would be giving the next day. I fell asleep thinking my trip was nearing its end.
To be continued.