Stu­dents gain lessons in life from mar­tial mind­sets

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING

Wang Hang, 28, joined the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army in 2009, when he was a sec­ondyear stu­dent at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai.

The son of a PLA Air Force of­fi­cer had dreamed of em­u­lat­ing his father, but his de­ci­sion to sus­pend his stud­ies and en­list was met with in­com­pre­hen­sion.

“Peo­ple said a young man like me — a triple-A stu­dent at high school who played the pi­ano and was study­ing at one of the top uni­ver­si­ties — would def­i­nitely se­cure a good job af­ter grad­u­a­tion. They said en­list­ing was a waste of my time, but I didn’t think so,” he re­called.

“Serv­ing in the army was my child­hood dream. I wanted to make it come true.”

De­spite the hard­ships he en­dured dur­ing two years in the Peo­ple’s Armed Po­lice, Wang learned a lot, es­pe­cially dis­ci­pline and or­der.

“At col­lege, I played com­puter games un­til late at night and got up at about noon. I’ve main­tained the habit of sleep­ing early and ris­ing early,” he said.

He also be­came more in­de­pen­dent: “Like many peo­ple born in the 1980s and 1990s, whose par­ents and grand­par­ents dote on them, I was poor at han­dling daily life. In the army, you learn to wash clothes, plan how to spend your sub­sidy and deal with things your­self. That was when I re­ally be­gan grow­ing up.”

New ex­pe­ri­ences

Cao Xiaodong joined the PLA Navy Ma­rine Corps in 2009 as a stu­dent of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion at He­bei Nor­mal Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy.

“At the time, I felt be­ing a col­lege stu­dent wasn’t chal­leng­ing enough and wanted to try some­thing I had never ex­pe­ri­enced,” he re­called.

He didn’t in­form his fam­ily un­til he had for­mally en­listed: “They hoped I would fin­ish my stud­ies, but I didn’t want to miss the op­por­tu­nity.”

Speak­ing of the hard­ships he en­dured dur­ing train­ing, Cao said ev­ery stu­dent sol­dier tells a sim­i­lar story: blis­tered feet af­ter run­ning 5 kilome- ters in full kit; swim­ming in the sea and train­ing un­der a burn­ing sun; and con­tin­u­ing to train even with a twisted an­kle.

“At the time, it was re­ally hard and painful, but look­ing back, all the pain and dif­fi­cul­ties have faded and only the mean­ing­ful things are left — an iron will and com­rade­ship with my broth­ers in arms,” said the 27-year-old, who is now a phys­i­cal coach in He­bei prov­ince.

“For­mer sol­diers are not eas­ily de­feated by life’s dif­fi­cul­ties and hard­ships.”

Serv­ing in the army was my child­hood dream. I wanted to make it come true.” Wang Hang, a Fu­dan Univer­sity stu­dent who joined the PLA in 2009

The first thing I mas­tered was fold­ing my quilt. I had re­peat­edly been crit­i­cized for fail­ing to do it well, so I asked my com­rades for ad­vice. I of­ten got up two or three hours early to prac­tice.

Zhe­jiang prov­ince (where Jia served) is cold in win­ter be­cause there is no public heat­ing, but when­ever my peers woke up, they found me soaked with sweat.

Af­ter prac­tic­ing hun­dreds, pos­si­bly thou­sands, of times, I fi­nally re­ceived praise and recog­ni­tion.

My job was to re­ceive and send tele­graphs, con­sist­ing of line af­ter line of num­bers. It re­quired my full at­ten­tion be­cause a sin­gle er­ror could lead to se­ri­ous re­sults.

Mean­while, the na­ture of the job — which re­quired speed and ac­cu­racy — meant my knowl­edge, mem­ory and per­cep­tion were use­less. There were no short­cuts; I just had to prac­tice again and again.

I prac­ticed so hard my fin­ger­tips were cov­ered with blis­ters. Peo­ple said I tried too hard, but it wasn’t about my self-es­teem as a stu­dent at an elite school; it was more about a sense of mis­sion and re­spon­si­bil­ity — things I learned in the army.

In time, the com­bi­na­tion of am­bi­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity brought me hon­ors and awards.

To be hon­est, I en­listed be­cause I wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence a dif­fer­ent life and broaden my per­spec­tive.

I thought I would be happy and re­lieved when I was dis­charged, but when the day fi­nally came, I felt lost. With­out re­al­iz­ing it, I’d be­come ac­cus­tomed to life in the army. I had fallen in love with it.

So, af­ter fin­ish­ing my grad­u­ate stud­ies at Ts­inghua in 2013, I re-en­listed. The army is where I be­long.

Jia Na spoke with Zhao Xinying

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