Students gain lessons in life from martial mindsets
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.”
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