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My transnational love

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By Hoàng Phi Yén | | Updated: Jan 26, 2022

[Vietnam] Hoàng Phi Yén, Guangxi University for Nationalities

Hoàng Phi Yén [Photo provided to]

I still remember that day in August 2017, when I arrived by the long-distance bus from Hanoi, Vietnam to Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. I walked out of the parking lot with a bulging luggage bag and a large 40-inch black suitcase. A blast of hot air hit me as I stepped off the bus. The sun shone on the earth and the sunlight was dazzling. I felt a little nervous and excited because this is the place I would live and study for the next five years.

Two and a half years passed rapidly. Taking subway line 1 and No. 72 bus, I gradually walked through Xiangsi Lake, Chaoyang Square, Huahua World and Mount Qingxiu. Snail rice noodle, Old Friend Noodle, Guilin rice noodle and lemon duck have become my favorite cuisines. At first, I communicated with my classmates with sign language and babbled both Chinese and English. Today, my friends and I are able to draft business plans in Chinese, discuss the plots of The Untamed and talk about the gossips heard in Longing Life.

I never thought that the winter vacation in 2020, when I returned to Vietnam for the Chinese New Year during, would last a year and a half. I never expected that I would be unable to attend regular classes and meet with my teachers and classmates for such a long period of time. The daily routines, such as shuttling with my classmates between the Xiaoyou Building, the Xueyou Building and the Guojiao Building to catch different classes, going to the Wupo Canteen to eat meals for less than 10 yuan, participating in various activities, tug of war, watching exhibitions, and reciting poems... now keep appearing in my dreams.

During this period of time, my life was haunted by endless anxiety in addition to missing. Since I was the only international student in the class, it could not set up another online class for me. I was greatly annoyed by the problems of “how to continue the class,” “how to grasp new knowledge” and “how to attend the exams.” At that moment, my dear classmates and teachers reached out to help me.

Hoàng Phi Yén and her classmates of the Chinese Program [Photo provided to]

I want to express my thanks to a lot of people, especially to our class monitor Mei Mei, who is a sunny girl and my best friend. She helped me to handle nearly everything I couldn’t do as I was abroad. Since the school resumed in May 2020, every course, economic law, business law, copyright law... I really didn’t know how I would have finished my study without her assistance.

“Don’t worry, I’ve explained your situation to the teacher. The teacher agreed to share the screen with you!”

“I’ve arrived at the classroom soon. Come in and listen to the class later!”

“There is something wrong with the equipment today. Don’t worry. I’ll go to find the technician right away.”

“Too bad. The teacher has changed the classroom...”

Reviewing our chat logs, I feel so warm. In order for me to hear the teacher’s lecture, she kept telling every teacher the situation I was in. She arrived at the classroom in advance of every class to turn on the sharing screen for me. Once the equipment was broken, she would go to find the technician for repair.

In addition to my classmates, the teachers also gave me a lot of love and care. Mr Chen, the head teacher, has given me the warmest help. As the vice president of the college, Chen was always in the midst of busy schedule. Meanwhile, he reminded me frequently to inform him if I had any difficulties. For more than a year, I did not appear in the class, and I felt that I become an invisible person. Mr. Chen would mention me from time to time during the lecture to “prove my presence.”

In the fall semester of 2020, Chen started to teach us the course of Trademark Law. As usual, Mei Mei arrived at the classroom early to help me open the screen sharing, I sat in front of the computer with a pen and paper in hand. The situation wasn’t ideal but I still felt satisfactory to be “an auditor student.” “Zhang XX.” “Yes.” “Li XX.” “Yes!” When the class started, the teacher began to call the roll. Listening to the familiar names and familiar voices, I began to imagine their faces, which I had not seen for a long time. “Huang Feiyan.” The two classrooms, one in Nanning, Guangxi and the other in Hanoi, Vietnam, where I was, became quiet for two seconds. “Present!” I answered loudly, as if my voice could carry to the other end of the classroom.

Although I listened to every class, I could neither participate in the class nor answer questions, and of course, not respond to the teacher’s roll call since it is not an online class. Everyone in the classroom knows this, so I am not usually called during the class. But my teacher aimed to make me feel that I was still together with them in this way. What the teacher doesn’t know is that on this side of the internet, I can’t help but have a sour nose...

Among all the teachers I have met, Mr. Chen was the first to write personally to every student in the class. When I was particularly at a loss about my future, Chen’s letter came with his warm care and encouragement. “Believe in yourself. There is always a reward for your efforts,” “how you plan in the future, we will discuss it,” “I will provide as much help as I can,” “Learn something, use your ability to serve the society and realize your life value.”

I think all the luck I had saved for more than 20 years was spent on the day I met them. Fate is really amazing that I was fortunate to meet such sincere friends and teachers in China. For more than a year, the phrase I can say to them most is “thank you,” but “thank you” can never express the gratitude and love I felt at heart. I imagine the day when I return to school, I will hug each of them to express feelings that no word can express.

The campus of Guangxi University for Nationalities [Photo provided to]

Two years ago, my classmates and I agreed that I would teach them to make Vietnamese spring rolls and they would teach me to make Chinese dumplings on an upcoming spring outing. Such a simple promise is hard to fulfill now. The last sentence of each chat, “come back early” and “pay attention to safety.” We still have a lot to do together and realize our dreams together before graduation. We are far away from each other, but we always miss each other in our hearts.

We hope everyone is safe and look forward to the time of meeting, like lovers. In the past, I couldn’t wait to return home from vacation and reunite with my family. However, during the years of living and studying in China, I subconsciously regarded Guangxi University for Nationalities as another home, where there are my “parents”, my “brothers and sisters”, my pride and my youth. I will turn this missing into a driving force for fighting, so that when we meet again, we can see each other better.

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).