Yesterday was Chinese New Year, which aside from a couple of half-hearted primary school projects, I’d never personally really acknowledged before uni.
I’m sure there were much grander celebrations going on around the world, but I had a really nice time celebrating the occasion with my housemates. One of my closest friends since coming to uni, who has also been one of my housemates since First Year, comes from Wales but is Chinese and so I always know when Chinese New Year is happening! Last year, she went home for a few days to celebrate the new year with her family, while the student dining hall hosted a night of surprisingly delicious Chinese food, and this year we actually got to celebrate the event with her!
No longer living in catered Halls, we ordered in a vast array of food from our favourite Chinese takeaway and watched Rush Hour 2. With seven girls living in our house, and my spontaneous desire to try all the Chinese food, we had Chinese food to last most people for days. Whilst eating prawn toast and watching Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker make ridiculous but wonderful jokes, true to my soppy self, I realised just how fortunate I am to have changed my life in such a way that I now have significantly more opportunities to experience a bit more of other cultures and traditions.
I won’t claim that eating Chinese takeaway and watching a Jackie Chan movie are key experiences in opening my eyes to the significance of Chinese New Year, but through conversations with my friend, I’ve learnt a lot more than I could have claimed to know a few years ago. I probably wouldn’t honestly have even known when Chinese New Year was or that it is now the year of the monkey. Having to admit my ignorance in this way really encourages me to step out more and expose myself far more to cultures other than my own.
There are honestly heaps of opportunities for this at university. During my semester abroad, I met so many people and made so many friends not just living on the other side of the world, but other international students who had come to spend time there, and I had the fantastic opportunity to temporarily live my life as they do. One of my other closest friends at uni also went on a month long summer programme in South Korea last summer. Living in Leicester is also particularly eye-opening in itself; in my part-time job last year, I found myself in a minority culture-wise which was fascinating as I made friends and learned about other cultures on a deeper level than I perhaps would have if I hadn’t moved somewhere so culturally diverse. As Leicester is home to one of the biggest Diwali Festivals outside India, it’s also a perfect spot for being immersed in events like this.
The opportunities do not stop there by any means, but to be honest, I hadn’t really realised how much more exposure I’ve already had since leaving home. I am still eager to learn and experience much more, but without really noticing, I’ve made a network of friends and taken part in experiences that I really had not come close to before university.