University life at Beida was a big departure from Federico’s previous experiences in Argentina. The whole Beida campus appeared to move like a city, with Jingyuan at the center of it all. Memories of Jingyuan revolve around the friends made passing through its doors – and one unfortunate incident of an Indian sari caught on fire during a Diwali party. Leaving quickly during COVID-19, many of Federico’s belongings are still at the Yenching Academy of PKU. He looks forward to returning to the campus, to recollect his things and relive memories of his time in China.
Q: What inspired you to apply to the Yenching Academy of Peking University (YCA)?
A: I studied my undergrad and masters in Argentina, but I always wanted to live in another country. The Yenching Academy and China itself, felt like a great opportunity.
Argentina is geographically almost an exact opposite of China on the world map. There are a lot of misconceptions here about what China really is. I was lucky to venture to China and to come to my own understanding of the country. The Yenching Academy opened a door – it exposed me to a new country and a new people.
Q: What role did Jingyuan play in your life on campus?
A: It is symbolic as a representation of all that I was looking for upon entering China. In the first few days, they take your photo in Jingyuan which becomes your digital face and a symbol of membership in the YCA community. The mental landing in China took place in Jingyuan.
Jingyuan courtyard 4 was a place that we went everyday for class. We met everyone passing through there, it was a place of encounter. Ultimately, it was the people, not the classes, that became my main takeaway.
Q: What were your impressions of the architecture of Jingyuan?
A: Jingyuan has a special feeling. The architecture is very traditional, it emphasizes the fact that you are in China. It feels safe in the sense of “I know this place and how this works” which was comforting amid the larger rush of China, particularly for me – I was frequently overwhelmed from not knowing the language.
Q: How did your experiences on campus, and at Jingyuan in particular, situate your larger experience living in Beijing?
A: University life in China was completely different from Argentina. In Argentina, we don’t have campuses, so living in the place where you study was new for me. The immensity of the university was also a change. On the whole, the way of experiencing university was entirely different.
As a member of the 4th cohort, we left suddenly during the COVID-19 pandemic. My stuff is still in Beijing! I am waiting for the country to open up like all the current cohorters. It is a pity to have left. When I go back, I will go to the university. It was my place where everything happened.