“The opposite of loneliness,” quipped Dongwoo in a description of his time at the Yenching Academy of Peking University. Surrounded by colleagues that quickly became close friends, Dongwoo fondly remembers his time as a student in China as a period of unique comradery. Jingyuan marked the very beginning of that experience. It was the initial launch pad for both the Yenching Academy’s academic program and the meeting of its Scholars. Even today, Dongwoo describes Jingyuan as imbued with a sense of “potential.”
Q: What inspired you to apply to the Yenching Academy of Peking University (YCA)?
A: During my Master’s, I happened to take a class on China. Suddenly, I found scholars like Daniel Bell and his perspective on China’s clash with the West to be a stimulating experience. Discovering the opportunity of YCA, I applied.
Q: What role did Jingyuan play in your life on campus?
A: Jingyuan was the place where we met the mainland Chinese students for the first time. YCA organized a big “meet-and-greet” event for all of us to get to know one another. A variety of workshops and lectures took place there. For example, I attended a presentation on the G20 and global governance. Well-known scholars would come to the site to engage with us.
A word I would use to describe Jingyuan is “potential.” Most of my key memories of Jingyuan was from the beginning of our program, when everything was new to me. Walking around that building, I was filled with a sense of wonder. It was clear that there were so many things I didn’t know about that had to be resolved.
China, overall, leaves me with a sense of nostalgia. A young author once described her community as “the opposite of loneliness.” In Yenching, I felt that. It was close to a family. It reminded me of the film Midnight in Paris, where the characters were exploring a city that was so new and constantly bumping into people. It was an experience I could never replicate.