Tsinghua iTalk Grad Speech

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Tsinghua University iTalk
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Had the opportunity to speak at Tsinghua’s 2019 graduation and farewell party. Lots of interesting speeches and congrats to all the grads!

Tsinghua Grad Speech

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Got asked to speak at Tsinghua’s 2019 graduation commencement on Tuesday, focusing on life in China after graduating.

Tsinghua Graduation 2

We have no idea who this lady was. Guess she just wanted a picture with foreigners, which happens a lot more than you'd think

We have no idea who this lady was. Guess she just wanted a picture with foreigners, which happens a lot more than you'd think

Made this video for Tsinghua University

Vent

Not sure how to put this politely, so I'll just go ahead and say it. People in Beijing don't give a fuck. Me included. I think there are many reasons for this, so let's just dive right in. First, a lot of people who live in Beijing aren't locals. They come from all over China, especially surrounding cities, in search of a better life for their children and an opportunity to make money. That being said, there isn't any pride for Beijing. Someone throws trash on the ground "Not my city", smoking in public places "Well I'm not bothering people in MY social circle", letting their kid poop on the street "Not my neighborhood" - the list goes on. Now I'm included on this list of those not giving a fuck. When the subway open up, I push out (Aggressively) against those trying to enter before I get off. I yell at people to ride their bike on the right side of the road, and when I bump into people, I have stopped apologizing. In a restaurant, just as everyone else does, I yell "WAITER! WAITER!", I park my scooter wherever I want, and I have lost almost all of my patience. I'm almost scared to go back to America and interact in a social setting and have people ask "What is wrong with you?" China. China has changed me. 

Another reason for the lack of fucks in Beijing is because that's just how it is. If we take for example Tokyo, Japan. They similarly have a high population density, but have logically reasoned that in order to deal with so many people in a small space, there needs to be order and efficient systems. Many of you are now probably imagining Japanese people lining up for the subway in a neat and orderly fashion. Beijing, conversely, must have just said "Fuck it, they'll figure it out or they won't". We haven't. Example, cars pushing through despite the light having already turned red. I can understand if 1 car drives through as the light turns yellow, its a caution. But cars will go nut-to-butt and push through a red light and traffic PILES UP. I also don't understand why people drive in Beijing. I mean I get that China is a very external culture and a car is a status symbol, but the logistics don't make sense. Gas stations are hidden throughout the city, there are no parking meters on the street to control parking, and parking garages are a nightmare and often difficult to traverse. To limit traffic, everyday, Beijing chooses a number and if the number on your license plate is chosen, you cannot drive between (I think) 7am-7pm. No number is drawn on the weekends. A valiant, but fleeting effort. 

It baffles me that with so many people in such close proximity all the time, there is no social awareness. People are constantly staring at their phones as they walk and often times I'll stop walking and they'll run right into me. No one seems to understand the concept of a bike lane or that it goes up on the right side of the street and down on the left. People spit on the subway, smoke wherever they want, and my biggest pet peeve, will jump into line right in front of you and act surprised when you tell them to line up from the back. It's no surprise that people hate Chinese tourists because just like the attitude of those in Beijing, when they travel abroad its a similar mindset "Not my country, who cares what I do?"

The last example I can give of people not giving a fuck in regards to other people is their vagueness. This drives me absolutely crazy. I have gotten up from multiple dates and just left because I am so tired of dealing with it. For example, if I ask someone where they are from and they say "China", I'm out. I have no patience to deal with this. Now you might be thinking "Degen, don't be a dick, maybe their English isn't good". No, that's not the issue. The issue is that unless people are inside your social circle (Guanxi), no one has time for you, so vague answers suffice. In China, the popular greeting is "Have you eaten?" and the answer is "Yes" or "No". And that's it. In America I was so used to asking "Hey what'd you have for lunch?" or "What are your plans this afternoon?" compared to China "Do you have plans today?" and that's it. No follow up. So trying to get to know someone is extremely difficult in most cases. "What do you do in Beijing?" is a common question I ask and many people will say "Work" or "Student" and then stare at me with empty eyes. To which I respond "GO ON..." and I kid you not, their follow up answer was "At a company". I didn't think it would be difficult to say "Oh I'm a Master's Student at Tsinghua and I study Chinese Politics and Foreign Policy. I really like it!", but I would be wrong in that assertion. There also isn't a lot of follow up questions. If I ask someone what they do, there is no "And you?", so although I feel like an interrogator, that's a pretty typical conversation with a girl in Beijing. However, I take responsibility for this; maybe I need to stop going out with Basic Bitches. If you don't know what a Chinese Basic Bitch is, search youtube with that title and educate yourself. So once again, it comes down to too many people asking the same question too often and details have become bothersome. It's also challenging to assert that this is a culture difference, when in reality, maybe a lot of people in Beijing are just super boring. 

Despite this post portraying that of a whiny privileged foreigner in Beijing once again complaining about this city, I still, on my own accord, choose to stay here. Although I shit on Beijing, I won't put up with any outsider shitting on it. It's the city I have chosen to stay in for the past 3 years and although I might be one of the few, I'm proud to call Beijing my home. 

Classes have officially started and campus is a madhouse of pedestrians, bikes, mopeds, and people lingering in doorways as the masses try and squeeze past

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Everywhere, bikes everywhere

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Tsinghua gymnasium before and after welcome ceremony

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I wonder if President Xi Jinping ever set foot in this iron paradise

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Campus was a madhouse today

Chinese students had registration and the streets of Tsinghua were filled with tents selling cheap dorm supplies. Bowls, plastic bins, fans, electrical outlets, weird bamboo mattress pads, cups; and the throng of 1000+ Chinese students and family (including extended) were all about it. I officially register tomorrow and am curious if the foreign students will be as crazy as their chinese counterparts.

Chinese students had registration and the streets of Tsinghua were filled with tents selling cheap dorm supplies. Bowls, plastic bins, fans, electrical outlets, weird bamboo mattress pads, cups; and the throng of 1000+ Chinese students and family (including extended) were all about it. I officially register tomorrow and am curious if the foreign students will be as crazy as their chinese counterparts.

New Chinese student registration today

Guy tells me gym is closed. I nod my head, sneak into the closed door, and enjoyed a workout in absolute silence

Guy tells me gym is closed. I nod my head, sneak into the closed door, and enjoyed a workout in absolute silence

Some pictures from Tsinghua campus

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Dorm room, main building, statue outside the gym facility, and the guy in the backpack finished a study abroad at Harvard and helped me figure out where I was. Chinese guy at the gym came up and introduced himself and offered to help show me around. People on campus are super friendly with helping me figure things out. Tsinghua campus is giant and all of the sudden I feel much better about buying an E-bike

6 more months

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