Nothing screams, “I have no boyfriend!” like running like a madwoman late at night around Fudan University’s campus. Apparently. As I zoom past couples cuddling on benches, overtake couples strolling along holding hands under the romantic street-lights, and in turn am overtaken by couples on bicycles, the girl perched on the pannier rack, arms wrapped around her boy’s mid-section, I can’t help but feel that me and the other few lone runners are the pathetic ones. Evening is a time to be spent with friends and lovers, not exercising. Unless you don’t have either of those things, and need to do something to let off some steam. I try not to feel sorry for myself very often, because it just sets in motion a cycle of depression that is utterly unproductive. But I will allow myself this rant because… well, for no reason really, other than to paint a picture of campus-life at a Chinese university like Fudan.
During daylight hours, couples are everywhere. During the night, same picture. I’ve heard that a lot of Chinese youth come to university just to find their future spouse. The “gaokao” examination to get into university was the hardest thing they will ever undertake in their lives, and afterwards, many approach university as a time to finally relax. Not that there aren’t still epic amounts of students who can’t shake the habits they learnt over the years in middle school education: studying is all they know. Anytime, in any classroom, you can see students diligently reading textbooks, taking notes, or dozing on top of their textbooks.
But Chinese university life doesn’t lend itself to lone study. Dorms are shared with up to six people in one room, a bunk bed over your desk. In your first year dorms are not organized by major, but in your second year, you share with others from your class, all the better to study together. Chinese students travel in packs. Or in pairs. I can only imagine that the relationships built at university are the strongest these students will ever make. So finding a future husband or wife here seems only natural. The budding couples don’t get very much privacy, given living arrangements, but that makes the time spent together around campus all the more sweet to them.
In contrast, I’ve spent a lot of this past year on my own. No, don’t start to feel sorry for me. I’ve almost gotten used to it. Seeing the couples cuddling, wearing matching shirts, doing everything together no longer gets under my skin. Let the couples do their thing, they look so happy. I don’t need to make myself feel worse by being jealous. I’m part of it all too, running like a madwoman along the dark lanes of Fudan’s campus. Just because I’m on my own doesn’t mean I’m lonely. On my own I can sit back, observe, and enjoy the phenomena happening around me.