10th anniversary student writing contest: winning essays

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The 10th anniversary student writing competition asked Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University students to write a personal narrative answering the question: ‘where do you imagine you will be in 10 years?’

First prize: Huan Chen

An ideal life

“‘Amy, please be serious, we are acquiring Apple and your report should be flawless!’ I throw the document onto the table. Amy picks it up and leaves quietly. Am I too harsh? I look out of the window, Manhattan at 5pm, hustle and bustle, it’s a competitive world.” No, no, stop daydreaming. Become a business tycoon in 10 years’ time? I shake my head and cross out this part on my paper.
“The plane arrives at Frankfurt Airport safely,” after thinking for a while, I start to write again, “In the solemn music, I step down the ladder and shake hands with the German Prime Minister. During this three-day state visit, I will…” What will I do? I stroke my chin and try to picture my ‘successful’ life in another way but fail. Gazing at the essay title “Imagine your life in 10 years”, I mutter, “It is so hard, how would I know?”

“Wake up! We are arrived.” OMG, I fell asleep. “Thank you, you just saved me from a dream full of mind-boggling essays,” I grin at Sarah, my dear friend, but at the same time, I am pondering over the question that emerged from my dream: what is an ‘ideal’ life? Great wealth and high status are considered as labels attached to success and happiness. The desire to advance is certainly laudable, but the risk of rioting in material comforts should also be alert.

“Let’s walk faster, our time is quite limited.” Sarah is right, it’s already 1pm and we haven’t reached the village yet. Our goal is to involve this village into our AgriLink project, a program that connects farmers with urban consumers directly to increase agricultural production efficiency. Having promoted the project in China extensively, we are now exploring new opportunities in Thailand, another fast urbanized country with great agricultural population. “Good afternoon, could we come in and have a brief talk?” The village head is confused, but kindly he lets us in. I start to introduce AgriLink in an exciting but convincing voice. “AgriLink is an attempt trying to solve issues that farmers and consumers face, such as dull of sale and unguaranteed food quality. Basically, you use the App to connect with the market,” I take out my phone while talking, “You can present and update photos of crops and vegetables that you grow on AgriLink App and consumers in nearby cities will order by inputting the quantity. Our delivery truck will come and collect three days a week...” The village head seems interested. “We have many successful cases,” added by Sarah. Not until Sarah shares these cases do I realize the accomplishment that we have made. From the sprout of the idea to the growth of AgriLink, it has been ten years. All of a sudden a whole host of memories going back to 2016. “Everyone is a member of human race, be a global citizen and share the responsibility,” said by our President on the graduation ceremony at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Be a global citizen, that’s where I got the inspiration from…

Now we are sitting on a hill overlooking the village after meetings with the village head and some households. The sun is on our backs. The glassy surface of the lake is ruffled by the breeze. “I like this feeling,” Sarah wears a bright smile. “Me too, and I really enjoy what I am doing.” The dream that I had in the noon comes to my mind again, but this time I think I have a good answer.

Second prize: Catherin Prayogo

The past, present and future

The future is unpredictable since it will change when we change our present. It is a Tuesday afternoon in May and the weather is scorching hot here, in a country along the equator. I am standing in front of the class and looking at the face of a hundred of students whose eyes kept on flickering to the clock next to the projector. The air smells like sweat and I can hear people’s chatters outside the class. In addition to that there are also faint engine sounds and honks from a distance, like annoying background music. I can feel the gloomy and spiritless atmospheres which as always will turn into anticipation as both the hands on the clock are getting nearer to the overlapping vertical position. I continue to teach although I know that what I said will just go through their ears and never reach their brain since their mind is wandering somewhere else, most probably the cafeteria which is just under this classroom.

I dismissed the class when it is exactly noon and immediately I hear the sound of book being closed, chairs moving, and students talking. The quiet and bored looking students are gone and replaced by relieved faces, as if they have found oasis in the desert. Their footsteps echoed in that big lecture hall and I can feel urgency in the air just as though they cannot wait to get out.

As I walk along the road back to my office, that moment suddenly felt like one day in summer 10 years ago. It was the last day of the exam, the temperature was warm and there were still traces of spring left. I and my friends walked along with hundreds of other students. When they asked me about my future plan, I answered that I wanted to take master in food science and hopefully a career in food industry after that. That was my dream when I was 20. At that time I have no thought of pursuing life as a researcher, a scientist or a lecturer. I can still vividly remember why, first many people said about how scientists have difficult time earning money. Secondly, it will take very long to complete doctoral degree and it does not guarantee an employment.

However soon I know, that dream was something I forced myself to believe in. It was only after I got my master that I realise, despite what people said, deep down I wanted to be a scientist instead of being a corporate worker. Therefore, after one year working, I applied for PhD and I spent the next 5 years working towards my doctorate which finally brought me here now, a university lecturer.

Today, when I looked back, everything seems simple. Nevertheless, the inexperienced and younger me back then found the future very scary and uncertain. That fear of making the wrong choice made me based my decision on what others said instead of what my heart wants. I was lucky to realize my mistake early and fixed it. My present situation may not reflect what my dream was back then. However there are still parts of that dream which become reality. As I stand in from of my office and turn the metallic door handle I realise that I may not know where I will be in 10 years, nonetheless where I am now is crystal clear. What we do now determine what our future will be; the past cannot be changed, but we can always change our future.

Third prize: Renfei Huang

No title

I am pacing back and forth in the corridor in the hospital, waiting for the news from the nurse. The surroundings are eerily silent and great tensions can be perceived. Now, I am nervous as a cat, feeling anxious and unsettled, and trying to find something to relieve myself. Having a quick glance at the environment, I notice that a young American is sitting next to me. Simultaneously, he noticed me as well. ‘Would you like go outside and have a smoke with me?’ he asks. I nod my head and follow his steps outwards. It is nearly midnight, everything is absolutely tranquil. Alongside the road, the deep violet morning glory blossoms bathed in the starlight. The buzz of cicadas is now too vague to be heard. In this kind of surroundings, it is easy for people to think about some philosophical topics. That’s what I am doing now, contemplating about life, inheritance and responsibility. My thinking is interrupted by a cigarette passed from my walking partner, but I refuse his invitation. He realizes that I am not a guy accustomed to smoking, so he lights up one for himself. ‘So, where do you come from?’ he asks. ‘Suzhou, China’. I respond skillfully. He smiles, ‘I’ve been there once. It is quite a fine town. Would you like to share your some your stories with me?’ ‘Well, sure. I worked here as an analyst since I graduated. One year ago, I just finished my wedding with my wife. That’s maybe the happiest moment of my life, as I have waited for so long for the day to come.’ He seems to understand my feelings and shows curiosity to hear more, so I continue. ‘Before my marriage, I’ve been in a long-distant relationship with my girlfriend for 17 years. Now it’s time for me to fulfill my promises and give her happiness ’. I say it calmly and softly, which surprises my partner. For me, the past 17 years’ memories are just like a flash, where happiness and glories are remembered while sadness and sorrow are forgotten. Time can be defeatable. Now, I strongly feel that everything can be overcomed by persistence and love. Human emotions can be transmitted through time and space. Filled with love, now I have a definite confidence about the future and the new life. I am quite fortunate to find something worth cherishing in my past life, which inspires me with new understandings about life. My stress completely eases by now. Sitting on the roadside, I begin to enjoy the serene moonlight, with the new friend made, waiting for the goods news of new life. The morning glory blossoms next to me. ‘The floral language of the morning glory is persistent love’, my partner says, with a smile.

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