From Shenzhen to Swarthmore: A Reflection at First Collection

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Today, The Daily Gazette welcomes the class of 2020 with a series of articles written entirely by and about first year students. Welcome to Swarthmore!

As usual, First Collection, this year that of 2020, fell at the near end of summer.

“–Please join our community in a moment of silence please,” says the Dean. That’s when I started to notice the leaves. One by one in the wind, they are drifting down to the ground.

–one, two, three.

I thought of Shenzhen, that southern city in China, where I was born and raised. ‘Right next to Hong Kong’ I’d explain because its commercial status was built by Hong Kong and they have the similar callous city look. It was quite banal for me, to say the least. I used to tell people that it’s a pretty little bubble, one that’d explode if you poke, because it somehow lacks something inside. Early on, I knew I wanted to go  somewhere else, somewhere new. I must have speculated on that imaginary place, peeking through our apartment’s window. Wherever that would be, even in my wildest dream, I couldn’t have known.

–four, five, six.

Through the air they float.

I look down to realize where I’m sitting. Now, in the amphitheater of Swarthmore College, I’m overhearing monologues near and far, high and low, and silently joining the conversation as a Swattie 2020. I trace the pattern of my palm. I am reminded of all the mysteries inside of me. I can’t recall how my birthplace has shaped me, how I fumbled my way here or what I’ll become. I am just here, hearing our new friend Ziv’s voice with a new familiarity that has just developed. He says he can foresee how short four years are, how they’ll pass fast by, and that he wants to cherish every ephemeral moment that he spends with us from the very beginning. Upon his words, a strong impulse suddenly grows in me to really live, with all five senses, and together we’ll grasp each memorable day.

–seven, eight, nine.

But they fall so ceaselessly.

Why can’t we suspend the leaves?

You know, after a good night’s talk with friends on Parrish Beach, or a breathtaking star watch back to back with your best buddies, you pick yourself up from the grass wavering, as if slightly drunk from that euphoric feeling, and as you slowly walk back to dorm, you seriously wonder for a little while: Wherever would this glowing night go? After 1000 years, would it be mine still?

Maybe the wind would take it, the same one that brought me here, the same one that still carries me restlessly.

It takes all the leaves.

The leaves are suspended, not yet touching the ground, not yet brought down by the wind, and people are unclear about what lies ahead, just as my young self was, just as I am now, however short an interval that is.

There rests the tenth leaf.

I take a deep breath, light my candle to join the river of light, and know full well that four years lie ahead of me. I’ll have to enjoy floating in the wind, however strong it blows.

Featured image courtesy of Xihan Zhang’20

Xihan Zhang

Vivian is a freshman from Shenzhen China who agrees with Gabbo Marquez that writing pleases your friends.

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