Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Student Life: An "unforgettable" Chinese New Year's Eve in Bologna

SAIS Europe students form a community of learners who share experiences, backgrounds and cultures. Last week a group of students gathered to celebrate Chinese New Year and welcome the Year of the Horse. Lihan Chen spearheaded organization of the evening, making sure she and her fellow Chinese classmates were not alone on the important night. Here is Lihan's tale.

My parents were worried that their only girl on the other side of Eurasia would feel lonely, homesick and miserable on Chinese New Year’s Eve.

But now I can proudly tell them: Together with more than 70 SAISers, I enjoyed the most unforgettable and meaningful New Year’s Eve here in Bologna, thousands of miles from home.

When I started organizing the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner for fellow SAIS Europe students, I never anticipated such immediate and warm feedback. Soon after the post in our Facebook group went up, the number of participants surpassed the capacity of the restaurant where we had reserved seats. Each Chinese student took an active part in the organization, and we moved the reservation to the biggest Chinese restaurant in Bologna as the number of participants continued to grow.

On New Year’s Eve, everyone looked so happy. In the restaurant, the red lanterns, embroidered tablecloths, familiar folk music and Chinese knots transported us to my homeland. We were served fantastic Chinese wine, desserts and more than 10 courses of Chinese food, including toasted ducks, dumplings, steamed fish and spring rolls. While enjoying the delicious food, guests shared stories about the Chinese Year of the Horse and fun Chinese proverbs. Novice speakers were eager to show off the Mandarin they had just learned, and 15 lucky winners were awarded Chinese knots and fancy chopsticks.

What made this dinner special was the diversity of the participants and the mix of perspectives. From different vantage points, the guests shared stories about their New Year’s cultures, discussed the growth and gains of the last semester and exchanged good wishes for the next year.

“This event is wonderful!" one U.S. student exclaimed. "It reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, but a special Chinese version.”

Yes, SAIS is more than a school but also a family, with faithful, knowledgeable and creative SAISers growing together.

Lihan Chen (BC14/DC15)

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