The power of Words as Swords

By Yuanqi Ge ’20

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I love reading and writing. I love literature so much that I can sit next to the window with a book for a whole day. My Chinese teacher in middle school loved literature as well. In fact, I have never seen a person who loves literature as much as she does. I do not know whether I love literature because of her or I like her because we share the same love of literature. She has a beautiful name: Xiaoling, it means snowflake in the morning. Most Chinese teachers prefer students to call them by their last names in order to show distance and respect, but Xiaoling wanted her students to call her by her first name. 

I still remember our first class, when Xiaoling came into the room and stood behind the podium revealing her bright smile. She said, “My name is Wang Xiaoling. You can call me Xiaoling, and I will be teaching you Chinese.” The whole class was surprised by her powerful voice—such remarkable strength from so small a lady. That first impression has never left me. Since that day I have been exploring the world of literature because Xiaoling was so vigorous and enthusiastic. With her rejection of traditional mechanical rote learning methods and her incredibly youthful energy, students often would forget that she had a teenage daughter herself. As a teacher, she helped me form a bond with language and literature, allowing me to discover a passion for it as well. 

Xiaoling was my teacher for all three years of my Middle School life. Unfortunately, she was taken from us by cancer. I feel sorry that younger students will not benefit from her inspirational example. Beyond helping us open windows into the past to let us experience and understand the authors and writings we studied, she broke down the walls between us, liberating our minds and allowing us to question, explore and wonder. It made such an impression on me, that even when many of my other classmates were indulging their mechanical side to solve tricky math problems, I would often let my mind loose and ponder the deep waters of the literary world. I do not just read books, I let myself fall into the writer’s world, and I can experience a whole new life through the characters’ eyes. 

For me, literature is a very “human” thing – at one moment alive with vigor, at one moment tranquil and serene, and at another moment full of wisdom and thought. It has taught me about great stories, history, and how to think more deeply about things. As the daughter of mathematicians, it is sometimes hard for my peers and teachers to imagine why I would have little proclivity for math. But thanks to the inspiring words and deeds of people I have fortunately encountered in my life, like Xiaoling, I believe now that literature is the key to changing both myself and even the world around me. Xiaoling put it like this – “If you want to change the big picture, start by changing yourself. The study of language and literature is what will allow you to change the course of your life.” 

Now, as a Hamilton student, I will learn and use knowledge make even small change to myself and the world around me. 

As a student at Hamilton, I have taken a step that will help me change and become a person who lives life to its full potential and makes the world a better place for all people. 

‘From Where I Sit’ is a column dedicated to international students’ voices. If you are interested in contributing a piece, contact Britt Hysell at bbritthy@ hamilton.edu. 

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