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The army is where I belong

By Zhao Xinying | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-27 06:52

Jia Na was admitted to Tsinghua University in 2005. In 2007, she joined the People's Liberation Army, becoming the first female recruit from Tsinghua since the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

As the first female recruit from a top university, I attracted a lot of attention.

People had high expectations. They thought I would do everything better than my peers, just like in my academic life.

The army is where I belong

In fact, I was different, but in a substandard way: when I folded a quilt, it was always a mess; I constantly fell behind on training runs; and I often shot other people's targets on the shooting range.

The contrast between being Tsinghua's first female recruit and my true situation made me ashamed and anxious, so I decided to catch up.

The first thing I mastered was folding my quilt. I had repeatedly been criticized for failing to do it well, so I asked my comrades for advice. I often got up two or three hours early to practice.

Zhejiang province (where Jia served) is cold in winter because there is no public heating, but whenever my peers woke up, they found me soaked with sweat.

The army is where I belong

After practicing hundreds, possibly thousands, of times, I finally received praise and recognition.

My job was to receive and send telegraphs, consisting of line after line of numbers. It required my full attention because a single error could lead to serious results.

Meanwhile, the nature of the job - which required speed and accuracy - meant my knowledge, memory and perception were useless. There were no shortcuts; I just had to practice again and again.

I practiced so hard my fingertips were covered with blisters. People said I tried too hard, but it wasn't about my self-esteem as a student at an elite school; it was more about a sense of mission and responsibility - things I learned in the army.

In time, the combination of ambition and responsibility brought me honors and awards.

To be honest, I enlisted because I wanted to experience a different life and broaden my perspective.

I thought I would be happy and relieved when I was discharged, but when the day finally came, I felt lost. Without realizing it, I'd become accustomed to life in the army. I had fallen in love with it.

So, after finishing my graduate studies at Tsinghua in 2013, I re-enlisted. The army is where I belong.

Jia Na spoke with Zhao Xinying

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