Our Winner At The International Chinese Bridge Competition

We are so proud to announce that our student, Mirthe Fischer was the winner for the Chinese Bridge 2023 in the Netherlands and was able to represent The Netherlands at the International wordwide competition in China. We are all excited to hear her story and her accomplishments. So if you are interested in her story, how she started, what she did and she has learned during this whole event, do continue reading her beautiful, inspiring reflection and experience in China down below!

If you told me a year ago that I would be spending a part of this year’s summer in China, I would have never believed you. Yet, it is exactly what happened, and it was a trip to remember! I have had the privilege of visiting beautiful places, getting to know different cultures, and making friends from all over the world. There are many words to describe the journey: exciting, stressful, memorable, tiring, impressive, and so much more. Let’s see how this story started.

Let’s do this!

This spring, one of my Chinese teachers encouraged me to join the Chinese Bridge Speech Competition here in The Netherlands, which would be combined with a language immersion camp hosted by Confucius Institute Maastricht and Groningen. After some hesitation, I decided to join. During the immersion camp, me and the other contestants attended workshops and all sorts of activities together with our teachers at a beautiful location in Belgium. It was a weekend full of fun, and it was lovely getting to know more about the other contestants and my teachers. At the final day of the camp, the speech competition was going to take place. I knew attending the contest was a great opportunity, but that didn’t take away the fact that I was really nervous. After a peptalk by one of my teachers, I decided to just do my best. I would have been happy with any result, so when the teachers announced that I won first place, I couldn’t believe it! I would be going to China to represent the Netherlands in the global Chinese Bridge competition! I had never been outside of Europe before, let alone in China, so I knew this trip was going to be different in every aspect.

Beijing welcomes you

After a month of (at times stressful) preparations, it was finally time to go to China. I was looking forward to it and feeling nervous at the same time. I had no idea what to expect and what the level of Chinese of the other contestants was going to be. After a long flight, and literally running at Guangzhou airport to catch my next plane, I finally arrived in Beijing. It was time to meet the other contestants and catch a first glimpse of the city while going to the hotel. I remember my first impression of the capital being: ‘Wow, I didn’t expect Beijing to have so many trees!’ The next three days, we went sightseeing, visiting the highlights of the city and emerging ourselves in history. We climbed the ancient stairs of the Great Wall, walked across the stately squares of the Forbidden City and enjoyed the sun at the Summer Palace. As for present-day Beijing, we watched the opening ceremony at Beijing Language & Culture University, involved ourselves with Chinese culture at the Center for Language Education and Cooperation, and visited the impressive Bird’s Nest and Water Cube from the 2008 Olympic Games. After three impressive, yet tiring days of getting to know the city and the other contestants, it was time to get on the plane to go to the south, to Guangxi province.

Impressions to last a lifetime

Arriving in Baise, Guangxi, we knew that it was going to get more serious now. We were divided into three groups, and the actual competition was about to get started. The first round consisted of multiple tasks: two group activities, a multiple-choice test, writing an essay, and performing a talent or a speech. With a total of 138 contestants, it wasn’t going to be easy. However, this did not stop us from enjoying the province’s beautiful scenery and interesting people. If I have to describe our time in Guangxi in full detail, I might as well write a book, so I will just talk about the highlights. One of the most memorable days was the day that my group was rewarded with a day of enjoying nature and culture. We visited a scenic park, which had one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. We were walking around a lake surrounded by mountains and rice fields, which was so different from natural sceneries I have seen before. Afterwards, we went to a village to experience Zhuang culture. The Zhuang people are China’s largest ethnic minority and they are an important part of Guangxi’s population. We played games, sung and danced together. We all felt so lucky that we had been given the opportunity to experience this.

During one evening, there was also going to be a talent show for the contestants who prepared a talent that they wanted to perform. I brought my violin, and because the song that I chose was too long to perform during the actual competition, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show what I had been practising this summer. The talent show was completely voluntary, did not have any effect on your score for the competition and was going to take place at a park, the organisation said, so we all thought it was going to be a very ‘casual’ night. We were wrong, very wrong. When we arrived at the park, we found a whole stage accompanied by talent show hosts, supporting acts of Beijing opera and folk dances, and there was a whole audience of curious locals around the park. I wasn’t prepared for such a big event, so I started to get really nervous. Fortunately, the performance went quite well and everyone enjoyed seeing each other shine on stage. After the talent show, we lit up a bonfire and danced with countless Zhuang ladies, ending a memorable night of music and laughter.

As for the actual competition, I feel satisfied despite not making it through the first round. The group tasks were a success, and I scored relatively well on my essay and speech. After receiving the results of the competition, the 30 strongest students went to Nanning to continue the contest on television. I know they all did a fantastic job, and each student was very talented, whether or not they made it through. We as the remaining students then went to the beautiful Guilin for two last days of sightseeing before going home.

What’s next?

If I learned one thing from this experience, it is that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone. I was hesitant to join the competition in the Netherlands, and at times wasn’t even sure about going to China as I felt that it would be too much responsibility, yet I am so glad that I decided to go for it! After working hard and spending many hours studying Chinese, it feels so good that my work has been paid off. I am thankful for everyone that has been involved in this story, from my Chinese teachers to my friends and family, and the friends I made along the way! This spring, I will go back to China to study at a university, and get another opportunity to improve my Chinese. I am looking forward to continuing my adventure in China!