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Patriotic university student takes a 'slight detour'

    Patriotic university student takes a 'slight detour'

    Yang Shuai

    Born in 1995 in Hunan Province, Yang Shuai got a score of 611 in the college entrance examination and was admitted into Tongji University in 2013, majoring in car mechanics.
    After just one year, he decided to suspend his studies and join a two-year military service program for university students.
    “I had dreamed of being a soldier because my grandfather was always telling me stories of his army days,” Yang told Shanghai Daily.
    With a good performance in school, he had followed the path of most of his peers — work hard, get a good score in the college entrance examination and go to a prestigious university. He did very well along that path but when he saw the chance to have a taste of military service, he decided to take a slight detour.
    “Some people told me that I would regret it for two years, but I would have regretted it for my whole life if I had not,” he said. “Anyway, there are some incentives, including scholarships.”
    In September 2014, he was selected and assigned to a troop in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province. After three months of training, he joined the anti-terrorism reserve squadron because of his excellent performance and great physical condition.
    “Some told me not to go because there would be a lot of hardship in anti-terror work,” Yang said. “But students can overcome hardships like anyone else and I wanted to make my two years as meaningful as I could.”
    The first three months were difficult. He had to get up at 6am to start a whole day of training with a 5-kilometer run. To catch up with other more experienced soldiers, he added some more physical practice for himself, such as 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups. In bed by 10pm, he usually fell asleep immediately.
    His hard work paid off and he was offered the chance to join an anti-hijack team, a real anti-terror squad.
    “It usually takes a soldier one year in the reserve squadron to get into the real anti-terrorism squad, but I was told that I had performed well in training,” he said. “It also meant that I had the opportunity to become a sniper, which I found very cool.”
    He became the only student selected for the anti-terrorism squad. All the others were experienced sergeants. Training was much more strenuous than before and every three months, there was a week of enhanced training, such as a 50-kilometer run in full kit. As a sniper he had to practice shooting from all angles and sometimes he had to remain in position for hours, hail, rain or shine.
    “Most people only see soldiers when they catch criminals or rescue hostages, but they do not see the hard training day after day,” he said. “Actually, I regretted joining the army for the first two months, but I stuck at it and gradually adapted to military life.”
    Yang also experienced the camaraderie in the army that his grandfather had told him about. “I learned about team spirit and real brotherhood. Sometimes your life is in the hands of your comrades,” he said.
    Once, he fell ill during training because of the humidity in the mountains. His comrade carried all his equipment and ran for miles to complete their task. A profound friendship was forged.
    Hard work paid off and Yang won third prize in a competition for snipers while his squadron won first place overall. There were more than a dozen tasks in the competition. For example, they had to draw four random photos of “criminals,” and memorize them in 10 seconds. Then they needed to run 400 meters and shoot the four pictures among 16 alternatives. They also needed to climb up to the 6th floor via a rope and shoot a target as quickly as possible.
    In September 2016, Yang ended his two years and returned to school. He said that the army made him a stronger and more mature person.
    “I now have better self-control and put greater demands on myself whatever I do,” he said.
    When he returned to the university, he changed his major to civil engineering.
    “After staying in the army for two years, I felt that as long as I try hard enough, there would not be a problem,” he said.
    Even though he had to restart as a freshman in the new major, he completed the first two years of academic credits in one year. He also joined a comrades’ association formed by the armed forces department of Tongji University and is in charge of the branch at the university’s campus on Siping Road.
    In the past two years, he has served as the military training instructor for new students. He also has been helping other students who finished their military service to readapt to campus life.
    “Military life is much more disciplined and we have to adjust ourselves a bit to student life,” he said. “And after a two-year break, we also need some help to catch up with our classmates.”
    He will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in June and begin postgraduate study in September.
    “I do not regret suspending my studies. Military life was very rewarding,” he said. “I will always remember that I used to be a soldier and the improvement in my will power will benefit me for my whole life.”
    Web users gave Yang the thumb-ups after his story appeared online.
    “He is as handsome as his name,” one adoring fan wrote on Sina Weibo. Yang’s given name “Shuai” means handsome in Chinese.