Finding Beauty
Posted 11/30/2016 10:00AM

By Shu Ye '18

5:00 pm, October 31, Trapani, Sicily. Soft wind touched my face, carrying the scent of the Mediterranean. I stopped my bike for the first sunset in Trapani. The golden sunshine jumped into the water like falling stars scattered over the dark blue sky. Seabirds were singing, hovering, and gradually covering the sky when I looked up. They found the way home. The sunset was not quiet; it was full of vividness and impression.

After just one day in Trapani, its beauty had already brought me happiness and the desire to understand the city more deeply.

The Italian language is beautiful, and when I started using it, I began to feel the power inside it.

The Academic Travel trip was about learning the Italian language. Unlike other trips that went to see many places of interest or natural scenes, I immersed myself in an Italian-styled life. The playful tone of Italian was around me every day, and it was my first time to get so close to this beautiful language.

Italy is a warm country, and I am not only talking about weather but also local people. My hosts, Gabriella and Ignizio, knew my difficulties with speaking Italian and had so much patience with me. When they talked to me, they spoke slowly and clearly, and I could almost hear how their tongues danced and vocal cords vibrated to pronounce the R.

“Cosa hai fatto?” ”Hai dormito bene?” ”Come stai?”—simple words, basic sentence structures, and clear pronunciation like a soft lullaby that conveyed their concern, encouragement, and kindness.

Our guide, Stefano, led us to school and around the city during the week. He was reliable and well-informed, and the way he spoke was a sonata that had several movements in various atmospheres. We went to Segesta one afternoon, and he talked about the history behind the sublime ancient temple and the theater. I could not fully understand since he spoke so fast, but following his tone, I could imagine a cascade going up and down with an unexpected rhythm. The story of why the building was built and why it could not be finished followed the “waterflow” and came into my mind vividly. The language built a bridge that connected me to the ancient Sicilian culture. The Doric Temple was behind, and the murmur from two thousands years ago spread through the wind, became louder and louder, and traveled into my heart.

Whenever I closed my eyes, I was surprised to find that the images brought by the Italian language were still so colorful in my mind.

I tried to speak out loud in Italian to local people. I enjoyed the convenience of communication now that I could avoid using English or even body language when I went to the market. I felt proud of myself when people understood me and gave me a smile.

The Italian language is beautiful, and when I started using it, I began to feel the power inside it. The beauty of this language encouraged me to speak more and be more confident. I tried to start conversations in Italian with my host and forced myself to learn the way they speak. I built up a strong self-satisfaction when for the first time I completed saying a long sentence to Gabriella.

Before I came to TASIS from China in 2015, I was an ordinary public school student. I never learned any foreign languages except English. After I became a student at TASIS, I started learning Italian because Lugano is an Italian-speaking city. But it is not necessary for me to use Italian in everyday life, so I lacked motivation. Learn the grammar well. Memorize some words and phrases. Get good grades. I did not really enjoy the process of learning, and I regarded it more like an obligation. My expectations for this Italian homestay were not high, but TASIS always gives me surprises.

My whole first year at TASIS was a process of opening Pandora’s box. I began to fully open my eyes and view the world with appreciation. Different kinds of beauty are all around me, and what matters is how I interpret them.

I still remember my first Academic Travel: a music trip to Munich, a city full of arts.

My whole first year at TASIS was a process of opening Pandora’s box.

One night, we went to a small chapel in the center of Munich. There were three old ladies on the stage, holding two violins and a cello. It was a casual trio. No concert hall, no host, no break. Their eyes were half-closed, and they were smiling. One of the songs they played was Vivaldi’s “Concerto No. 1 Spring.” Its light tune reminded me of the dew early in the morning, the curved rainbow after rain, and the first leaf on a tree. The only thing I could feel in that chapel was everyone’s love of music. Every note, every pause, every crescendo they played tugged my heartstring.

I started playing piano when I was four. Until I got into middle school, the piano was my closest companion. But as I grew up, I starting getting tired of this daily routine. I felt stressed about school work, my parents were demanding, and I did not want to put more effort into practicing the piano.

I soon learned that giving something up is very easy, and I moved further and further away from the piano in those three years.

But in Munich, the trio those devoted ladies played suddenly reminded me of the beauty of music. I remembered how my fingers jumped on the black and white keys. I remembered how I made a chord and pressed the peddle to beautify the legato. I remembered the feeling of self-satisfaction after I successfully resonated with a piece of music and interpreted it with my own understanding.

After I returned from the trip, I came back to my old friend. Practice now fulfills my free time. Performing solo or with an orchestra in front of the school creates unforgettable memories, and I have rediscovered that music has such an influential power—that a life full of music is a life full of joy and beauty.

If the map of Europe is a jigsaw puzzle, TASIS is helping me complete it gradually by showing me the value of travel. If my life is a puzzle, TASIS has helped me fill in more pieces by teaching me to find beauty in my surroundings.

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