Upon receiving a notice regarding essay competitions on “My Learning Story” and “My Teaching Story,” I hesitated for a long time. As a former student and current tutor at the Radio and Television University (RTVU), I pondered which topic I should choose: my learning story or my teaching story?

In the 13 years I had worked at the RTVU, I had rarely taught. Previously, I was responsible for technical and examination management. It was not until this year that I was transferred to the open education department to lead student management. Since I had little teaching knowledge, I thought it would be better to write a story about my learning experience, that it would better stimulate students' enthusiasm for learning. Furthermore, in adult education, I think learning takes priority over teaching.

I am a woman from the countryside. During my school years, though my family was impoverished, I was very fond of studying. I became a rational thinker at a rather early age, and have been pursuing my learning dreams ever since then. However, at that time in our village, it was very rare for a girl to attend high school. My parents did not really support me in studying at school because my family could not afford the tuition. So, by the time I filled in the application form after the High School Entrance Examination, I did not expect to be able to go to high school, and had resigned myself to not receiving a high school education. To my surprise, my test results reached the standard of admission of a top-performing high school. However, since I had failed to apply for this school, I would have had to pay additional fees to be admitted. Finally, with my sister’s help, I attended an ordinary high school that did not require extra fees.

Three years in high school passed by in the blink of an eye. My dedication began to falter, and again came the thought of dropping out of school. After the graduation examination, only 20 students remained in class. Most students felt it was hopeless for them to pass the college entrance exam, so they preferred to begin working as early as possible to start making money for their family. Like other students, I also moved out with my bags and luggage, staying at my uncle's home near the school for a few weeks. During that time, I often shed secret tears because I did not really want to drop out of school in such a way. But what could I do, if not drop out? My family could not afford my schooling and I could not allow myself to ask my sister to give financial support for me to attend university. One day after another, my heart grew heavier with suffering. I couldn't bear the days passing without being in school, so I cheekily sat in the back of the classroom. The teacher looked at me and, saying nothing, offered a smile as if nothing had happened. The other students showered me with encouragement. Those who had left the campus never returned, but I had missed the campus and classes. Due to lingering doubts and not having attended classes for some time, I failed to pass the college entrance examination. When I finally participated took the exam, my score was 10 points below the admission line.

During the summer vacation after graduating high school, I was thinking of how to go out and make money so that I could help reduce the burden on the family. But my elder brother sent me a letter from Shanghai telling me that he helped me apply for a self-taught class on computer information management at Fudan University. I cherished the opportunity to continue university studies. With hard work, I became the first student from our class to earn a college diploma in computer information management from Fudan University.

After graduation, I came back home, when it happened that the RTVU was employing technical staff in the computer room. University leaders found me hard working. So, after three months of probation, they hired me. The same year, I enrolled in the university’s undergraduate computer science class. The students in the class had technical backgrounds at different companies, or were teachers of computer science at the university level. Each of their technical skills were relatively high-level, and they were only seeking to enrich their minds with more theoretical knowledge in order to better serve their own organizations. Getting to know them kindled my passion for learning. As a RTVU student, besides taking classes alongside the other students on Saturdays and Sundays, I also recorded teaching CDs, with content covering every course provided by the China Central Radio and Television University (now called the Open University of China – OUC), to be used by students as learning tools. The courseware helped impart more professional knowledge and was easy to use. As long as students had access to a computer, the students could watch them whenever they wanted to. At that time, teaching resources were not as developed as they are now, and as long as you logged onto the platform, you could watch the courseware content at any time. Students could also participate in exchanges through QQ or BBS. In addition to exploring the class’ knowledge bases, we also learned to solve some practical problems through working together, learnt from each other, and contributed to each other’s growth. Many of the computer science and technology undergraduates in 2002 were highly valued by their companies, and they have become leaders of technical units. Some students went on to work at private companies, progressing on to well-paid IT management positions. These case studies prove that knowledge can change one’s fate! Now, learning and communication methods tend to be even more rapid and convenient. The OUC platform’s teaching resources are even more abundant than those possessed by the RTVU. Whenever students open a web page, they benefit greatly from lectures by famous experts.

By telling my own learning experience, I aim to encourage university students to cherish every opportunity to learn in life. As long as one studies wholeheartedly, steady achievements are assured! Learning at the RTVU has been the single best and happiest occurrence in my life. That short time has been forever engraved in my heart and will never be forgotten.

(This article won third prize in the OUC “ My Learning Story” essay competition.)

By Zhou Xiaohong, Yiyang RTVU, Hunan