ACTCM in China: Reflections from Nikola

This week we feature a personal reflection from Nikola Zunic one of our six students who is in China completing a three month scholarship at Henan University.

Reflections from Nikola

It feels like it was not too long ago that I wrote my first impressions of being here.  Now, almost two months later, many adventures were had, many lessons learned, some forgotten.

First and foremost, being in a different place really helps to mirror what kind of person I am.  The environment wears down the defenses, maybe puts up new walls, but in the end shapes and molds me just the same.  For a time here, I began to look at the environment and people around me, and began looking at the way things should be, if you understand what I mean by that, then you will know that will lead to dissatisfaction and alienation.  Why are they so hyper-capitalist?  Don’t they understand that material culture will merely lead them to a place of servitude and enslavement?  Why do they  seem so rude sometimes, especially to those of a “lesser” position?  How can they just throw trash on the floor? I mean everywhere, even in pristine cliffs and gorges, and caves, you can find a water bottle stuffed in a crevice.

And then, one day, I was sitting eating noodles, and it was a shop run by what appeared to be a wife and husband.  How can I tell?  Well, they hardly spoke to one another, the communication was at a deeper level.  And as I sat there and ate, I thought to myself, what are their lives like?  Obviously, they make a delicious bowl of noodles, but what else?  And then it hit me…  They are no different from me, or from anyone else I have ever met, or anything else that has ever come to existence.  They feel, need, cry, laugh, breathe, and they are an extension of a greater whole, a unique expression of it for sure, but still fully immersed and inseparable.  So, instead of looking at the situation as what should be, a calm contentment came over me and I felt what is.

But, I am missing a lot.  I can’t speak to most of the people here.  I can, say little things, but I can’t really talk to them.  But, a smile goes a long way here.  When walking down the street, and I feel a pair of eyes on me, I just find them and smile, because that is all I got.  An old man talked to me through a translator one day at the clinic.  He saw me writing Chinese characters and was happy to see that, and even sat next to me and tried it himself.

I am feeling a little sentimental and preachy I suppose. But, I did learn some very important lessons here.  First and most important one:  My classmates and I came here thinking we will learn some ancient Chinese Secret.  What I have realized is that the secret was already taught to me, but damn, I was not listening at the time.  Perseverance and a love for what you do, that is the secret, and this is found in the basics, the tiny little webs that hold everything else up.  A few number of people reminded me of that, Dr. Song, Dr. Yang, Zhou Qi…

So, with about a month left, I am really starting to miss the familiar faces I always use to see, but look forward to seeing those new ones I’ve met here as well.  Home can be anywhere…  I have a week or so left in the oncology department and then a few weeks in a gynecology.  I am looking forward to them all.  Looking forward to going to the antique mall today.  Just looking forward to being.

With love,


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About American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) has provided affordable, quality health care to the public and trained professionals in acupuncture, massage and Chinese medicine since 1980. In addition to its graduate curriculum, ACTCM offers continuing education, public education, community outreach and clinical services in acupuncture and herbal medicine. ACTCM has been the recipient of many awards for its curriculum, faculty and clinic, and has been voted “Best of the Bay” by both the San Francisco Weekly and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. ACTCM is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.