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Winter break wonders

By Li Xinran | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-24 06:07
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Top: Li Zhiyu participated in the Spartan Super in Abu Dhabi on Dec 10. Above: Zhang Yuze posed for a photo in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy on Jan 10.Right: Zhang Yuxin posed for a photo at the countdown show of Hunan Satellite TV for the years 2023-2024 in Haikou, Hainan province, on Dec 31. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Young students worldwide craft unique winter breaks, with each adventure shaping their perspectives and forging connections, Li Xinran reports.

When it comes to winter breaks, young students around the world spend this recharging time in their own way. "Gen Zers tend to have a wide variety of hobbies, and there are more subcultures compared to other generations. We also tend to express ourselves more and explore the world on our own terms," said 23-year-old Zhang Yuze.

Zhang is a graduate student at New York University, studying management and systems. He exemplifies this diversity with his unique winter break adventure-traveling to Europe during the monthlong break.

Accompanied by his girlfriend, Zhang explored eight cities in Italy and Spain, including Rome, Venice, and Madrid, all within 18 days.

"Our goal was to recharge ourselves. So instead of following a tight schedule, we made a rough plan and did most of the detailed planning along the way and adjusted it based on our conditions," he said.

Rome stood out as Zhang's favorite destination, captivating him with its living history and ancient architecture. "You're constantly surrounded by historical relics and ancient buildings. Even in front of our hotel, they're still doing archaeological excavation, adding a sense of living in history," he said.

Their visit to the Colosseum, where they secured spots on an English guided tour, provided more insights into the historical context. "For instance, our guide told us that some people's minds would wander off during the fights and they would draw on bricks to kill time," Zhang said. "We were able to see some of the doodles preserved in the Colosseum Museum, which was quite intriguing."

The couple celebrated New Year's Eve in Seville, Spain, witnessing a unique local tradition of grape-eating at midnight, which they learned from Xiaohongshu, a Chinese lifestyle-sharing platform, and also from their hotel's receptionist.

"Approaching midnight, local people would gather at the city square. Instead of doing countdowns, they would strike the clock 12 times. Legend says if you eat one grape per clock-strike, 12 grapes symbolize 12 months of good luck for the coming year," said Zhang. "It was a pity that local markets closed early that day and we couldn't buy grapes. Maybe next time."

Zhang had memorable experiences interacting with locals during his visits to Italy and Spain. "Visiting these two countries, I found that Spanish are more extroverted, energetic, and hospitable," he said. "For example, when we had trouble understanding the menu at a restaurant, the staff kindly explained it to us in English."

In contrast, he highlighted the romantic sentiment and fashionable taste of the Italians. "You can constantly spot flower shops on the streets. And whether it's a big city or a small town, almost every passerby's outfit is quite stylish. Even elder gentlemen would wear fashionable winter coats and leather shoes."

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