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PKU Class of 2020 | Antonio R. Quiroz Soto: Saying Goodbye to a Home of Seven Years

JUL . 02 2020
Peking University, July 2, 2020: Editor's Note: It's graduation season again and Peking University is incredibly proud of all our students who have worked hard and are finally graduating. As we all know, it's a special graduation season this year and the editorial team has interviewed several graduates and PKU alumni, with hopes that their stories can bring some inspiration to Pekingers who are about to embark on their next journey in the adventure we call life.

Today, our guest is Antonio R. Quiroz Soto from the Yenching Academy of PKU, the representative of international students who spoke on the Peking University Commencement Ceremony 2020.

This year, Antonio R. Quiroz Soto will be moving on from Peking University, the school which he has called his home for seven years now. But, before he goes, Antonio had the opportunity to speak at Peking University's official graduation ceremony as the international student representative. His speech, delivered in Chinese, talks about the path he travelled to get here, his life at Peking University, and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Antonio's classmate at PKU Yenching Academy Emily Vincent listening to his speech live online

Antonio's connection to China and to PKU begins even before that, some ten years ago when he was a student in junior high. He describes himself as having "always been fond of reading about other countries' culture, and had dreamed of someday going abroad to get to know in depth different cultures." So, when he entered high school, he started taking his first Chinese lessons. To this day, he remembers his Chinese teacher telling him that Peking University was the best university in China (her words, not ours!). From there, Antonio's journey took him to Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) where he continued to study Chinese.

While studying at BLCU, Antonio was invited by a friend of his to attend the International Cultural Festival here at Peking University. Though he had heard a great deal about PKU by then, the ICF was Antonio's first real experience with the university, and he left it deeply impressed by the university's commitment to internationalization.

At the end of that year, Antonio headed back to Mexico where he began studying as a sophomore of International Relations at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. But, all the while, he thought back on his experiences in China and how enriching his time there was. It was then that he attended a campus talk held by Peking University on his campus. Antonio got convinced that with his already proficient level of Chinese, he had something unique to offer the school as most of the local students who had shown up to the event had never studied Chinese, and that he needed to change course.

For Antonio, waiting to apply for a Master's program was too long. He wanted to study at Peking University as quickly as he could, even if it meant starting his undergraduate program over. After a year of hard work preparing for Peking University's rigorous entrance examination, Antonio's efforts paid off and he was accepted into a one year preparatory program preceding four years of undergraduate studies, which he would then follow into a Master's program at Yenching Academy.

Of course, with the outbreak of COVID-19, Antonio's last semester was unlike anything he could have anticipated. A graduate student's last semester is stressful enough with the pressure of having to complete and defend their thesis. Add on complications caused by a global pandemic, and it only becomes more difficult. Antonio tried to look at it from multiple angles though, and while he confesses that this semester was a big emotional challenge for him, he also found himself impressed at how resourceful his peers and mentors were in finding ways to adapt and thrive even despite the restrictions imposed to control the disease.

Antonio even found himself using this time, which he spent on campus, having not gone home over the winter break, exploring parts of the campus that he had never seen before despite living there for the better part of a decade.

With his graduation, Antonio's trials and tribulations as a Master's student trying to graduate under COVID-19 are finally at an end. Though part of him is sad that he couldn't share this moment in person with many of his cohort, he is understandably proud of his accomplishments and relieved to finally be finished.

But, despite being finished with his Master's degree, Antonio promises that he is not finished with China. He has plans to work in overseas PR for a Chinese tech company looking to expand its operations in Latin America. With his personal background growing up in Mexico, years of immersing himself in Chinese, and solid background in international relations, we have full confidence that Antonio will play a vital role in helping to connect the two cultures that have played such an impactful role in his life. All the best, Antonio! We hope to see you back in the gardens of Yanyuan one day.

Source: Antonio R. Quiroz Soto
Editor: Trevor
Executive producer: Pu Hairui
Producer: Amanda Hu
Photo: Antonio R. Quiroz Soto, Liu Yueling
Designer: Pu Hairui