350 Days at SYB

Xiaoqian posted on her Wechat moments at 1:30 a.m., two hours after the graduation ceremony. It was a five-minute-long online photo album. Seeing the pictures of her first visit to the Bund, first trip to Suzhou and other first times brought the memories flooding back.
August 25th, 2017 was the day when Xiaoqian and other students came to Shanghai Young Bakers. After a long journey of fifteen hours, Xiaoqian and the NGO partner teacher finally got to the registration point Caoyang School from her hometown Henan. The first time I saw her, Xiaoqian was standing next to the teacher, her hair drenched in sweat. She was listening to the teacher attentively and kept saying, “Don’t worry Miss. I will look after myself. ” Xiaoqian finally got around to unpacking after the teacher left. It was a very hot day in Shanghai. The fan went on spinning interminably but even so beads of sweats started pouring down from her forehead. She told me that she had washed her hair twice within the four hours since arriving. When she handed in the registration documents to me she went to help students who had just arrived. Some students arrived at midnight and others offered to help like Xiaoqian did. Zhiqing, who was given the nickname ” Sister Zhu” by other students, told me that SYB feels like home.
One week after the registration, students had the chance to visit the Bund for the first time. Xiaoqian got up early, put on some light makeup, threw on the new backpack and headed out with the others. The excitement of seeing the Bund and Huangpu River, which before they had only known from TV, was overwhelming. Everyone took out their phones and started taking pictures with each other. When the graduation date drew closer, many students felt nostalgic about the days when they were studying in school before the internship. A typical day would start with English classes in the morning, followed by life skill classes in the afternoon and ended with self-study time in the evening. On a cool night, students would also have a chat or go for a walk together on the playground. According to Weiqiang, this time with classmates was the most unforgettable.
On October 17th, students began their internship, which was exciting but also stressful. They could finally use the baking skills they acquired to earn money; but, given their lack experience, it was hard work to keep up. When these students finally came to graduate, Zhang Shuai, one of the professional trainers who teaches French bread making, gave them this message: ‘Keep up the good work. Hold on to the faith and never forget where you started. On days when you feel tired, stressed or on the brink of giving up just look back on the year you spent in SYB and the beginning of your journey so you can keep going. As long as you hold on to your dream, there is nothing that you can’t get through.’
At the end of February 2018, after spending a short Spring Festival holiday at her hometown, “Sister Zhu” came back to Shanghai to continue the internship. On the first day of work after the break, the only colleague who was working with her told her that from tomorrow she would be on her own: making bread, and processing banquet orders herself. For “Sister Zhu” who had got used to the routine of two weeks of internship and two weeks of study, the change felt abrupt, and she was a little overwhelmed. What should she do? After calming down, she decided to seek help from the teacher. Under his guidance, she slowly managed to organise all the work on her own. Recalling this period, “Big Sister” said that she felt that she was learning everything at breakneck speed. The experience helped her to grow up quickly. “Sister Zhu” is a great example of the strength and optimism it takes to succeed. She said her biggest wish was to be remembered by her real name – Zhu Zhiqing.
 Zhu zhiqing
The graduation ceremony was held on 9th July at naked Hub. A photo album created by the SYB team was shown on the big screen. All the volunteer teachers and heads of the internship hotels came to witness the moment. During the ceremony, students participated in the English Q&A for which they had prepared for three months and performed the English song they had learnt to sing for the first time. It was an unforgettable evening for everyone. After the party, Li Zheng said that the year had passed in the blink of an eye – they were now all graduates from SYB.
The time to say goodbye always comes too fast. The moments recorded by Xiao Qian over 350 days resonate deeply with the students. As a life skills teacher assistant, I always feel moved by everyone. Just like the volunteer Chen Yangyang said, ‘what I have learnt from the students is much more than what I can do for them.’
Qin Pingping
Student Life Management Assistant
Pinliang Xiong