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    Setting sail on academic voyage
    Shanghai Daily 2015-09-14 16:28:51
    A 50-year-old father has overcome opposition from his family and friends to pursue his dream of studying navigation at university, and is planning afterward to travel the world working as a sailor.

    Chang Fajun, from northeast China¡¯s Heilongjiang Province, is starting studies at Shanghai Maritime University after passing the national college entrance exams.

    The communications engineer has enrolled to study at the university¡¯s Merchant Marine College as one of 347 new undergraduates.

    Chang said he was fed up with his ¡°routine life,¡± working, playing mahjong and drinking with friends, and for years had dreamed ¡ª quite literally ¡ª of going to university.

    ¡°Sometimes, I would have dreams in which I was taking the entrance exams or studying at university,¡± Chang said.

    Making that dream come true has not been plain sailing, he admitted.

    Born in April 1966, Chang graduated in 1987 from a vocational school and worked in a post office in Suifenhe City in Heilongjiang.

    Later, he gained an IT qualification at college and became a communications engineer with China Unicom in Suifenhe.

    In 2010, after his daughter had sat the national college entrance exam, Chang was leafing through her high school text books when he decided that he wanted to try it too.

    ¡°Before that, I just worked and played mahjong or drank alcohol with my friends,¡± said Chang,

    ¡°I didn¡¯t want to continue such a routine life until retirement as I felt empty inside.¡±

    But his wife and daughter tried to dissuade Chang from his academic ambitions.

    ¡°My wife said that if I failed the exam, I would be laughed at by my colleagues and friends,¡± Chang recalled.

    ¡°And my daughter felt that it would embarrass her and myself to tell people that I was going to university at my age.¡±

    Colleagues and friends also opposed his plan.

    ¡°Some said I was silly to ignore my duties, while others said that I was simply crazy.¡±

    Despite the opposition, Chang was determined to make the change.

    ¡°I thought, ¡®why shouldn¡¯t I live the way I like?¡¯¡±

    Using his daughter¡¯s textbooks, Chang began studying in his free time. For four years, he got up 5am and went to bed at midnight every day to fit in his studies.

    ¡°I never felt despondent or exhausted,¡± Chang said. ¡°On the contrary, I was very happy and felt energized.¡±

    At first, things did not go smoothly. Chang failed the college entrance exams the first two years and while in the third year he got an offer from a college, he quit as he was not happy with the school.

    Undeterred, he took the exams for the fourth time this year and won the offer from Shanghai Maritime University.

    ¡°I was really excited when the red admission letter arrived at my office,¡± Chang said.

    And after that, people¡¯s attitudes changed.

    ¡°My wife is now very proud of me and my daughter understands my choice,¡± he added, ¡°Colleagues and friends have also given me the thumbs up.¡±

    Now as Chang embarks on his degree, he has a new dream.

    ¡°I¡¯m from north China, where I had few opportunities to see the sea,¡± he said.

    ¡°I chose Shanghai Maritime University not only because it¡¯s a good school in a metropolis, but also because it¡¯s close to the sea.¡±

    While his job with China Unicom is being kept open, Chang admits that he may take a different path after graduation.

    ¡°I want to find a job on a ship and travel the world before I retire,¡± he said.
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