A complete turnaround

- How encountering another culture has changed my life

Fei Qu from China, a doctoral candidate at the University of Stuttgart, talks in an interview about his exciting experience and changes during his stay in Germany.

What is your profession and what do you like most about your job?

Presently I am a doctoral candidate writing my thesis on ‘Solar Cell Optimization’. I really enjoy my own research as well as the counseling of bachelor students and diploma candidates.

Do you miss student life sometimes?

I always look ahead and very rarely to the past. I liked the student life because there were also relaxing times. However, we also had to study hard each day. The life of a student has a disadvantage in that you don’t earn money and that the professor tells you what to do. As a doctoral candidate I can concentrate better on the areas I am interested in.

Tell us why you came to Germany to study?

While I was still studying Sheet Metal Forming in China, a specific area in Mechanical Engineering, I had planned on studying abroad. Germany was known to me as a leading country in Mechanical Engineering. My parents and friends supported me in my decision to study in Germany and so I studied German intensively for a year. Afterwards I applied to different universities in Germany and received admittances to a variety of technical universities.

How difficult was it for you to get used to a new culture?

In the beginning it was very difficult to live in a foreign country with a completely different language and without any relatives. Even though I had some knowledge of the German language I had big communication problems. Therefore, I couldn’t understand the students or the professors. It was also very hard for me to meet people here and I asked myself how that was possible? Beforehand, I had read a lot about Germany, also that Germans are friendly but serious. Because I was the only Chinese in my semester I actively reached out to other students before classes to get to know them. Luckily, my fellow students were very friendly and slowly I could understand more and more. I was also homesick because Germany is really very different from China.

Did you ever reach a point where you thought of quitting your studies and going back to China?

No, I never thought that. In China we have a strong sense of sticking it out. When we start something we finish it.

What are some of the biggest differences between China and here?

In China you study day and night and hardly have any free time. We hardly party and earnestly tackle problems. Sometimes you can discuss philosophical questions with friends. You also have to study a lot here in Germany. I often talked about different directions of belief and philosophical questions with my friend Uli. I found out about the Christian faith through him and came to accept Jesus. There are many similarities between the Chinese and the Christian tradition, that is why I could understand and accept a lot.

Previously, what was your opinion about the Christian faith?

I had heard about it but could not see or judge whether it was right or not. My best friend in China had a bible, but we weren’t interested in it. Before I met Uli, I wasn’t in touch with any Christians.

What fascinates you about life here in Germany?

Yes, I have met many nice people. I am excited that I have found the right path to live my life. I have found the meaning for my life and that really inspires me.

What was the most meaningful change in your life?

The most meaningful change is that I have found the reason for my life. Earlier I had often asked myself why I’m alive and I didn’t find any answer. After having read the bible and having talked about the bible with others I could find an answer that has a big meaning for me. Through faith I found eternity. Earlier I asked myself what I would look like after death and what I would feel. I suspected everything to be over, similar to shutting a light off. But now I know about eternity and the hope that comes through Jesus. I used to look for short lived luck, trying to earn as much money as possible, having a good career and a family and children, nothing else. Those things are rather short lived and don’t satisfy. An additional change I made is that through my faith I have learned to forgive others. We should forgive others who have done us harm. We should not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with goodness. In China many believe that evil should be repaid by evil. This way of thinking derives from Confucianism, but it is wrong. We should learn to forgive others. Through doing so we have a positive influence on them. If we repay evil with evil, then we live in a vicious cycle and revenge is all we are left with.

What was the reason that you decided to begin a new life with Jesus?

On Christmas in 2010 I had a dream that was very meaningful to me. In this dream I had an encounter with a devil-like being who wanted to kill me. I had to fight against him, but I was very weak and small and did not stand a chance against this mighty being. At the window I saw a bright light and in it was a cross. I took this cross and used it as a sword in the battle against the devil. In the end I conquered him. The dream was very realistic and I woke up exhausted and wet with sweat. However, I couldn’t understand the dream and I didn’t think it had anything to do with faith. I told the dream to the father of a friend, a pastor and a Chinese friend and asked them to tell me the meaning. At first it was very hard to accept the meaning. But after three people said the dream pointed towards Jesus and the cross it was a 99% affirmation for me. Later on I was invited to a group of young adults with whom I intensively discussed questions of belief. Little by little I realized the bible is true and could understand more about faith. That is how I found my way to Jesus Christ. In other religions there is no cross, only in Christianity. Jesus gave this dream to me so that I would start concerning myself with him and make a decision for him.
Although I had often spoken to my friend about the Christian faith and hadn’t disliked it, it was very hard for me to call this belief in Jesus my own. This is also the case since in China the common belief is that there is no God and that religion is superstition. I could accept people that believed in God very well but it was very hard for me to personally trust in God. However, when I look back I can see how everything was planned by God. Before I came to Germany I didn’t know God. Then I ‚happened’ to come to Germany and to Stuttgart.

What motivated you to start getting to know Jesus and the bible?

My biggest motivation is that Jesus always shows me the right direction for my life. By reading the bible I can find the right path and I know what to do. I trust in God and never want to give up. I want to pass this positive experience on to others so that they also might find the right path.

How did your friends and colleagues react to your change in faith?

Some of my Chinese friends became Christians before me. Before I became a Christian it wasn’t easy for them to talk to me about believing, and I couldn’t really understand them. That has changed since I myself have become a believer, now we have more similarities. In the past I couldn’t help my friends who had problems but now I can give them better advice, for example by giving them a suitable bible verse. Some friendships have gotten more distant. Some of my friends lead a life without God and I have tried to convince them otherwise. They thought it was a bit strange since they want to enjoy life according to their ideals. But I don’t want to give up trying to show them the right way. People think leading a life without Jesus and God is cool. That is what I thought too before I came to know Christ. But it’s not true at all, it’s a very limited way of thinking. As a Christian where do you see the biggest challenge with colleagues here in Germany and with people in China? I want to be salt for my friends and fellow countrymen. I want to be a good influence to others as a role model. Then they can find the right path just like me. I don’t want to give up, no matter what they think of me. Since I have experienced that Jesus forgave me I can also forgive others who do me wrong. I have experienced God’s love, my heart has been changed and isn’t made out of stone anymore.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. Hes 11,19-20

Summary

A Chinese doctoral candidate talks about some of the greatest difficulties living in a foreign country with a completely different language and without any relatives. The most meaningful change in his life is that he found the reason and the right path for living. He says "I could accept people that believed in God very well, but it was very hard for me to personally trust in God". Read in the interview why he calls the belief in Jesus his own today and never want to give up.