During my 3-month study in Siena in 2018, I learned the local customs and practices of Italy, got familiar with the Italian medical system, participated in the daily work of the emergency department of the Siena University Hospital, received Chinese Hospital Presidents, attended the International Heart Failure Congress, and experienced the Palio, twice!
During that time, I broadened my horizons, increased my knowledge and made friends there. All the fragments of my memories of Siena are still vivid in my mind, forming beautiful and fragrant images. From then on, it planted a seed in my heart, hoping that I could have a chance to visit Siena again.
In December 2019, I was honored to be selected by the hospital and approved by the provincial government to come back to this familiar place for training on critical care and medicine technology.
When I spoke at the pre-trip meeting, I said that this seminar would bring to everyone a special experience.
My original intention was that we would spend Christmas and Spring Festival in Italy during the trip, which was a unique once in a lifetime experience. But I did not know that my ‘prophecy’ would turn out to be true.
Before January 2020, everything was fine. We completed all stages of the training step by step, attended the Christmas party specially held for us by the hospital, and invited Italian doctors to our dorm to make dumplings to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival.
However, news of the epidemic in China kept coming, which always affected my heart. I wrote a request to the hospital to express my willingness to return to China immediately for epidemic prevention and control.
Although my request was not approved, I was relieved by the good news about the anti-epidemic battle in China. At that time, as a Chinese living abroad, I worried about being discriminated against.
However, the citizens of Siena were warm- hearted and friendly, as usual. I could shop and go out for dinner like normal citizens. The hospital also gave us a lot of support.
The staff at the breakfast bar often sent their regards to us with hot coffee. Our colleagues also sent their regards in different ways. So, our life and studies were not really affected.
When the pandemic came to Italy at the end of February, I became the only Chinese doctor staying in Siena after my fellow doctors’ returned to China one after another.
But I was not afraid. I decided to stay to complete the training and help the citizens of Siena.
With the support and help from the Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, I had the courage and confidence to fulfill this mission. I continued to stay in contact with domestic benefactors about donating and distributing protective materials as well as providing anti-epidemic information to the Italian cause.
The process was not smooth for there were a lot of obstacles in raising supplies, delivering them to Italy and customs clearance. But thanks to the support from my motherland, these materials were delivered through different methods and all the proof needed was submitted to the European customs in time.
Although it took two to three times longer than usual, all the materials arrived in Siena successfully.
I sent the medical protective supplies to the hospital as soon as possible and sent the other protective gear to the local government, police station, military police and communities.
Due to these efforts, I received much respect from the citizens of Siena. The mayor and the chief of police of Siena interviewed me, awarding me a medal.
My tutor, Federico Franchi, also expressed his gratitude to me by email. Before I returned to China, he wrote me an email again, hoping I would come back to Italy in the near future and told me that I would always receive a warm welcome by Siena, its medical staff, and people.
On the morning of May 27, all the staff of the international office held a simple but grand graduation ceremony for me.
I was deeply affected when I learned that they practiced reading and writing Chinese poems like the one that goes ‘How happy we are, to meet friends from afar’ and ‘Why did you say that there was nothing to wear? I will take my own shirt for you to share’.
The process of the graduation ceremony included issuing certificates, giving gifts, expressing thanks, taking group photos and talking together. Before I left Siena, they brought Italian traditional cuisine to my dorm to say their farewells.
All the above reflects the friendship between China and Italy, between Nantong and Siena, between the Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University and Siena University Hospital. The kind of friendship two countries need.
Nantong and Siena, the two cities, have already conducted friendly exchanges for years.
Although I have returned to Nantong, my heart is still staying with Siena. And I believe our friendship will last forever.