Wang Hang, 28, joined the People's Liberation Army in 2009, when he was a second-year student at Fudan University in Shanghai. The son of a PLA Air Force officer had dreamed of emulating his father, but his decision to suspend his studies and enlist was met with incomprehension. "People said a young man like me - a triple-A student at high school who played the piano and was studying at one of the top universities - would definitely secure a good job after graduation. They said enlisting was a waste of my time, but I didn't think so," he recalled. "Serving in the army was my childhood dream. I wanted to make it come true." Despite the hardships he endured during two years in the People's Armed Police, Wang learned a lot, especially discipline and order. "At college, I played computer games until late at night and got up at about noon. I've maintained the habit of sleeping early and rising early," he said. He also became more independent: "Like many people born in the 1980s and 1990s, whose parents and grandparents dote on them, I was poor at handling daily life. In the army, you learn to wash clothes, plan how to spend your subsidy and deal with things yourself. That was when I really began growing up." New experiences Cao Xiaodong joined the PLA Navy Marine Corps in 2009 as a student of physical education at Hebei Normal University of Science and Technology. "At the time, I felt being a college student wasn't challenging enough and wanted to try something I had never experienced," he recalled. He didn't inform his family until he had formally enlisted: "They hoped I would finish my studies, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity." Speaking of the hardships he endured during training, Cao said every student soldier tells a similar story: blistered feet after running 5 kilometers in full kit; swimming in the sea and training under a burning sun; and continuing to train even with a twisted ankle. "At the time, it was really hard and painful, but looking back, all the pain and difficulties have faded and only the meaningful things are left - an iron will and comradeship with my brothers in arms," said the 27-year-old, who is now a physical coach in Hebei province. "Former soldiers are not easily defeated by life's difficulties and hardships." charity bracelets uk
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