"I can't see, but I live like everyone else. My world is colorful," said Cai Dantong, a visually impaired high-school senior in Chongqing who was enrolled in her dream college recently.
In April, Cai, who attends the Chongqing Special Education Center, received her admission news from the musical performance department of the Special Education College of Changchun University, which noted her good academic performance and accomplishments in singing and playing the guzheng — a Chinese zither.
The college, which was established in 1987, is considered first among the few that provide higher education for students in China who have vision or hearing problems.
"The competition was fierce. I heard only six of the 43 visually impaired candidates were enrolled," Cai said.
A premature baby at birth in Jieyang, Guangdong Province in 2002, Cai lost her eyesight in early infancy because of a medical accident.
Yet her parents took her out often, creating every possible chance for the girl to explore the world — cycling, skateboarding, swimming and surfing.
At age 6, Cai heard guzheng music playing on her father's car radio and began developing a keen interest in the instrument, whose sound has been compared to gurgling water.
She started to learn the guzheng, but it took far more time for her to master the instrument than it did normal children.
"When I was little, it took me a month to practice a 3- to 4-minute piece, and three months to practice a 7- to 8-minute piece, depending on its difficulty," she said.
"The biggest challenge for me is memorizing the music score. A normal person can watch and play, while I have to learn all the scores by heart."
Cai said she had to memorize the 21 strings of the instrument and the distances between them as well. With tremendous amounts of repeated practice and exceptional talent, Cai formed muscle memory to help her play and gradually mastered it. She earned a Level 10 guzheng certificate at age 16, and won several national musical competitions in recent years.
To prepare for the college entrance examination, Cai practiced for more than four hours a day.
"I feel blessed to be born into a nice family like this, to study in a good school and to have teachers and friends who have given me so much love and support," said Cai. "Their laughter has provided great encouragement."
Cai looks forward to college life this fall. "It is my dream to study with the normal students," she said.
"I love music and will apply for further studies in four years. I want to serve as a music teacher for disabled students in the future, to let them know that we can be just as good if we try."
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