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  • Hannah 1:19 pm on September 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Beijing University, , school   

    上北大~At Beijing University 

    So it’s coming up on two weeks in China at Beijing University. A lot is going on here, a lot to take in.

    One of the lakes

    Beijing University is huge. Really, really huge. There are about 30,000 students here and 5,000 professors. Add to that a whole lot of international students. The architecture ranges from older, very traditional Chinese architecture to newer, more modern buildings. One of the newer buildings is the library- one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries in all of Asia. There are also banks on campus, as well as cell phone and bike sellers. There’s a mini mart that has everything from a bakery to fancy dress clothes to a pharmacy.

    Library at PKU

    The Library

    The campus has multiple dining areas, from cafeterias (at least five) to sit down restaurants (I’m guessing somewhere between four and six). Eating in a cafeteria can cost less than a dollar per meal, and if you dine at one of the food stalls outside it can be even less than that.

    Delicious, delicious noodles

    Classes are difficult, but fun. The most amazing thing so far has been how many countries are represented in each class. In just one class there are students from Norway, Japan, New Zealand, France, Germany, and Thailand. It’s been fantastic meeting all of them, and being forced to use Chinese to communicate when we don’t share another language in common.

    Aside from classes there’s a lot going on. Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Tea Houses, Beijing Opera, and Hot Pot. A lot of markets and street vendors and haggling, and eating maybe questionable street food. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

  • grenphi 2:50 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Nanjing, pollution, pros and cons, school   

    Welcome to the Suck 

    When applying for study abroad, many people told me it would be “fantastic” and “awesome” and “the best time of your life” and… you get the point. I’m writing this post as much for the people reading stateside as for myself. In a few months when I’m home, I will hopefully look back on this post and remember what happened. Then, if I choose to promote the study abroad experience, I won’t sound like a car salesman. Let’s begin the countdown.

    3. Food Culture

    Really? He’s complaining about the food already? Yes, but hear me out. Most restaurants in Nanjing serve family style dishes. I can order dishes on my own, but unless I order 3, I end up with a strange nutritional imbalance in my meals. Therefore, my ability to eat a good meal without wasting extraordinary amounts of food or money is to go with a group (I could just go to a western restaurant, but why would I come to China to do that?). Thus, I find myself being somewhat more reliant on my fellow group members than I would like to be. This isn’t a huge inconvenience, but anyone who tries to coordinate logistics with a group of finicky eating college students will relate when I say this is a pain.

    2. School

    Ranking at a close second, school has been a surprising source of stress. I have language class from 8am to noon 4 days a week, 30 minutes of pronunciation practice and a 2 hour area studies class on Wednesday afternoons, 2 hours of mandatory tutoring sessions each week, and mandatory office hours with professors and advisors. Oh, there’s homework too, lots of it.

    Is this so bad? Not really. I’ve spent similar hours doing work at school, and sitting down to study and get things done usually isn’t a problem. What’s been an issue has been the type of work I’m doing. I usually enjoy studying Chinese, but 4 hour sessions of professors talking at me and giving me busy work is already driving me nuts. When I have the time to get a 6am training session in, I at least start class in a good mood. But after 4 hours of sitting in a box, I’m frustrated to say the least. There’s a whole country out there to explore, and I feel like I’m in a cage.

    Keep it real Calvin

    The tedium, combined with my quickly depleting interest in awkward textbook dialogues that seem to have little application outside the classroom, feels like high school all over again. Add on the fact that the American students have found out that the Chinese pronunciation for France (fa guo) sounds like “faggot”, and now it’s just like high school. (I’m a dual citizen of France and the US, if the readers didn’t know).

    Since it’s like high school, I’ve been doing what I did in high school. I draw cartoons, think about training, and do anything else in class that involves not paying attention to what’s going on or listening to my compatriots’ sense of humor.

    1. Pollution

    Squeeking in at first place, just above having my nationality referred to with homophobic slurs and sexist terminology while trapped in a box doing tedious busy work is pollution. “How could this be?” you might ask. Well, try coughing up a lung every day with a runny nose and sore throat, and tell me how much you like it. At least when being made fun of, I still have my health.

    Thank you Mentos, thank you.

    Coughing itself isn’t the worst. What actually worries me is the fact that I know with every breath I’m taking in a lot of carcinogens. A little research has indicated that the coughing is most likely a result of breathing in ozone and sulfur dioxide, which are both common in automobile exhaust. Who knows what else I’m inhaling. That being said, it could be worse: I could be breathing in Beijing.

    All of this in mind, study abroad has still been a good experience so far. I manage to find good food, I take my school frustration out at the dojo, and Mentos gum seems to minimize my coughing fits. The obstacles presented haven’t taken the joy out of exploration, learning a language, and meeting new friends. However, they are very real, present, and definitely weren’t included in the brochure.

    Best of luck to my readers and fellow Asiapod bloggers.


    • DougReilly 8:14 pm on September 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      You may have hit the legendary “Wall of Intolerability”. It may get better from here. Not the air quality, I fear.

      • grenphi 12:22 am on September 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I’m sure it will improve. I’ve heard that I’ll develop a tolerance to the pollutants, so symptoms will ameliorate. School and peers will pretty much always be what they are, but I’m sure I’ll cope with those too 😛

    • Juliet Habjan Boisselle 1:40 am on September 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Effective use of images on this posting 😉 Will be interested in hearing more reflections on the differences in language pedagogy and/or how you perceive your language scope and depth to grow through the months
      . I know I’ve had some pretty clear pivotal moments when I was leaning a language and things suddenly “clicked” — at multiple stages — such as dreaming regularly in the second language!

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