The First Month
This first month is all about getting settled. Getting basic living needs met. Understanding each class’s workload and expectations. Meeting people who may become friends. In some ways, this first month has been unsettling in that I was not always sure how to do certain things. It took nearly two weeks to figure out how to connect to the internet in my room. I didn’t always understand what our teacher intended us to do for homework. What time should I use to study? When can I spend time relaxing? Exploring? An added challenge was where and how to make friends? My class has about 6 students including me and another CIEE student. Two other courses have only me and the other CIEE student. A few weeks in, my fourth class began which has me, the other CIEE student and about 12 Chinese students.
My schedule looks like this:
Don’t be fooled by the blank spaces. Those are the times when I am memorizing Chinese characters or reading for class.
|8-12pm Chinese||8-12pm Chinese||8-12pm Chinese||8-12pm Chinese||8-12pm Chinese|
|12-12:30 lunch in cafeteria||12-12:30 lunch in cafeteria||12-12:30 lunch in cafeteria||12-12:30 lunch in cafeteria||12-12:30 lunch in cafeteria||Laundry/
|2-4 Cultural Activity||2-4 Spoken Tibetan||2-4 Language Partner Exchange|
|4-6 Ethnic Relations||4-6 Visual Anthropology|
|7-8 Chinese Tutoring||7-8 English tutoring||7-8 Chinese Tutoring||7-8 English Tutoring|
This has more or less been my weekly schedule since coming to Beijing. My 12-day mid-semester field trip was an exception. The classes in purple are all through CIEE and are centered around giving us a taste of the cultures of China. My lunches are nearly always with students from my Chinese class at one of the campus cafeterias. The cafeterias have such a diversity of food that I have not and will not be able to try every dish in this single semester.
“English tutoring” is the time I spend with my little Chinese student off campus which also gives me a little spending money each week. My “language partner” is a professor at the university who wants to practice her spoken English. We speak for one hour in Chinese and then one hour in English. I’ve learned a lot about Chinese culture from listening to her stories (you have to have something to talk about for an hour) and it’s been nice to have someone I don’t feel so nervous speaking Chinese with since we are both in the same language-learning boat.
In the beginning, I studied in my apartment and sometimes in coffee shops, but now that it’s near the end I realize I have become a regular at several nearby coffee shops. (This is a habit I picked up in Madison!) I think my time in Beijing is too limited to spend so much of it stuck up in an apartment. I’ve been to the university’s library several times. I think it’s a bit too crowded, somewhat like College Library, and there aren’t many electrical outlets. I use my computer to search words I don’t know. Other Chinese students use classrooms as their study space which seems like a good idea, convenient. For me, I like using ‘finding a new coffee shop to study’ in as an excuse to see a new part of town and meet the people there.
That’s all for now. Writing this entry has been a study break. Tomorrow I have an oral exam!
‘til next time,
PS I am still working on the Qinghai entry. It will come soon!