The second half of my Spring semester studying abroad in Beijing
One of the reasons I love living abroad is because, whether for better or worse, my life changes every day. That being said, it’s been a few months since I actually wrote a post about what and how I’m doing on the other side of the world. Luckily, it was due to the fact that I had much more interesting/useful content to share, but I figure seeing as it is my blog, I might as well update anyone who wants to know how it’s going.
My Current Life
The best news I have to report is that the weather in Beijing no longer sucks the life out of you. Being from New Hampshire, I’m used to being cold and uncomfortable from December through April, but there aren’t many things worse than the combo of cold temperatures, excessive smog, fog, and pollution, and the constant tornado like wind that characterizes the Beijing winter. We get to enjoy temperatures in the mid 70′s for another few weeks before the miserably hot and humid Beijing summer begins, and we’ve been taking advantage of the time as best we can.
It took 3 months, but I’m finally settled into my apartment and my life. I figured out how to get my TV off of TV/Video, got rid of the smell in my fridge, I had keys made so I can now open my mailbox, although it’s not endless, I now can take a shower in hot water for more than 3 minutes, and I even bought a mop the other day. I also found a new place to get my haircut (10 kuai more than where I used to go, but still under $4), and I found a new dumpling shack that almost matches up to the one I used to hit up near CET.
Buying a bike was one of the best decisions I’ve made in this country. I take it everywhere – including my new haircut place and dumpling restaurant – and it has made living in a semi-inconvenient location a lot easier. The best part is that I no longer have to cram into the sardine can, a.k.a. Beijing Bus 355 or 110, to go to school at 7:00 AM (and yes, sardine can refers to both the lack of space and the excessive bad smell). Now it’s just an easy bike ride with my headphones on.
And as hard as it is to believe, I’m already more than half way done my semester at Beijing University.
Beijing University – Because I’m Still Studying Abroad
I’ll start by saying I didn’t really have any expectations as to what BeiDa (Beijing University) would be like. Because of that, it wasn’t a letdown by any means, however, if I were to be honest it isn’t nearly as beneficial as the intensive language program I went through last semester at CET. Part of it is my fault, or at least not theirs, and part of it is that the structure of the program just isn’t designed to help you learn Chinese at a quick rate.
I now realize why the language pledge that CET requires you to sign was so important. As I’ve said before, there’s no language pledge at Beijing University, so as it would be expected, people speak their native languages, even during class (I’m guilty as well). Learning Chinese is difficult enough – it’s even harder when you have Korean, Japanese, and French being spoken around you at all times.
Beijing University also lacks any sort of speed and the ability to effectively use/manage time. I now understand why (and am thankful for), on those days at CET when we were all too tired to even eat, our teachers came into class like Chinese drill instructors. At CET, I think we went through roughly 25 chapters in one semester; at Beida, it’s been 2 months and we’re now on chapter 7. And in this case, going slower doesn’t always mean more in depth.
When you’re forced to learn a language at a fast pace, you unconsciously absorb so much more information than you think. Say I only retained 75% of what I learned at CET, but 100% of what I learned at Beida (assuming we get through about 12 chapters), I still learned much more at CET.
I’m not attempting to put CET on a pedestal, and this isn’t meant to be a shot at Beijing University, since it does have its positives (tuition being 1/5 of what it cost to go to CET being one of them). I’m going to leave it at that for now because I think at the end of the semester, I’ll be able to write a review from a much wider perspective.
Plans For The Future
The toughest part about the past few weeks has been coming to the realization that my friends and I actually have to figure out where we’re going next, and although it’s not a bad thing, it looks like we’re probably heading in different directions. From an optimist’s point of view, at least it means we’re all starting to slowly figure out exactly what we want to do in this world.
As I’m writing this, my current plan is to stay in Beijing for the near future, as for how long the “near future” is, I don’t know. If all goes like it’s supposed to, I’ll be back in the States for a few weeks in the end of July and beginning of August before coming back here and seeing where life takes me next.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!