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. (more…)
The reality of teaching English as a study abroad student in Beijing
I just want to start by saying this isn’t a cliché post about the negative impact teaching English can have on learning Chinese. In fact, after struggling a bit to complete the final task on my list of major things I needed to get done in order to stay/survive in Beijing (i.e. make some sort of income), I actually decided to seek out an English teaching job. Long story short (although you should continue reading the long story below), after 2 months, I had “taught” a total of 2 students English, and had earned a total of $63.29 USD – oh, and I no longer teach English. (more…)
A little liquid cultural immersion
This probably goes without saying, but most students have a beer or 10 when they’re abroad. If you’ve read “The Ultimate Study Abroad Guide“, you’ll know that alcohol has a different place in cultures outside of the U.S., and that bar hopping and socials (which usually turn into bar hopping) are actually a important part of most clubs, sports, and activities. Not to mention alcohol usually has a connection to a country’s history, so visiting a place like the Guinness Storehouse and having a beer actually has an academic/cultural benefit. Here are my favorite beers and booze from my time abroad. (By the way, this was totally unplanned, but with St. Patty’s day around the corner, it works out pretty well.)
My first few weeks as a student at Beijing University
My 2 month vacation is over. In the span of the last 8 days, I went through orientation, registered, enrolled, and started class, and am now officially a student at Beijing University. So far it’s a been a completely different experience than last semester when I was at CET, and while I’m happy with where I am, being an American study abroad student who enrolled directly into a Chinese University definitely makes for a study abroad experience like I’ve never had before.
When I decided to continue studying Chinese in Beijing, I had to make a decision as to exactly how I was going to do it once CET ended in December. There were a few options: apply to another independent study abroad organization like CET, wing it on my own, hire a personal tutor, or apply directly to a Chinese language program at one of Beijing’s Universities.
CET was a great intro into China life (and probably a necessary one), and it’s pretty well known here that they have one of the best Chinese language learning programs around. However, it’s a little secluded over near the Zoo, for the most part you only interact with the other 50 or so people in the program, and it’s expensive compared to enrolling directly into a university in Beijing.
Hiring a tutor is also a pretty good option, and it’s not as expensive as you might think. As effective as it is though, I wasn’t ready to learn Chinese solely by the 1-on-1 method. I think social interaction, a.k.a actually being able to talk with other people while learning, is a big benefit which becomes pretty hard to utilize when you’re not in some sort of academic program with other students.
Winging it on my own was obviously the worst option out there.
So I applied to Beijing University, and after I was accepted in December, I decided I would keep studying Chinese through their Chinese language training program. In the end, it wasn’t a hard decision to make: I already had friends who were are in the program, Beijing University is considered one of China’s best Universities, it has a comparatively lower price tag, and being in a structured program would force me to keep up with my Chinese.
Here are a few other reasons I chose Beijing University (Beida for short):
A Real Gym:
|Working out at the park near CET was great, however, I’m no longer at CET and doing pull-ups on a metal bar in the middle of winter just wouldn’t be very fun. The Beida Gym is almost brand new, since it was built specifically to host the ping pong matches during the 2008 Olympics. I haven’t bought my membership yet, but every time I’ve walked past the weight room, there’s not a single person inside.|
A Real Campus
|The BIE campus (where CET is located) is great for intensive language learning…until you actually ready to interact with the rest of the world like a normal person. Beida is a real college campus. Minus the lack of American students, it looks a lot like most in the U.S. – places to eat, coffee shops that serve real coffee, sports, clubs students can join, museums, and our own lake. If you’re into flowers, it’s also located on the former site of the Qing Dynasty royal gardens.|
A Real Library:
|On the whole, I don’t read that much if at all. I probably won’t be in there too often, but if you do enjoy books, the Beijing University Library is one of the largest in the entire country.|
A Sizable Female Population:
|I didn’t actually choose Beida because of the pagoda, or at least not entirely, but it is cool to be able to say my school has it’s own. The Boya Pagoda is right next to Weiming Lake (literally meaning no-name lake) which is the center of one of the bigger parks in the northern part of campus. It might be one of the few places in Beijing you can go to get some fresh air. I’ve read that it’s actually just a water tower, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less awesome of a pagoda, just that it’s better than any other water tower out there.|
A Cheap Price Tag:
First Week of Classes
There are very few similarities between class at CET and class at Beida. There’s no language pledge, my classes have about 20 people, and most students aren’t from the U.S. Actually, in one of my classes, I think I’m the only person that is an actual native of America. Everyone else comes from Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, and more.
Being in a more internationally diverse setting is interesting, but because there’s no language pledge, learning Chinese can be hard when Spanish, Korean, and Japanese are all being spoken at the same time all around you.
As far as the workload, I don’t really know what to make of it yet. I do like all of my teachers, but I haven’t gotten a syllabus – that I know of – and I may never end up getting one. It’s not that it’s disorganized, it’s just that the structure of Beida’s program is very different. For right now, I’ll say my workload is a bit lighter, but I have to get used to a whole new textbook, a completely different class schedule, and the mystery that is the bus schedule, so I’m still pretty busy.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!