Hello again reader.
If my count is correct, today is my twelfth day in China. I was not able to blog during the past few days due to the extremely busy orientation schedule, and it hasn’t helped that my choice to upgrade to Windows 10 has effectively impeded my VPN from connecting. But I’m here now, and I’m going to talk about what I’ve been up to.
Health Forms and Move-in
I made this video the morning after my first night in China. I show what my living situation looks like (including the toilets), some video of the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of WWII, and I take a short walk to the gym across the bridge. In the video I mention I had to go to the doctor again to get all the tests done that I already underwent in the United States. It was rather annoying considering I don’t enjoy getting my blood taken, and foreign students were told that the only thing we needed to bring was the physical exam sheet filled out by our family practitioner. More or less every foreign student had to redo their exam for the cost of 400rmb. As such, I would actually suggest future CUEP students to not complete their physical exams in the United States, and instead only visit their doctors for vaccinations and other advice prior to departure. There is a whole day dedicated during orientation for the doctor visit and there are shuttles to take you there.
As another note, between August 31st and September 2nd, Peking University was running shuttles from the airport to the international student dorm for exchange and scholarship students. I didn’t get this email until long after I scheduled my flight, so a friend of the China Center booked a cab for me. If you have yet to book your flight, perhaps this service will be useful for you and you should try to arrive on those days. Also be aware you need to pay a 1000rmb deposit regardless of your scholarship when you arrive to cover any damages your room may incur during your stay.
Beer! Beer! Beer!
My first impression of Beijing is mostly positive. Everything is extremely cheap, which is pretty meaningful for a poor college student. A dish at a Chinese restaurant will cost around 18rmb. Currently, 100rmb = roughly $16 so you can do that math. For those who don’t know, I love beer and I was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoy the Chinese versions of the beverage. Tsingtao seems to be Beijing’s equivalent of MIller or Bud and I highly suggest it for a casual beer with friends. I don’t suggest coming to China to find cheap alcohol (a good portion of it is fake and will make you sick) but the other night I spent 15rmb for a decent gin and tonic.
Chinese Level (中文水平)
As for my Chinese, I was pleasantly surprised to find I don’t have too much trouble getting across what I want when I talk to people. Ordering food is a piece of cake. Asking for directions usually results in me picking up the words “across the street” or “that building” accompanied by a pointed finger and a slew of Chinese I don’t understand. I’ve been able to tell people where I’m from, where I go to school, and have the conversations I know I have practiced a thousand times in the U.S.. It seems my level of Chinese is about average for someone who has studied as long as I have outside of China, and quite a bit better than other foreign students I’ve encountered here. There are exceptions though, and it is pretty common for me to meet people who are doing their master’s at Peking (my Russian friend Oleg for example) completely in Chinese and have lived here for several years. I was placed in intermediate at the school of Chinese as a Second Language here. After looking through my level’s book, I’d guess I know about half of the vocabulary being presented. Some students have decided to jump up or down levels and to be honest I do worry my class may be slightly easy for me. But I also think intermediate is good because it will give me a chance to really ensure I know all of the most essential vocabulary. I’ve found the advanced books often deal with vocabulary that is rather specific to majors and career fields, as well as common metaphors and sayings in Chinese. I feel I will learn these things in real life situations more often than remembering them from books. Tomorrow I have my first day of class so we will see how things go. The registration system is sort of a mess so I’m not sure exactly which electives I will be able to take yet, but after I’ve gotten into the swing of things I hope to tell you guys all about classes at Peking.