Posts Tagged ‘Hangzhou’

Before I leave for Hong Kong I thought I would share a couple stories of Chinese people that I met since the start of my break. I felt it was important because, as I have mentioned before, our living situation at Zheda doesn’t really encourage international students to meet Chinese friends (though it doesn’t really inhibit it, it’s just that the effort has to come from you). Both of these are situations where I sort of “stumbled upon” some potential friendships.

First, I met a couple of girls at the No. 4 cafeteria. I had bought a food card and been eating at the cafeterias for a while specifically hoping that I would “bump into” some Chinese people, and it apparently worked. I’ll hold back on names just for now … well OK, their English names are King and Cherubin. We had a long conversation after dinner that covered a wide range of topics from Chinese food to Chinese and American perceptions of Mao Zedong, and today I had a long walk with Cherubin around West Lake and another long chat.

Second is a bit funnier. After I had got back from dinner that day, there was an older gentleman in the little shop inside our dorm who wanted someone to help him practice his English. At first I wasn’t so interested, but it is difficult to say no to old people in China. We talked for a while over coffee and then he invited me to dinner the next day (at a fairly fancy place, with dishes including duck tongue, hundred year old egg, and New Zealand beef). I found out that he was 53, has a son and a daughter, and that he will be retiring when he hits 60 and wants to travel to America after retirement. He also called his son-in-law, who works for local government, so I could talk to him and judge his English abilities. I didn’t spend much time with the man (who I know as Mr. Wu), but that little bit of practice did seem to do some good for his English.

Finally, I have been having conversations with the staff off and on. Some of the staff at the international dorm really like to talk to foreigners, and ask me about where I am from, etc. Of course, I will always hold that a big part of the experience of studying in Chinese in a Chinese university is communicating with non-English speaking staff. It’s essentially a certain amount of language practice that you cannot hope to avoid, even if it amounts to the laundry lady berating you for having too many clothes (more on that later, probably after Hong Kong).


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I thought I’d take a minute and describe my language courses at Zhejiang. Language education in China is pretty old school, teasing out the separate skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. There is also a much higher cultural awareness of the difference between spoken and written registers in Chinese, and that can be seen as you go into higher levels of Chinese language courses. I am currently in the 3-6 class, among the last of the "beginner" classes (probably could be considered low intermediate). The intensive language course is split into four different courses

精读 (reading / grammar): This class so far has put a huge part of the focus on memorizing vocabulary lists, with the bulk of the lecture being usage advice on a few of the key vocabulary terms. Every lesson we have a 听写 (listen and write) quiz on around 40 new vocabulary terms, some of them using new characters, others being compounds of characters we should already know. Many of the new vocabulary are for use in the written register (书面语 "book-language") — a classmate of mine who is Chinese-German with pretty much native-level spoken Mandarin remarked that a good number of them were new to her. There is also a short reading that goes with each lesson, and we are asked to construct sentences using new vocabulary.

口语 (spoken language): 口语 (kou3yu3) literally translates as "mouth-language", referring to spoken language, which this class was geared toward developing. To me the spoken language class seems to be a bit behind the reading classes in terms of grade level. Each lesson has two dialogues and a list of exercises, which include giving original monologues in front of the class. For me, this is the "fun" class, as I like having some interaction and involvement in my language learning.

听力 (listening comprehension): Older Americans might remember something similar to this class format. We were at separate desks each with a set of headphones and a small media device that was hooked up to the teacher’s computer. We then had to listen to recorded dialogues and answer questions about them in a workbook. Pretty much everyone I talked to hates this class, almost universally describing it as "boring". As I said before, language instruction in China is old-school, and continues to use techniques that aren’t that common in the US anymore. The highlight of the class is during breaks when the teacher plays Chinese pop songs for us.

阅读 (reading comprehension): This class involved reading a number of short texts and answering standard reading-comprehension questions (mostly multiple choice). The first lesson involved a couple of short essays, an article from Sina.com, some jokes and two poems. This class made me feel that I might have been placed a little too high, since I was missing a lot of information as I tried to read each text. I’ll give it some time before I think about changing, though.

All in all, the classes are not too bad. I feel like each one of them gives me some level of challenge. The only class I wish I could get rid of entirely is listening comprehension — to me it seems to be an outdated format that doesn’t add much to my learning and just isn’t as stimulating as the other courses.

[categories Expl, Trav, China]

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Sorry for the delay. Between figuring out my internet and generally getting situated I’ve been slightly busy.

So far Zhejiang University (浙江大学) has made a pretty good impression on me. Despite a few hiccups in the registration and placement test, I’ve managed to get myself pretty much settled in. The quality of the dorms is fairly reminiscent of some of WVU’s older dorms, and decently comfortable, and the restaurant in the international dorm has pretty good food (I haven’t actually sampled the other cafeterias on campus, though from looking they seem to be similar to what I saw in Suzhou).

My main complaint is that as an international student, my whole world is basically in this one corner of the campus, and it’s entirely too easy to just sit here the whole time and not go out and meet Chinese students, if you let yourself. That’s not a huge problem, though, as I’ve been walking around on the main campus a good bit and been able to strike up some conversations, and it’s not as if the international students here aren’t interesting — I have met some people from Spain, Australia, Japan, and a good number from South Korea. I’m hoping as time goes on there will be some events that include domestic students, and I have seen some potential opportunities starting to appear, more on that later.

Main Gate at Zheda
Zheda Main Gate by you.

International Student Dormitory
My Dorm by you.

The "supermarket" (超市) near my dorm
Campus Supermarket by you.

And of course …
Who do you think by you.
… this area is right inside the main gate, you can’t miss him.

Communication Status:

I have recently gotten my Internet working fully again. Most sites are accessible, and Flickr (which from reports had been blocked before) seems to be fully accessible, though Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress.com are still unavailable without using some sort of workaround. I’ve been able to get Tor working, but it’s very slow, so for people following this on Facebook, expect me to just check in once in a while, but not do too much there (having the new Facebook Lite interface is a help). Also, thanks for all the comments wishing me luck, sorry that I don’t respond to them.

If you really need to contact me, the best ways are through my IM services (Skype, MSN, and QQ) or through email.

EDIT: Not two minutes after I posted this, Flickr was gone again. Meh. Could be just me, of course.

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Well, I haven’t updated this for a long time, and I don’t think anyone is following at all, but I thought I would make a post to say that I will be going to China very soon, and that means I will probably be posting somewhat regularly (Internet connection permitting) once I get there.  As it stands now, my plane leaves Pittsburgh on Friday morning and I will be arriving in Shanghai late at night on Saturday (late at night over in China that is).  Updates when I get to China.

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So, since I’ve been starting to make arrangements, I decided I’d take a few minutes to post about my upcoming trips.  If you come accross this blog and don’t know me personally, I am a Foreign Languages major at West Virginia University, studying Spanish and Chinese Studies.  That might seem a little odd, and the story of how that came about is somewhat interesting,but I’ll leave that for another time — I generally tell people that with English as my first language, this gives me the three most important languages in the world.

Anyway, I started this blog to post about two study abroad trips that I’ll be taking this year.  The first one is to Guanajuato, Mexico (program page here), and it will be leaving May 9, meaning I’m hurrying to prepare for this one while at the same time studying for exams and working on final projects.  WVU has a number of exchange programs with la Universidad de Guanajuato.  This program is in there language school, which I’m told has a full range of courses from basic Spanish 101 up to advanced literature and culture courses.  I’ve already met several people from Guanajuato through exchanges and I’m very much looking forward to going there, partly because of friends there and partly because in three years of studying Spanish in the university (and a couple more back in high school), I have never been to a Spanish-speaking country or even to one of the predominantly Hispanic parts of the United States.  Mexico seems like a good place to start, close to home, I know people there, and it’s the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

My second trip is to Hangzhou, China (中国杭州).  I’ll be leaving in the fall to study there at Zhejiang University (浙江大学), one of the most prestigious schools in China, for a semester.  A semester study abroad is basically required for the Chinese Studies portion of my major.  I visited Hangzhou last year while studying on Suzhou (which is just to the north).  It’s near Shanghai, and while we didn’t stay long enough to get a good feel for the town, my first impression was that Hangzhou would be a good “home base” for a foreigner living in China for an extended period.  It’s in a fairly rich area, very foreigner friendly with a tourist-oriented atmosphere, but not as big as Shanghai or Beijing.  The size is totally relative, though — to me, as an American coming from a small town, what Chinese think of as a “town” is a big city to me.

Anyway, if I haven’t bored you enough already, come on back and take a look when I have something more to publish.  I’m hoping to do another post before I leave to talk about some of the things I’ve been doing to prepare for my trips.  Until then see you.

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