The latest installment in Communication Executive Libby English’s blog series with the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism.
I am writing this blog as I begin my second week back here at Peking University, otherwise known as Beida (short for Beijing University). I thought I would reflect on returning to China to enter my second semester after being away for the summer (New Zealand winter). I honestly thought coming back would be a lot easier than the first time as I wasn’t the new kid anymore. I was very wrong about that.
Like anything in China, always prepare for the unexpected. I did not start off the new semester on a great note as I got the start day wrong. Due to all information being in Chinese and very challenging to access, I read the wrong page of the website. This meant I had to book a flight to leave the next morning from the US and get straight into class.
I arrived late on Sunday night and met my new roommate, a lovely girl from Germany. However, I felt bad as I had to reassert my place on the window side of the room of which I had waited a whole semester for.
She had been sleeping on the window side for two weeks. The window side of the room is definitely the supreme side. It is more private, has access to the windows, curtains and the heat pump. I felt bad but you learn to be a survivor here and the only person on your side is you.
My life as a student here in China has come down to making sure I have the right side of the room. I never thought something so small would impact my life so much, it makes me laugh.
The second task was finding out what class I was in. When I first arrived in China, I had zero Chinese so placing me in class one was an obvious and stress-free step. I assumed that this semester I would be in class two. However again, never assume anything in life. I checked the notice board to see I had been placed in class five. Class five! That is the same level as class six and a lot higher than class two… I was astonished and low key stoked that my teacher deemed me decent enough to go up so many levels.
Nevertheless, this was a major shock come class time. My entire class was taught in fluent Chinese and literally zero English. I sat there wanting to cry for the most part and spent the rest of the time calculating my chances of getting asked a question and when that would be.
It turns out the higher levels are very interactive as everyone can speak Chinese and understand the teacher which again, like last semester, put me at the very bottom of the heap. To say the classes are an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. I was greeted with a test for the next day, on the first day of class and realised that things will not be any easier this semester.
If anything, it feels a lot harder. I decided to give it my all and be the girl in class that asks the teacher many questions. I went up to her after class to try and explain that I am a bit slower, but I really enjoy the lesson and want to learn fast.
She replied “I can’t understand” in very broken English but with a lovely smile. Suddenly it dawned on me that though this semester will 100% be the hardest thing I have ever done, my Chinese will definitely improve, I have no choice!
So, that sums up my very first day here back in Beida. I won’t even bore you with the rest of the week but I can assure you it involves a lot of sitting and staring at the teachers mouth to try and understand what’s being said; a lot of Google Translate and a lot of soul searching as to whether I should make life easier for myself and go down a class. Oh, and more tests almost every day! It will get easier, I hope. Wish me luck!