It feels like it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks here in China already, and the official start of my Yenching Academy classes is coming up quickly. The Chinese language program has moved at a rapid pace, covering a couple of lessons in our textbooks each week. I’m still very firmly in a beginner level of language comprehension, but I’ve started to grasp some of the vocabulary that I need to use in basic daily conversations, and it’s exciting for me to be able to recognize some of the characters I see on posters around campus, billboards in the subway, and signs hanging in the shops.
(That said, I don’t want to overstate how much I’ve learned in the past three weeks. I’m communicating almost exclusively using the word “这个” (pinyin: zhègè, translation: this one), and pointing at various things.)
We haven’t heard much about class schedules and such for the upcoming term, but students from the previous cohort have mentioned that the Chinese classes meet for fewer hours each week and cover less material than the summer program. At the moment, that feels like it would be a bit of a blessing – we go through so much every day that I’m several lessons behind in character writing. Having a chance to slow down a little without the fear of being left behind would be appreciated.
Physically adjusting to the city is taking some time – I’ve gotten sick with a bit of a cold, and I think that it’s taking a little longer than usual to bounce back because of the smoggy days we’ve had here and there. I’m thankful that the blue days have outnumbered the grey ones, and that I’ve been able to wander around the city a little bit with old & new friends. 🙂
Most of the exploring I’ve done thus far has been to different historic sites around the city, but I’m also starting to become familiar with some of the hutongs and figuring out places to eat and study. There’s one neighborhood that I like which is full of cafes, and I think I’ll be frequenting it when I want to get off campus.
I’m excited to move into the Shaoyuan No. 6 dormitories soon. For the summer language program, we have been living in the Global Village, which is located just outside of the East Gate. These buildings are certainly quite nice, but since they are temporary I haven’t unpacked most of my things & haven’t felt fully nested as a result.
The reality of living here for the next year is definitely setting in – I set up an account at the Agricultural Bank of China, went to the hospital with my classmates to validate my medical paperwork, and got a Chinese SIM card. I also had another coming of age in China experience, in that I made my first purchase on Taobao (a popular online retailer) to buy a new phone, as my Samsung phone from the States doesn’t read my Chinese SIM. I’m still relying mostly on my US phone, as it’s equipped with English applications and a VPN, but it’s handy to also have a Chinese phone number for administrative purposes.
Finally, I’ll be getting my passport returned on September 1st. In order to stay in China for the year as a Yenching Scholar, I have to be given temporary residence permit. I couldn’t apply for this back in the US (it can only be granted when in China) so I’ve had to hand my passport and proof of my completed medical examination to Peking University who will process the request paperwork for me. I was fortunate to already have an existing visa to China (leftover from my research trip to Shanghai with Penn’s Graduate School of Design in March), so I didn’t have to make additional trips to the Chinese Consulate in New York over the summer to get a temporary visa again!
It’ll be nice to have my passport back in my hands again, especially since I want to put it to use soon… We’ll be getting our first break from October 1st-7th due to National Day, and I’ve been talking with some of my summer school classmates about traveling to Hong Kong and Macau.
That’s pretty much the life update from the past two weeks! I want to thank the family members that have sent me emails – they have certainly brightened my day, even if I haven’t responded to them yet. ❤ My goals for the next few weeks: finding a sturdy secondhand bicycle, buying a couple of houseplants once I move into my new dorm, and figuring out how to get a gym membership to one of the campus gyms or local gyms in Wudaokou. Keep in touch!