Beijing - Students Write! Hear from Brian, Brett, Ethan, James, and Rachel

July 4, 2017

Today was the first day after signing the language pledge. Wow, what a day! 

For me, it was a day of asking questions and hoping to receive answers within the range of my vocabulary. We started our day at 8:30 eating breakfast with our roommates and RAs.  This was followed by a short assembly where the daily schedule, temperature, and air quality was announced, all in Chinese of course. Then we went to our morning classes, which were mostly review. Even so, the lesson was packed with words and phrases I have not learned after two years of Chinese. 

We had a packed lunch in our classrooms with rice, vegetable medley, and beef curry. Cultural classes were next; I was assigned to calligraphy. We learned about the order in which the strokes are written and got the opportunity to practice writing characters. The highlight of my day was getting a chance to walk around Bei Jing. 

In my group, we used the skills we learned in class to conduct a basic interview with people from the city. My teacher used her phone to let us ride two of the bikes that flood Bei Jing. If we weren’t wearing our red MIL t-shirts, I’m sure we could’ve passed for natives. After our excursion there was an hour to relax, shower, or work out. 

At 18:00, we met in the lobby for dinner.  My class went to authentic restaurants that showcased food in Bei Jing. Everything comes family style, so you have a chance to try everything. My favorites were the eggplant and the spicy fish soup. There was so much to eat and everything was delicious!

We walked back to the dorms with full stomachs but our RA offered us ice cream, how could we resist? The day was finished in classrooms where we played games and sang songs. I wonder what challenges, adventures, foods, and new Chinese words tomorrow will bring? Stay tuned to find out.           

- Brian



Our first day of the language pledge was of course challenging. It was the first time we were attending our Chinese classes, culture classes, and also we went into the streets of Beijing.

I think everyone was slightly nervous waking up that first day, concerned that they would not be able to abide by the pledge. However, as the day progressed, everyone became more comfortable with communicating in Chinese. We started the day with our Chinese language class, were we were introduced to the syllabus. Every day we will have a small quiz on the words from the previous day and will turn in the writings we had done the night before. I believe the class is very challenging, but will push us to improve greatly in the short period of time we have here in Beijing.

After lunch, which consisted of authentic Chinese dishes, we attended the culture classes. I participated in the Taichi culture class where Taichi teachers came to teach us some basic techniques. I think the language barrier became very present while we were participating in the Taichi culture class, as there were many times when we had no idea what the instructor was saying. However, I think these experiences will push us to work harder to understand and communicate with the locals. Taichi was a lot of fun as it was something new to me and I look forward to continuing it in the future.

I’m sure some of the parents are wondering how we are coping with the air pollution, but it is honestly not that much of a problem. The past two days have had low pollution levels, so wearing a mask has not been necessary. All the air indoors is filtered, making it very refreshing to come inside after walking through the streets. 

So far, the camp has been a lot of fun and people are making friends quickly. I know that by the end of this, all of our Chinese will have greatly improved.

- Brett




Today was many students’ first day of exclusively using Chinese, as everybody, including staff, had signed the Language Pledge last night. In the morning, we began our first set of classes after eating a delicious breakfast of sandwiches, bananas, orange juice, and suan nai, a Chinese yoghurt drink.

Divided up by skill level, everybody attended a class of about ten to fifteen. After class, we all split up into four groups to partake in Chinese culture classes. This morning we had been presented a choice of calligraphy, tai qi, Chinese painting, or kung fu. I personally chose calligraphy, which is far harder than it might seem.

We ate lunch in our classrooms, talking about our culture classes and the new vocabulary we had learned. (In Chinese, of course) After lunch, our teachers and R.A.s lead us on excursions around and outside the CNU campus. My class walked around, asking different locals questions about themselves.

As a former New Yorker, the thought of walking up to strangers to ask them personal questions horrified me, however I was pleasantly surprised by both the local’s friendliness and willingness to answer our questions. Once we had completed our assignment of interviewing three locals, we continued to walk around, and stopped in a market. Some shopped, while others conversed with shopkeepers or more locals. I bought a 2 liter bottle of iced tea for 6RMB, which works out to less than one USD, and had a fun time learning how to read parts of the nutrition label. (It has 180 grams of sugar, sorry mom.)

We returned, had some free time to do homework and hang out, and at 6:30 we gathered in class groups to go to dinner. My class wanted to go to a dumpling shop, however when we got there we realized that the shop had sitting room for about five people, so our group of twelve went to the Japanese restaurant adjacent to it. Everyone, already jaded by China’s cheap food, complained about the pricing, despite it being quite cheap by American standards.

After dinner we returned to CNU and played games such as du lao shi shuo, a modified version of Simon says, and jian zi, a Chinese crossover of badminton and Hackensack. Speaking in exclusively Chinese was difficult; however it was still a very fun and exciting day.

- Ethan




Ni Hao! Or hello if you are still in the United States!

Even though it has been only one day I feel that I am slowly converting over to the Chinese langue, with simple things like saying hello in Chinese without thinking, or doing small Chinese customs that one would only know by living here.

China is so different in many ways, like eating as a family for every meal, even if everyone in the dining group are complete strangers, or learning which water to drink from as a foreigner. Even though we are a thirteen hour plane ride away from home I still feel like a small cut of America is with me, because I get to travel with sixty other awesome American kids just like me! Kids that are excited to learn the langue and use the language pledge to the fullest. Kids that are ready to try crazy foods that I would never dare to try. Also, kids that make me feel at home when I am not - kids that are slowly bonding into a family.

The first day has been great and I can’t wait for the rest of the month!

Happy Fourth of July From China!

- James




Today was the first full day of the language pledge. Everyone is still getting used to completely switching to all Chinese, but by the end of the day, it has already become easier and writing this blog in English is already becoming harder. Today my class had the opportunity to walk the streets around the campus and interview Bei Jing locals.

It was surprising and satisfying how much we could understand and it was interesting to hear about their hobbies and occupations from a completely different culture than ours. Also the locals around this area seem to really like talking to us obvious foreigners.

There has been some culture shock, especially with the bathrooms (sitting down toilets and no flushing toilet paper) and using bottled water for almost everything. We also have been to the supermarket a couple of times already, which is called ‘Wumart’ (almost walmart).

It is much larger than it appears on the outside and has so many types of food, candy, and drinks that I am sad I will not be able to try all of. However, we have already tried a lot of the mystery meat and other unknown foods and it has been really amazing to experience this culture through food as well as in the classroom.

We can’t wait for more adventures and learning experiences to come!

- Rachel

Greetings from Beijing!