Yes, I’m alive! I apologize for not posting sooner! According to my day-counter app, I’ve been here for approximately one month, and in that time, I’ve been pretty busy during normal weeks and spent most of the one holiday week we had with no internet (until my kind neighbor heard of my plight and was nice enough to share hers!)… So I’ll try to just give a run-down of my life so far without making this post too long.
First, allow me to set the scene: I live on the 6th floor of a 6-story dorm building with no elevator (hooray for Chinese building codes that say elevators aren’t required in 6-story buildings!), which makes for a great workout. My room is a 4-bedroom suite with two girls per room, one shared (sparsely-furnished) living room, and one bathroom with two toilets and two showers. We also bought our own washing machine that we share with some girls from other suites. I share my room with a girl from South Korea, and my suite is also home to two Russian girls, another Korean girl, and a Thai girl. As strange as it may sound, I haven’t really met my other two suite-mates yet, so I actually don’t know where they’re from. My room has two beds, two desks, one (very small) shared wardrobe, an air conditioner (thankfully!), and a balcony with a sink. We also bought a mini-fridge. Except for the fact that clothing storage is less than ideal and we’re not allowed to stick things to the walls (although it’s obvious that people have), living here is pretty comfortable. But I will not be sharing any photos of my room at the moment because I never had a proper chance to organize everything, so there’s stuff everywhere. Instead, please enjoy the view from my balcony:
I live on the Xiang’an Campus of Xiamen University. The campus is quite large, or at least, it feels that way. I think UD is probably about the same size if not bigger, but UD has a campus shuttle bus and a different layout. The Xiang’an Campus is laid out in a large east-west oval, with the main gate at the south. Just about everything is located around the circumference of the oval, and there are only a few paths through the center of it, so most of the time you have to walk or bike all the way around to get where you’re going. I live in the Guoguang dorms at the northwest part of the oval. My building is a roughly 5-minute walk from the campus’s smaller dining hall, which has a small supermarket and a few other shops on its 3rd floor. But the Overseas Education College (OEC), where I have my classes, is at the south part of the campus, a 20-minute walk away. And the bigger dining hall, as well as the bank, print/copy store, bigger supermarket, and post office, are at the northeast of the campus, also a 15-20 minute walk from my dorm (only 10-15 from the OEC, thankfully). And the east gate, outside which there are some shops and restaurants, is a good 20-25 minutes away on foot. It’s no wonder so many people get bikes when they come here…
I am in the upper-intermediate level and take 4 classes: listening, speaking, a general class that covers a little of everything (“综合 zonghe,” or “comprehensive”), and a training class for level 5 of the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test). I have an 8am class once a week – on Tuesdays – but no classes on Fridays! The listening class is mostly too easy for me, so it’s kind of boring, but my other classes are just right. Unlike in the US, I take all my classes here with the same group of classmates. I’m the only American, but the other students come from around the world: Indonesia, Thailand, Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Japan, to name just a few. There are 28 of us in my class, and we have 3 class “monitors” (班长 banzhang in Chinese) – I’m one of them, along with the guy from the UK and the guy from Argentina. (We were only supposed to have 2 monitors, but the two guys tied, so we decided to just have 3 instead of doing a tiebreaker.) Being a class monitor isn’t a huge responsibility; it basically means that if the teacher or a classmate needs help with something, they can ask us to help. For example, my zonghe teacher asked me to collect homework while she went back to her office to get something she forgot.
As far as new friends go, it’s been fairly easy to meet other international students, but meeting Chinese students is surprisingly difficult, considering I’m IN CHINA. All the international students, or those of us here for the language program, at least, live together and have class together – We have no Chinese roommates or classmates. This being a fairly new satellite campus, there aren’t many clubs, and it can be difficult to understand what exactly the ones that DO exist are, since everything is (obviously) in Chinese. But I’ve been told that I’ll be assigned a language partner (though I don’t know exactly when), and I did meet a Chinese girl named Zero who had to interview some foreign students, so hopefully these will become opportunities for me to make more Chinese friends! In the meantime, hanging out with other international students is great, too! I regularly sit next to a girl from Indonesia in class; I’ve been out to dinner with the Polish girls from my class; and I like to play board games or go out shopping with the other girl here from UD and our two friends from Costa Rica and the Philippines.
Overall, life is pretty good now that I’ve settled in. I have a basic routine and a good-enough understanding of how to accomplish all the necessary tasks, such as moving money from my bank account to my student card. If there’s one thing I haven’t completely adjusted to yet, it’s the food. I can’t identify enough of it to have a good variety, so I’m already getting tired of it. I eat noodle soup a lot because I have control over what gets put in it, but I eat it so much that the noodle guy recognizes me and remembers what I like… But I can’t say I’m surprised that this seems to be my biggest problem so far. After spending much of my summer on the other campus eating the same one type of pork (which is unfortunately not offered as frequently on this campus) at every meal, I anticipated that this would be my most persistent issue. Luckily, breakfast is good!