Arrived in Beijing

Since I emailed you at Narita, I boarded the next flight which I think was even more comfortable than the first. The chairs were weirdly shaped- with their backs resembling round pods. As we took off, I was exhausted, and quickly found out that they are specially designed so that you can lie completely flat, which was amazingly comfortable. The chair reclines like any other of the nice leather chairs, but then can recline further within its pod (without moving farther down and farther into the space of the person behind you- kinda cool.) I stayed awake long enough for the meal, teriyaki skewers, and then passed out.

I arrived in Beijing at 10:30 p.m. local time completing my 20 ½ hour odyssey across the world. You know you’ve been traveling awhile when on the first flight, the attendant hands you a wall street journal from Friday, and on the next flight, has a brand new, hot-off-the-press journal from Saturday morning.

As arrived at airport, I was the 1st off plane, being in the 2nd row, and therefore was the first to clear customs, and walk out officially into China. When I walked out I was looking for a “Beijing Studies Institute sign” but there was none. I checked twice and still no luck so I sat down for a bit, thinking he had just not come yet. About 10 minutes later I went over to check again and sure enough an instructor named Shao (or Andrew) was holding up the sign. He had been there the whole time but didn’t think any students would be coming out so early.

There were two other Peking university students on my flight from Narita, one of which I sat near when waiting to board for a few minutes. She said it crossed her mind that I may be in the program because I looked American and young enough, but that she decided I was there for business instead… which I loved of course haha. She was from Hawaii and goes to Lewis and Clark there was another guy from Colorado University.

We all got in small Peking University (or Da Xue as one says in Chinese) bus and headed out for 30 min to campus. Shao and I talked for a while about his experiences and a bunch of things and he told me that Beijing is set up in circles or rings around its epicenter. These rings are large roads or expressways and in between these rings are expansive blocks with high-rises, houses, and all types of buildings. Da Xue is on the 4th ring, and is actually very far from the middle of the city. The city of 12 million according to the governments (but probably 20 million in reality) is extremely expansive.

We soon approached one of the gates to Daxue, and a uniformed security guard let us in. Immediately to our left when we entered was a huge pond, although it was hard to see because it was so dark. We drove for a few minutes, and I got a sense that the campus was pretty large. Eventually we arrived at a complex of a few buildings called Shao yun, the dormitories for foreign students. There are probably 5, 5 story buildings which make up just their international student housing. I have heard that they have 2,000 international students come and study at Daxue throughout any given year. But for now, there are about 70 kids in our program, and we are the only one’s occupying Shao yun.

We are in the 5th building and when I walked in, I immediately got the sense that I was in china. Right after entering, we talked to an elderly man reading a newspaper in a little window on the right. He handed us our keys, and with the help of Shao, we went to our rooms.

We had to then lug our luggage up to the 4th and 5th floors; there are no elevators. My first impressions were that the building looks a bit run-down inside (and outside- I think these were built in the early 80’s). The doorways are all pretty narrow, probably with a clearance of 5’9. I reached room 406, where I will be living, and there is a bathroom on your left, a room with two beds on your right, and another single dead ahead. The single had already been taken, and so I dropped my bags in the double. Someone was sleeping in one of the beds, and upon my entrance, sat up. It was Peter Torpoziki, a fellow SJP grad and BC classmate; I was really glad to see someone I knew. I quickly found out that our other roommate was also a BC kid named Jacob, whom I had not met before. Both had taken a year of Chinese but Jacob had just come back from spending his summer in Taiwan teaching English (more or less serving as a language partner for young students).

That night, Peter stayed asleep and my other roommate was out, so I walked down the hall to meet some other people on our trip. We ended up just staying up for awhile talking about our trips here and what to expect. There were signs around our rooms such as “No smoking in beds” (you could in the rooms as the blackened walls indicated) and not to touch the water. I wanted to go out and explore the campus, but jetlag soon set in and we all went to bed pretty early.

In the morning, we all met out in front of Shao yun, and split up into groups to tour the campus. Our group went to the History department, which runs our whole program. There is a courtyard in front of the building much like the house in Salem, Yin Yu Tang, and a huge banner with “Welcome to the Beijing Studies Institute” hung over the entrance.

CHINA 065

We gathered into a room and a professor, whom I recognized as the man who had come to BC to talk with us about the program last spring, gave us a welcoming. He congratulated us on a good decision to come to China and how this country, and the world as we know it, is facing unprecedented change. He talked about how just 4 months ago china became largest automotive market in the world, surpassing the U.S. He said, 15 years ago no one would guess that China would become the economic powerhouse it is today, not even China’s leaders. During his teenage years, China’s GDP per capita was $300, today it is $9,000. He talked more about his experience growing up in China and the transformational phenomenon still in progress here, and across the world. It was a very interesting and inspiring talk. He gave a few more words on safety and about how everyone associates one word with Americans: rich. From there we started our tour of Daxue.

The campus is enormous, much more so than I had imagined the night before when arriving in the darkness. It’s a city (literally) within itself, with spanning fields, tennis courts, ponds and lakes, and stadium-sized buildings which all dwarf BC’s Conte Stadium. Everywhere you look is an opportunity for an amazing picture: ivy-laden buildings with distinct Chinese arches; bikes, mopeds, and vans all pout about across tree-draped walkways and roads. Bikes are everywhere, often with girlfriends or family members balancing fearlessly on the tiny platform over the back tires. There are more than 20 restaurants on campus, and I got the notion that more than just the students and 5,000 faculty walk around the campus and use the facilities. Two sophomores at Daxue showed us around, Angela—who is majoring in Persian, and Benjamin.

Walking Around Daxue

History Dept. BuildingHistory Dept. Building

After a quick tour of a fraction of the campus we had a 120 minutes writing test which was… to say the least, awful. After that grueling experience we had an Oral interview with two faculty members which was hard for me because they spoke so fast, but I think I did alright.
After the tests, and various meetings, we had over two hours to do whatever we wanted. I got a small cell phone for local calls with 200 minutes at a close convenience store on campus, Wu Mei. It is actually pretty big, and it is entirely underground, with shoes, jackets, a grocery-type-store area, electronics, and just about anything you would need.

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