Zoe

Zoe

Through the program I was paired up with a language partner, who contacted me in the second week of September.  Her name is Zoe, and after speaking on the phone briefly, we arranged to meet up.  We met outside of Shaoyuan (the dorms for international students) and we walked around campus ending up at a local café for coffee and some food which I frequented early in the semester when we still did not have internet.  She speaks English very well and I tried my best to use Chinese, although it was hard in anything more involved than simple conversation.

She is a junior at Beida, and is majoring in English literature and is also learning French.  As we got to know one another, I instinctively asked how many siblings she has, not realizing the obvious answer.  That ubiquitous question never has to be asked or answered here in China.  She was really interested in the fact that I had three sisters and such a wide spread in ages (13, 24, and 27).  Zoe was born in Shandong province and explained to me the rigorous path one must take in order to end up at one of the best universities in all of China.  There is a central enrollment system—China’s Ministry of Education oversees all college applications in the entire country.  During the Chinese equivalent of high school, a nation-wide exam is administered and students opt to either take the exam in one of two categories: humanities or science/engineering.  Based on these results, students are all distributed throughout the various tiers of schools, from the most renowned, to vocational schools.  The system is also based on a quota-system pertaining to respective provinces.  Since Beida is in Beijing, it may be much easier to get admitted having grown up in Beijing, rather than be the top 2% of a more rural province.  Zoe was one of those lucky few, scoring in the top percentile of her province and getting selected to attend Peking University.  We talked for awhile about what we wanted to do upon graduation, and she is still deciding upon whether to get a job or go to grad school as she is interested in teaching.  She is an extremely smart, fun-loving girl and we stayed at the coffee shop, talking about cultural nuisances and personal experiences for awhile.

We more recently went to a museum to see the Qin-Han and Roman Civilizations exhibit where we saw various Roman statues and even some soldiers taken from the Xi’an burial site of China’s first emperor.

Roman ExhibitXi'an Soldiers

She is pictured above in the exhibit, helping me to understand what we were looking at.

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