Course Overview

Although I have been taking classes for a few weeks now, I have only recently settled into the feel of each course and the style in which the professor conducts it.  Knowing that I would be attending the reputed “Best University in all of China,” I was sufficiently worried about the course load.  I also figured that, being an international student, I would be in a program unto itself, hopefully not as sadistic.  After all, I wanted to learn as much as possible but I didn’t want to be stuck in a library in China; the experience was as much about traveling, living, and working in China as it was about the classes.

Without having attended PKU as an in-country Chinese student, it’s hard to compare, although the work load is definitely more intense here in China than most abroad programs my friends are in.  They also have a different cultural standard here, which was apparent in the very structure of our classes.  To start off, the classes are three hours long.  That in and of itself is a struggle; there is also an ample amount of work, not to mention the 9 hours of Chinese per week.

Wang Laoshi (Teacher Wang) teaches Chinese, and is a young PKU grad student.  We have a quiz every class and frequently have to write short one-page essays in Chinese.  A regular class consists of three hours of oral exercises and practicing grammatical structures, and the bi-weekly tests can run a bit lengthy at over 8 pages.

Ma Hua teaches Marketing and Business in China and is an interesting guy.  He too is a young guy (early 30’s) who has had 8 years of experience in the technology/web software industry here in China, and has recently decided to teach this class on the side.  We read interesting articles and case studies and discuss the cultural differences of China and how they require different approaches than dictated by western business fundamentals.

Professor Yuan Jian teaches Rural Economics which focuses on the urbanization of modern China and all its economic implications.  She is an emphatic, well-spoken, small woman who seems to be passionate about what she teaches.  We talk about the economic drivers of both parts of China—the rural and urban—by studying the history of the transformation and the recent economic phenomena.  We will also be taking an overnight trip as a class to a rural village to learn, hands-on, the effect the modernization of China has (or does not have) on rural villages.

Professor Mike Chapman teaches Beijing: Its Urban History and Culture, and recently got his PhD in History at Boston College.  He is an upbeat, interesting guy, a scholarly type, currently working on a few theses/books and seems to have a lot of interesting stories.  Most notably he organizes walking tours around Beijing every Sunday enabling a more personal approach to what we’re studying.  He also arranges a social every Friday night when you go out to dinner, and a bar or two with your classmates.

Professor ChapmanNew Development

Walking Tour

Here, on our first tour, he is explaining how these traditional Chinese homes were built; we walked around the hutongs—narrow streets or alleys lined with traditional courtyard residences typical of old Beijing—and looked at a new development which manifests a growing revival movement away from monotonous high-rises to more traditional Chinese architecture, now with the incorporation of modern materials and technologies.  We also stopped for Peking duck at a delicious, traditional restaurant, and visited the Llama Temple (a.k.a. Yonghe Temple) which one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world—combining Han Chinese and Tibetan styles.  For a Friday night social we ate dinner in a small, hutong neighborhood where locals service a restaurant or food stand at the front of their homes, which was a great experience.
Eating in Beijing's Back Alleys

Chef at work amid the hutongs
Hutong Canapy
A Chef at work

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