I will have to take the risk now of sounding like a complete geek, but I have to say this: I love my new university! I don’t think I have ever been happier with a decision I’ve made. Last semester at Suzhou uni was so dreadful, I didn’t feel that I got anything out of it, rather, I just sunk back and became a background person never opening my mouth in class (not blaming this fact on anyone else but me).
Now, however, everything has changed. I am in a private class. It’s only me and the teacher. What we learn is mainly up to me. All my mistakes are corrected. All my silly questions are answered. I had my first lesson yesterday morning: “Intensive Chinese.” My teacher, Liu Laoshi, was a young girl who’s never taught advanced Chinese before. The book she brought in was way too simple for me (it was intermediate level, but must have been a very initial intermediate one because it felt like a level 3 book). We chatted for a while and she quickly agreed that we must change the book. Liu Laoshi is also my teacher in “Reading Online News,” which I am happy about. We got on well and she seems really smart. We talked a little bit about political/financial system and stuff and I told her that I’d really like to learn some more vocabulary surrounding things like that. “Sure!” she said. Awesome.
I had a 2,5 hours break in between my first and second lesson (great!). I spend this time walking around the huge and clean campus (feeling like a total UFO. I am so out of place here. During my one day I only saw 2 other laowais, everybody else are Chinese), checking out the lunch options. Note to self: must make friends soon. Not fun to eat lunch alone every day.
Eventually I bought myself a Chinese magazine, located a self-study room (!!!) and spent the rest of my time in there, reading and translating some articles. Good practice. I promised myself that from now on I’ll read one article/day.
At 2pm it was time for my second class: “Introduction to Chinese Culture.” This is the course I was going to take together with students from Hong Kong and Taiwan. On my schedule classroom 272 was listed, but when I arrived there was no one there. I waited until 2pm. Still no one. I called one of my teachers. She promised to look it up for me. 2 minutes later she called back:
-Sorry, our mistake, classroom 277!
Great. I hate being late.
When I walked into classroom 277, twenty curious eyes were watching me, probably wondering what the h*** I was doing there.
-Is this Chinese culture studies? I asked in Chinese.
-Sure it, the teacher said.
-Whoooooaaaaaaaa… said all the students (who obviously had not seen me as their potential classmate).
Now THIS class is going to be a challenge, that’s one thing that’s for sure! The teacher, Xie Laoshi, a man in his mid 40-ies, spoke really fast, and also really quietly? I’ve been spoiled with loud teachers I guess. In the beginning I could barely hear a word he said. He talked and talked. Said this was a class of only 9 students, and that we were going to be close like a “family” at the end of this semester. In order to start things off he thought we should get to know each other. Everybody had to go to the front, write their name on the board and talk about themselves.
Excellent. My favourite thing to do! (Not!)
As my fellow classmates started introducing myself I realized I couldn’t get half of what they were saying because they spoke so quietly. I really had to make an effort to get some of it. Soon, the teacher gave me a nod, meaning it was my turn.
I was so nervous! This wasn’t Mandarin level 4 or 5, this was a class with native speakers. Would they all be able to understand me? At first I stumbled a bit, then the teacher started asking me questions, which I had no problem answering (phew!) Once I was done the teacher said:
-I should explain to you all that Jonna is actually not doing a degree at this university. She’s studying Chinese, but because there were no other foreign students on the same level as her, we decided to put her in this class to listen and learn. I think we should all applaud her effort.
(OH NO! NO APPLAUD!!)
Big applaud followed. I am pretty sure I looked like a stop sign.
Next followed a test. All in Chinese of course. There are no short cuts around this course:
-Who was the first Chinese emperor?
-Who wrote the famous book XXXX?
-From where does the famous statement XXXX come from? Taoism? Confucius? Buddhism?
-From what minority group does the “qi pao” originally come from?
(plus 10 more questions of that kind)
And, my favourite part:
-Write an essay about how Buddhism relates to today’s modern Chinese culture.
We had 30 minutes. I didn’t do so well.
During our 15 min break I spoke to some of my classmates. Young, boys and girls from Taiwan. Really nice. But oh so young!
This course is going to include visiting famous cultural places/monuments of Suzhou, reflecting over Chinese culture, and, having a 1 hour presentation followed by a 1 hour discussion about something related to Chinese culture.
Yes you heard me. ONE hour. I’m definitely in for a challenge!
Outside the uni
Self-study room. All clean and quiet: heaven!