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Beijing: the two-week pre-course (Post #4).

This post is about the two-week pre-course of the study abroad program and about the my campus experiences so far.

The first day of the program officially started on Tuesday, June 19th. We received a welcome package that included individual name tags, maps of the school and the city, our school ID cards (aww yeah!), and a program guidebook.

Our program director’s name is Tang Laoshi 堂老師. He reminded me of Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino. He is about the same age, wears the same button up shirt tucked into khaki pants, and has white hair combed back. Moreover, he’s just as bad ass: he’s the first Caucasian man I’ve ever seen speak Mandarin with a perfect Beijing accent. On top of that, he is also fluent in Taiwanese. His demeanor reminds me of Captain Graham.

During the first two weeks of the program, us UC students attend lectures given by professors about various topics in China. We went through three during the first week: On Tuesday, we listened to a lecture called “Journey through Chinese Art: Lift & Philosophy in Scroll Painting.” On Wednesday, we attended the Beijing Capital Museum 首都博物館 with the professor. On Thursday, we were given two lectures: “Air Pollution and Health Effects in Contemporary China,” followed by “China’s Higher Education.” Besides attending these lectures, we were free to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the day.

The classroom where we listened to two of the lectures.

Part of my free time has been spent exploring the campus. The southeast part of campus is the PKU Gymnasium 北大體育館 where some of the 2008 Olympic Games were held. I work out in a small weight room on the first floor, whereas other floors contain volleyball courts, basketball courts, a martial arts room, so on and so forth. I’m glad that I’m able to exercise indoors, as I actually have chest pains from inhaling too deep outdoors.

North campus contains classrooms and buildings in traditional architecture. Doors and walls are embroiled in red paint with colorful mosaics decorating the top. Lion sculptures are positioned to the right and left of many classroom doors. Rooftop tiles are made of painted bamboo trees. It’s what I imagined what past dynasties would look like.

There are several cafeterias and restaurants on campus. I’ve eaten at Nong Yuan Restaurant 農園食堂 and a noodle place a couple times each. Unlike Berkeley’s Crossroads, orders are placed on individual items. The food tastes good, but some items contain too much salt or vinegar (including vegetable plates).

Nong Yuan Restaurant 農園食堂 on campus.

What I ate for lunch one day. The total cost was 13.10¥ or $2.08.

Central campus contains many beautiful columns, buildings, gardens, and open fields; I won’t talk about these areas because I don’t know their names and significance. West campus contains the famous West Gate 西門 which is one of the landmarks of Peking University.

West Gate entrance.

Lastly, I walked through southwest campus on the perfect day. Graduating seniors were selling their books and I ended up talking to a group of them. Many of them had spent a semester or summer abroad in the US, and one of them was name Rui Sun and she had studied in Berkeley for a summer! I was impressed with their English as well; they understood everything I said to John and Lucas who walked through campus with me. I spoke with them for over an hour in Mandarin, and they were able to correct/teach me Chinese words or phrases that I didn’t know.

The area where students were selling their books and course readers.

Considering how burnt out of school I’ve been this past year, I’m surprised at how much I’m anticipating actual classes to start. I’ll be taking three courses: Chinese Foreign Policy, Society & Politics of China, and a Chinese language course that I’ll have to take a placement test for. I’ll be taking courses with other international students, and I can’t wait.

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