That’s it: my semester abroad at Fudan University finally began! The 13-hour train ride went very well (slept right through it:)) and I got to my Fudan apartment without any problems. Soon after the arrival, we started our week-long orientation. I got to know the American student in my program, the IES Shanghai staff, and our beautiful campus. I also started meeting the Chinese students at Fudan. I knew this university was one of China’s top educational institutions, but students here really impress me with their level of intelligence, devotion to learning, and involvement on and off the campus. Last week I started classes (a Mandarin course and three classes in English) as well as my part-time internship with Becton Dickinson. Therefore, the past two weeks have been extremely busy, especially as I’m still trying to get everything organized in the new city. That being said, I promise to soon provide you with a lot more details about my life in Shanghai and more specifically, my studies at Fudan.
It’s time to start a new chapter of my stay in China. On Sunday, I’ll be taking an overnight train from Beijing to Shanghai. Initially I was planning to leave Beijing a little bit earlier, but since many Chinese are coming back from Spring Festival celebrations, getting tickets for this week wasn’t easy. However, I think I should have enough time to make a smooth transition. My IES Abroad orientation begins on March 2nd and classes at Fudan University don’t start until the March 8th. It’s mind-blowing to me that I was able to learn and experience so much even though my study abroad program has not started yet. This was only possible because the hospitality and generosity of a member of the Wabash family, Khurram Tahir’01. I always told prospective Wabash students that the Wabash alumni network is one of our greatest assets and now I have yet another personal experience to back these words up. If it weren’t for Khurram, I don’t know if I would have a chance to visit China’s capital this year. It was an awesome opportunity and I did my best to use my time here wisely. I made good progress with my Mandarin and helped prospective Chinese Wabash men learn more about our college. I also started getting ready for the exciting upcoming BD Medical internship and made sure to go out to test the language and experience some of the things that the Beijing area has to offer.
Last week, for example, I completed the Jinshanling (金山岭) – Simatai (司马台) Great Wall hike. The views were amazing and I felt really lucky to have the chance to set my foot on one of the 2007 new wonders of the world. I will certainly miss Beijing as a city and all the people I met here, but it’s time to move on. I’m thrilled about the Fudan University semester. I’m sure it will be a time of personal growth, learning and… fun:) My first week will probably be quite unpredictable and very hectic. Therefore, it might take me a little bit more than usually to share my experience with you, but I will make sure that the next note gives you a good feel for China’s largest city.
Please continue keeping your fingers crossed as I’m waiting to hear about the Dill Grant. My C-ville host parents, thank you for your invaluable help this week.
Yesterday was the first day of the lunar calendar new year. As I mentioned in one of my previous notes, celebrating the New Year is very important to the Chinese. Saturday, the New Year’s Eve, was a very exciting time here in Beijing. During the whole day, and especially once it became dark, the sky was bright with fireworks. Many Beijingers I know spent this night at home with their families, but a lot of people also went out to celebrate with a larger crowd. I spent the New Year’s Eve with a few of my Beijing friends. We had a traditional Beijing meal in one of the local restaurants and headed for the Forbidden City afterwards. We made sure to be on the Tiananmen Square before midnight. I consider myself quite lucky to be able to greet the year of the tiger at that remarkable place. It filled me with hope that this year will be good for the world, especially as we start seeing signs of economic improvement in many countries. I am also confident that it will be a good one for the Wabash community (even though it’s the year of the tiger, I believe that has nothing to do with the Monon Bell Classic :-))
As I mentioned before, with a little bit more free time on my hands this week, I plan on doing some travelling. Being here completely on my own and not being a fluent speaker of Mandarin proved making outside of Beijing travel plans somewhat difficult, but with the help of a Chinese friend, I was able to book a Great Wall hike for this Wednesday. I will travel about three hours outside of Beijing to金山岭 (Jinshanling.) I’m really looking forward to this hike and I will surely share this experience with you in my next note. Also this week, I will be finally able to start making arrangements for my transition to Shanghai.
On Friday, I submitted my Dill Grant application for a very exciting project that would let me study Mandarin in China in this summer. Please keep your fingers crossed friends!
I can’t believe that my time in Beijing is slowly coming to an end. In two weeks, I will be taking the overnight train to Shanghai. Because I really don’t know when I will have a chance to be back in Beijing for an extended period of time, I am happy with my decision to spend this week’s holiday in the capital of China. With the short break from Mandarin classes that started just today (a little bit more a week), I will be able to take a few day trips and see more of the area.
The the upcoming semester at Fudan University is getting closer with every day. I keep receiving more and more correspondence from IES Abroad. In a few days, I will book my train ticket (in China one can only do so no more than 10 days prior to the planned departure date.) Just last Saturday, I had a chance to meet Christopher Qin, who will be one of the students in my IES Abroad Shanghai program. Chris is currently a sophomore at University of North Carolina and is originally from China. He stopped by in Beijing to visit relatives and discovered through facebook that I’m currently staying in that city. Chris invited me to join him for the Beijing Duck, probably the single most famous Beijing dish. Afterwards, we were also able to enjoy a very nice walk in the Choayang Park. It turned out that Chris is a very interesting and extremely friendly person. I really hope that all the people in my IES program will be as interesting. I also hope that I will challenge myself and learn a lot from the academic portion of the program.
This week I have a little bit of work since I have to submit my Dill Grant application. However, I plan to do so before the weekend so that I can make sure I have plenty of time to be out for the New Year’s celebrations, which I will describe in next week’s blog note.
February will be a very exciting month to spend in China. On the 14th of this month, the Chinese will welcome 虎寅, the year of the tiger. I observed red-colored decorations popping up everywhere and a great deal of people in the shopping areas recently. Very soon the country will witness massive internal movement as everybody will try to make it home for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year.) Being in China for the first time in my life, I am thrilled to experience this most important traditional Chinese holiday.
I still have to make up my mind on how I want to spend it though. Through the work I’ve been doing for Wabash College admissions, I was invited by a prospective Wabash student to welcome the New Year with him and his family in the Hunan province located in southern China. As appealing as that sounds, I was initially planning to celebrate here and use the short break from my Chinese classes to sightsee some more in the Beijing area since I haven’t had a chance to see many tourist attractions here due to my busy schedule. Moreover, I will be heading south to start my study abroad program at Fudan University soon after the end of the Spring Festival. However, no matter what I’ll end up doing, I will make sure to share it with you on this blog:)
As my friends at Wabash returned to our campus for another semester of liberal arts education, I realized that I’ve been in Beijing for a little bit less than a month now. I still clearly remember the excitement I felt when I was taking a taxi from the Beijing Capital International Airport to my Chaoyang apartment. Since my host, Khurram Tahir’01, was travelling at that time, I was completely on my own for the first 10 days. I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous knowing that I will have to face language and cultural barriers without any form of organized assistance. However, I thought that there is a unique value to this challenging experience. “If I can make it here within the next few weeks, I will be able to make it anywhere” I thought during the cab ride.
It turned out that with the help of Beijing friends I made during my first few days here, I was soon on my way to pursuing my January and February goals. Because my study abroad program at Fudan University doesn’t start until March, I wanted to primarily learn as much Mandarin as possible within those two months, acquire a better understanding of the Chinese culture, get to know Beijing, and prepare for the part-time BD Medical Shanghai internship.
I’ve been taking Mandarin classes for over three weeks now. Thanks to my very good teachers, I am already able to communicate a little bit in Chinese. This has been very helpful to my survival here, from everyday grocery shopping to trying to strike up very simple conversations with the wedding guests. It also helped me during my exploration of Beijing. As the capital of China and home to 12 million inhabitants, Beijing offers quite a lot, almost anything can be found here. On Sunday, for example, I attended afternoon mass in English at one of the Beijing Catholic churches. So far, my experience here has been very positive. I’m looking forward to spending one more month in Beijing. This weekend I will be finishing up my Dill Grant application, which I really hope will allow me to study Mandarin in China in the summer prior to my return on the campus.
During the second week of my stay in Beijing, I had a chance to discover a part of the Chinese culture not available to every study-abroad student. Apart from my efforts to learn Mandarin and get to know the city, I did something very unique: I had the pleasure of participating in a traditional Chinese wedding celebration.
This event took place in Zhuozhou City (涿州市) just outside of Beijing. In the company of my Beijing friends, I arrived in Zhuozhou on Saturday afternoon. We had a fantastic dinner with many Beijing dishes and I got to know the wedding couple as well as some of the guests. The actual celebration took place on Sunday morning. I was fascinated by all the different customs I was observing, but also a little bit nervous: my role at the ceremony was to read the official Chinese marriage certificate in front more than 200 wedding guests. Considering I’ve been learning Mandarin for just two weeks, this was a very interesting task. My friend Li Xin (李欣) wrote the text in pinyin (a Romanized system for Mandarin pronunciation) the evening before the wedding. I practiced doing the best I could to get all the tones right (Mandarin is a tonal language.) The result can be seen in the video below. The wedding guests said that they were able to understand me, which I consider a huge success 🙂
Overall, the wedding celebration was very different from the western weddings I attended, but it was very interesting and everybody was extremely friendly and hospitable. So far my time away from the Wabash campus has been eye-opening and truly unpredictable. Beijing as the capital of China is a great environment to learn the language. I am very thankful to Wabash for this opportunity and am also looking forward to all the things I will experience in the months to come, especially as my semester at Fudan University and my BD Medical internship start in March.
A semester spent off-campus can be an important part of the liberal arts education one receives at Wabash. It allows to explore academic areas not available in Crawfordsville. In my case, these are Mandarin and the Chinese culture. Almost exactly one year ago, I was selected to spend the spring semester of my junior year representing Wabash College at Fudan University in Shanghai, China. I am deeply thankful to Wabash for this amazing opportunity and plan to do my very best to make the most out of it. Therefore, I flew to China shortly after the end of the fall semester, even though my program at Fudan does not start until March. I will spend the two months prior to the beginning of the Fudan semester intensively learning Mandarin and helping Wabash admissions recruit future Wabash men in China. This early arrival would not be possible without the generous help of Khurram Tahir’01. Mr. Tahir greatly helped with all the pre-departure preparations and provided me with a place to stay: his fabulous 28th floor modern apartment located in the Chaoyang district of Beijing.
As I already mentioned, I will do my best to make sure that I am taking full advantage of the time I spend in China. Apart from being a student at Fudan University in the spring, I will also complete a part-time internship with Becton, Dickinson and Company, a global medical equipment producer. I will be working at their Chinese headquarters located in Shanghai. I received this remarkable internship offer from Greg Spencer’76, BD Business director for Asia-Pacific. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Spencer in Beijing on Thursday. We drank coffee and Chinese green tea while discussing the nature of work at Becton Dickinson. I am very thankful for this internship opportunity and will work hard to significantly contribute to BD Shanghai.
Since Wabash does not offer Mandarin classes, I am also currently preparing my application for the summer project Dill Grant available to Wabash students through the generosity of Michael Dill ’71. I would like to stay in China for the summer in order to learn as much Mandarin as I can before returning to Wabash for my senior year.
I devoted my first week in Beijing to learning Mandarin, getting to know the city, and making local friends. I survived a record snowfall and witnessed China dethroning Germany as world’s biggest exporter. Being a native of Upper Silesia, the most urbanized region of Poland, I really feel at home in the Beijing metropolis. It’s a great environment to learn the language. Chinese people are
friendly as well as extremely helpful and patient with foreigners who try to learn their language. I really feel that that this spring (and hopefully summer) will be a life-changing experience.