First 2 Weeks on Exchange: Frequently Asked Questions
The question I get asked the most by family and friends has been…
There’s no way to completely express how much I’m enjoying myself so I always say, “It’s great.” I’ve just finished my first two weeks of classes and I’m loving everything here. I wanted to post sooner about Tsinghua but each hour of each day has been packed full with learning, travelling, sightseeing, fun, friends, food, and sleeping—I’m exhausted every day! Living on campus, meeting new friends every day, eating in canteens, and figuring out how things work here reminds me so much of my first year at UBC. But even though so many things are similar, my experience here feels completely different and new.
How’s your dorm?
I live in the international student dorms at Tsinghua University. My single room has a bed, desk, drawer, sink, kettle, and bathroom. There’s a laundry machine on each floor but no drying machine so I just hang clothes everywhere in my room when I do laundry. Every other day, a cleaning crew comes to clean the rooms and take out garbage. One time, I heard some of them talking and one of them asked whether they should clean someone’s room because a few hours ago they found him on the bed with no clothes, haha.
By the way, the campus is huge so I bought a bike. I was wobbly on my bike at first because the last time I rode a bike was years ago. Everyone bikes here at Tsinghua. Classes all run on a standardized bell schedule so when a period ends, there is a bike traffic jam on the roads. I only bike on campus though. I’m sometimes scared to cross the road in Beijing, nevertheless bike on the roads!!!
How’s the food?
I don’t have a kitchen so I usually eat Tsinghua’s canteen food. There are a dozen canteens and the biggest canteen has five floors! I’m surprised how good the food is. (It is also extremely cheap. My cheapest meal was around 3 RMB which is $0.60 CAN.) There is a ton of variety so the canteens never disappoint. Sometimes, there is just a tad too much oil but it’s okay; it tastes good anyways. Outside of campus, the food is good too but obviously more pricey. I tried street food once, but I should’ve listened to my grandma, if you know what I mean. Anyways, there is good food everywhere but nothing beats a home-cooked meal at my grandparent’s. I go there once a week to see them, and to get fed, haha.
How are your classes?
I’m taking six classes (15 credits) at the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University. Three of them are taught in English, and three are taught in Mandarin. Okay, before you think I’m crazy, let me tell you that the Mandarin courses I’m taking don’t have any exams. All evaluation is based on participation, presentations, and reports, which my professors welcome me to write in English, phew! I can understand and speak Mandarin, but my reading and writing skills are maybe at a first or second grader’s level. I can read road signs and text messages, but not restaurant menus or textbooks.
For the courses taught in English, the level of difficulty is similar to that of UBC’s. It’s surprising because all my friends who went on exchange before said that all their classes were easier; but it’s also not surprising at the same time because Tsinghua is ranked the top school in China along with Peking University—they’re basically the two Harvards of China. Anyways, I’m in school to learn something so I’m glad the courses are a little challenging for me.
What else are you doing?
I only have class three days a week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, so I have time to do a lot of other things in Beijing. I’ve visited the Summer Palace and the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu so far. I also got my nails done, and went to sing karaoke with friends, haha. Tsinghua University is right beside Wudaokou so we always go there to chill. I’m planning to do a lot more sightseeing in Beijing and of course, a little bit of shopping. This weekend, I’m going to Xi’an!