Day to Day Life
Three months in and everything is starting to feel a bit routine, but in a good way. Classes start early here at SISU; 8 a.m. classes every morning. At first it was very difficult to get used to, especially for a night owl such as myself, but I am surprised to say that I’ve gotten used to it! In fact, I kind of prefer it now because it feels like I make the most of my day by starting early.
Regarding classes here at SISU, I would say they’re easy, but it depends on which level you get after the placement test (it’s not too bad, I promise). I hear from other BIB students studying in other cities in China that their experiences with classes are different than those at SISU though. There were some difficulties understanding how we were going to transfer classes back to Carleton, but other than that the classes themselves are easy and I really like my teachers. Ninety-nine percent of the time, my teachers speak in Mandarin and only rarely do my younger teachers speak English when explaining new vocabulary. It was definitely a change from my Chinese courses at Carleton, but a welcomed change! We just recently finished our midterms a couple of weeks ago and we had a short three day break from classes so we went on a short trip to China’s capital, Beijing!
After classes, my friends and I go eat lunch at some of the local restaurants. Most of us live on campus, more specifically the campus guest house. This is a hotel, not a student dorm, but SISU uses it to house international students as well as regular guests. However, because it is a hotel, there is only one common room for the whole floor to use. This room has a fridge, a washer and dryer, a microwave, sink and a hot plate. Each floor has quite a few rooms so it’s definitely not possible to cook for yourself all the time, or often. Even doing laundry can be difficult at times because there seems to always be someone else who is already doing it. For these reasons, my friends and I end up eating out every day, two to three times a day. I know, it seems crazy to eat out all the time but, food here is so cheap it’s almost laughable. One meal here costs between 10 – 35 RMB, depending on what you get. That works out to about $3 – 10 CDN! Sure, the cheaper the food, the lower the quality but regardless, the food is still pretty good. When you have to eat out all the time, you’ll be glad for the cheaper prices too!
TIP: Keep and open mind! Try new things! Remember that you’re in a foreign country and there are going to be things you’re not used to. When in Rome, right?
While on the topic of food, I would like to give some suggestions on local restaurants that I go to often. There are a lot of Chinese places surrounding campus and I would recommend that you give them all a try. China isn’t always like Canada, where restaurants tend to be very neat and tidy looking from the outside. Of course, if you go to nicer areas of the city you will find those types of restaurants, but the restaurants around campus are not always the best looking. Just don’t judge a book by its cover. I’ve discovered so many good dishes in these local restaurants and they taste so good, I go there almost every day! There’s also this teeny tiny American style bar called “The Joint” that is located 10 feet away from the guest house. It’s nice and cute and we met so many of our friends there.
While in Beijing, we stayed at a nice hostel that was only a 10 minute ride from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The hostel was tucked away in this small street that was full of small restaurants, more hostels, souvenir shops and stores. It felt so surreal being there because it really felt like we were in China. I’m pretty sure it was because we stayed in a huge tourist area, so everything was decorated in a very traditional Chinese style. Shanghai has Chinese style decorations too, but comparatively, it really is more of a modern city .
TIP: The website we used to book our plane tickets was elong.com. They have an English option on their website so it’s easy to navigate. It’s a great website to use when booking flights and hotels/hostels. If you have any questions, you just call the hotline and you’ll get amazing customer service in English. On top of that, if you give them your phone number they will text you reminders on your flights and confirmation of bookings and will call you if there have been changes in your schedule.
During this three day trip, we went on a hiking tour with our hostel to the Great Wall. The section they took us to was less touristy so we basically had the entire stretch of wall all to ourselves. Climbing the wall was such an amazing adventure. The wall was steep, the stairs were uneven, the wind was cold and our legs were weak from the hiking, but it was so worth it. It’s not every day that you get to go to one of the Seven Wonders of the World! It was an unforgettable trip, especially because I got to share this experience with my close friends.
On the last day of our trip, we went to Tiananmen Square and then to the Forbidden City. Unlike our trip to the Great Wall, this place was packed full of people, but the sight was something to behold. It was like being on a set of every Chinese drama you’ve ever seen or something from a video game. I never really realized how huge this place was until we got there. It was never ending!
Indeed, a lot has happened these past few months and I look forward to more adventures to come! The Spring Festival and Chinese New Year are only a few months away! We’re already planning out our trip for the month long break we have coming up in January…
Until next time!
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