Beijing Blog

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  • Student Entries

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    Throughout their time here in Beijing, all of the students have been active participants in the program. I know that every one of them has already made huge progress in the language. I really love these vivacious guys! Please check out their final student entries below:

    A thousand, one-hundred and twenty-seven miles, eight bottles of water, and one breathtaking view: these concepts seem transparently familiar as I recall our time at the Great Wall today. We left campus around 9:30 this morning, anxious to visit Beijing’s historic staple attraction. As we neared the site, the first feature we could faintly discern through the hazy sky was the set of steep steps ready for us to climb. The hike was indubitably exhaustive, to say the least. With sweaty palms and rosy cheeks, we succeeded in our endeavor to reach the Wall. Peering through the openings of the periphery, we marveled at the feat that had initially challenged us, and admired its beauty.  

    Our journey along the Great Wall mirrors our experience here at the Academy. In every instance, we have faced adversity in climbing the steps of our language advancement, from minute tasks like taking the elevator to unique encounters such as bargaining at Pearl Market. I must admit, these past three weeks have been tiresome and filled with barriers every step of the way. But as we near the pinnacle of our immersive experience and begin to reflect upon our intellectual growth, it is undeniable that the view from up here is transcendent.

    - Alisha

    “Spending time at the Academy in Beijing has been a rewarding experience. I can honestly say that I have improved my speaking, writing, and listening abilities. In a classroom setting, it is difficult to learn the cadence of Mandarin. In Beijing, I conversed with “Beijingers” daily, thus improving my speaking fluidity. I will miss Beijing, but I am certain that we will all maintain our relationships with our classmates, REs, and teachers in the years to come.”           

    - Matthew

    This weekend was very busy but it was also a lot of fun. Yesterday morning, our “Chinese Buddies”, high school students living here in Beijing that we have conversed with a few times in the past, stayed with us until late in the evening. Together, we played games before going to Pearl Market, the Temple of Heaven and Olympic Park. Seeing the sights was so much fun, even thought I’d been to some of them before. In addition, having our “Chinese Buddies” with us added a special dimension to the day. It was really fun getting to know them, and I hope to say in contact!

    Today, we went to the Great Wall, which was tiring but also a ton of fun and interesting both culturally and historically. I’d never been to the Great Wall before, so I’m glad I finally had the chance to go. From the top, there is a beautiful view everywhere you look. If you think about all the people who have crossed the world to look at this piece of history, it is a little overwhelming. Now I’m tired, and I think I want to shower, go to sleep, and prepare for whatever tomorrow will hold.”

    - Katherine

    “Today, we went to the Great Wall. It was very hot today, really too hot to function–104 degrees Fahrenheit–but somehow my friends and I managed to climb around, take really cool pictures, and have fun.

    I don’t like worrying about my classwork, but that is inevitable because we have two projects to do in four days. If there is one thing I could change about this program, it would be the homework. Although I have enjoyed my time here, I’m happy the program is coming to an end and I hope it ends on a good note! My favorite things about this program have been: Pearl Market, the food–white rice–and shopping. The improvement of my Chinese skills has been the icing on the cake. Overall, I have had fun, but I am ready to go home.”

    - Mia

    “As my time here is drawing to a close, I am left to reflect on the importance of my experiences and lessons learned here in Beijing. This is my fist time traveling alone internationally, and I feel that being on my own has allowed me to grow as a person. I have become more brave and outgoing, since I have been forced to use knowledge that I don’t feel comfortable with in unfamiliar situations. Bartering in particular has been a huge growth opportunity for me where I have learned resolve. When I came to Beijing, I was a relatively typical Southern girl, quiet and a little shy. Dealing with bargaining has been very helpful in building my inner resolve and growing a tough second skin. I have learned to stand tall when I’m challenged, and am currently wearing a sweatshirt whose price I bartered down from $60 to $10.

    I’ve also found that there are a lot of misconceptions about the food in China. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I try to order something I haven’t tried before and still haven’t gotten sick. I also don’t mind going to classes here because the campus is fairly easy to navigate and our teacher always has fun activities planned. We often go outside and ask the college students about Chinese culture and activities. I’m excited to go home, but I know that I’ll miss my friends and experiences here, especially my daily run for bubble tea!”

    - Katie

    “For the past four weeks, I have woken up at Capital Normal University here in Beijing, yet I can still hardly believe that I am in China. The city of Beijing holds a sort of mystique that is hard to put into words. The food, people, history, and culture all burst with flavor, and I am so lucky to have witnessed it firsthand this summer. Today was our final day of excursions, and as a goodbye to Beijing, we went to the Great Wall of China.

    After an early morning and long bus ride, we made it to the Muxiang Cultural Center. We walked around and found our lunches, and then began our journey up to the Wall. After the sweltering, hot climb up the many, many steps, I walked through a stone archway and onto the Great Wall. It was literally breathtaking. Through the grey smog, I could see the Wall painted along the surrounding mountain peaks; it was as if I had walked into a painting or had been transported to some alternate universe. These past four weeks have been truly eye-opening and inspiring, and I could not have asked for a better farewell to Beijing than climbing the Great Wall.谢谢, 北京!”

    - Lucy

    Today we went to the Great Wall. The bus was late, which delayed our arrival and depleted our free time. We bought some hats and ate lunch before spending 20 minutes scaling stairs to reach the top. My friends and I had Burger King, and I bargained for a woven hat with a band that says, “Ronaldino”. Nick, my friend, bought a bucket hat with some Chinese characters and my other friend, Jack, bought a cowboy hat with a Great Wall misspell. 

    After finally arriving at the top, my friends and I went through the series of guard towers until we reached a peak. We took lots of pictures. We walked around for about an hour and visited a store where we sat down for about 40 minutes. Then we headed back down. The views were truly stunning and the experience was amazing. At night, we had free time and some call home time. During the call time, I chatted with my sister and skyped with my uncle. All in all, aside from the walking, we had a great time and it was a day that I will never forget.”

    - Wiatt

    This weekend was the last weekend of the Beijing Academy. It has been a great ending to the three weeks here in Beijing, albeit bittersweet. Over Saturday and Sunday, we experienced the best parts of Beijing, including its traditional attractions and modern tourist shops.

    On Saturday, we went back to Hongqiao Market, Pearl Market, after having gone there the week prior. We successfully bargained for knockoff designer apparel and t-shirts with jokes pertaining to the CCP written on them. After that, we went to Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven, and enjoyed the traditional culture and architecture of Beijing. Then, we went to the Olympic Green, where we saw great modern architecture, such as the Bird’s Nest in all of its real-life grandeur. On Sunday, we spent the whole morning and afternoon at the Great Wall. I had been looking forward to our trip to the Wall the entire time in Beijing, so I was excited when we finally got there. I had read about the Great Wall in history books for years, but it exceeded my expectations. I was in awe of the size, construction, and beauty of the Great Wall. It was definitely worth waiting three weeks to see it!

    It is crazy to think that my time in Beijing is almost over. It’s been an incredible experience to be able to walk over thousand year old stones and explore one of the most important sights in China. I have really enjoyed making new friends, and improving my Chinese. Though I miss the comfort of my own home and the norms I’m used to, it has been a great experience overall.”

    - Rebecca

    “As we’re coming to the end of our time here in China, many people have been taking time to reflect on the highlights of the past four weeks. There’s definitely been some tough times; for example, trying to understand rapid Chinese in a thick Beijing accent, adjusting to the different food situation, and dealing with the crowds on subways and in shopping centers. But despite all that, we’ve had amazing experiences!

    Today, we explored the Great Wall, trekking up steep hills, or opting for the cable car, and taking in the great views. Just yesterday we practiced our Chinese bargaining skills at a bustling shopping market and checked out the modern side of Beijing at Olympic Park. Even the smaller events, like learning Tai Chi routines in front of Capital Normal campus and making friends with the owner’s daughter at our favorite bubble tea shop, feel like adventures. Although I’ll probably not be able to look at another bowl of rice or noodles again, this stay in Beijing is something I will never forget!”
    - Zehra 

  • Atop the Great Wall

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    Today, both students and staff embarked on a trip to visit the Great Wall. It was both fantastic and unforgettable!

    Although the students were a little tired from their long, but meaningful, trip to Olympic Park and the Temple of Heaven yesterday, they all woke up early for the day’s field trip. The students ate breakfast on their own time; some had cookies and bananas, while others had Chinese baozi and soybean milk. After breakfast, we traveled in two big buses to the Wall, with the students sitting according to class so that they could chat with peers around the same skill level.

    It was a long trip, but their nearly one month’s worth of time here at the Academy in Beijing has been a testimony to the students’ progress, and they talked happily during the two hour ride. When we arrived, the students ate lunch on their own time, just like with breakfast this morning. Since some students are still not used to eating traditional Chinese food, they were able to eat familiar fast food and pizza; however, many of the students took advantage of this opportunity to try delicious, authentic Chinese food. After lunch, we started to climb the Great Wall together. 

    Even though it was really a hot day today, that did not impact our enthusiasm! As soon as they arrived at the Wall, the students forgot their sleepiness and resolved to make the most of their day exploring this historic structure. Some of the group elected to take the cable car to the top, while others chose to challenge themselves by climbing to the top on foot; however, we all felt awed by this great achievement of the Chinese ancients and took many pictures together.

    To my happiness, all of the students enjoyed their day. My only regret is that we got in a traffic jam on the way back, so we arrived on campus a bit later than expected and did not have enough to complete our weekend game of soccer. Instead, the students ate dinner with their friends and then prepared for call home time to share the day’s excitement with their families. 

  • Basketball and Bartering

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    As they head into their final weekend at the Academy, several students reflect on their experiences from past week. 

    “It has been an interesting and exciting week in Beijing. Yesterday, we went to a local high school and met Chinese teenagers who are studying English. After meeting our new friends, we split up into activity groups. Without proper basketball attire, the Academy team chose to play shirtless and show the grit and scrappiness symbolic of previous American triumphs.

    My activity was basketball. With only five players compared to the high school’s 20, the Academy team fought admirably.  Even though the Academy fought their way to an early lead, it did not last and we soon found ourselves trailing. The Chinese high school team went on to win 35-21, but it was a fun affair for all involved. I think the trip to the high school was a positive experience for both Academy students and the Chinese high school students.”

     - Daniel

    “The Summer Language Academy here in Beijing has continually bestowed in me a strong sense of pride in the Chinese language and culture. Throughout my three weeks here on campus, I have noticed a drastic improvement in my speaking, reading and writing skills. I am honored to say that, in this program, I have successfully accomplished my desire to excel. Moreover, I am so grateful that I have made such an amazing group of genuine friends here, all which share my interest in the Chinese language and culture. I will certainly keep in touch with all my friends here at the Academy!

    My favorite part of the program so far would, without a doubt, have to be visiting the Pearl Street Market. After learning about bargaining in my morning class, I was able to use the skills I had just learned and apply them to real world applications at the market. Although the program is coming to an end, I will always cherish my time spent here at the Academy.”

    - Keanna

  • Marketplace Adventures

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    The students have continued to write about their time in Beijing and their impressions and reactions to these new experiences. Below, we have shared some from the past week. We hope you enjoy them!

    Wednesday, July 1 

    “I have always thought about studying abroad in college, but studying here in Beijing, even if only for a month, has convinced me that this is something I definitely need to do! I knew that coming here, to Beijing, would expand my vocabulary and help me become more comfortable with the language, but living in an entirely foreign culture is teaching me so much more than just that. Here, we are forced to learn to be flexible and adjust to different traditions, foods, and ways of doing things. More often than not, these changes are uncomfortable, as was the case with learning to use Chinese bathrooms and trying some unidentifiable foods, but it is often rewarding. I have found several new favorite foods here that I am hoping I can find in America.

    Here, we are not just learning language, we are also learning how to become independent; how to buy our own subway tickets, wash our own clothes, and feed ourselves. Us being teenagers, this is a double-edged sword that can lead to subway mix-ups, smelly clothes, and the occasional box of cookies for dinner. We are also forced to find courage; to make friends in a foreign language and ask complete strangers for directions. But probably the most noticeable effect of the immersion environment is the confidence I have gained in speaking Chinese. Knowing vocabulary is one thing, but to effectively communicate in a language, it is necessary to be daring, to try out new words and realize it is okay to mess up sometimes. My confidence in language rises every time a native Chinese speaker understands my halting and broken, but steadily improving, Mandarin.”

    - Hannah 

    Friday, July 3

    “Hi. First of all, I’m happy to report that the sky has shifted from grey to blue for the past three days, which has been an enormous energizer! Although constantly speaking in a foreign language doesn’t exactly grow easier, it does grows less frustrating and more exciting as the days pass and your grasp of the language grows. It is hard to fully comprehend how much your language skills will improve in a full immersion environment. You witness a shift gradually within yourself and others throughout the constant conversations and interactions and after two weeks, the improvement is undeniably palpable.

    In China, picking up new words is not so much a marker of increased vocabulary as it is an ascendance into the environment we are surrounded by. Rather than simply flipping through chapters with words and grammar relevant to a specific situation, we pick up words by necessity or learn them in classes that prioritize vocabulary with legitimate importance for daily life in Beijing. This means that we are constantly learning things that are actually useful in terms of communication, understanding, and functioning in China. Although this requires a lot of 怎么演, or trial and error, but the rewards are almost immediate as you encounter a situation in which to use the newfound word almost immediately after you inquire about it. In fact, I have learned so much just through colloquial exchanges and discussions with teachers, fellow students and locals outside of the walls of the college. Simply listening to those around me at a market, interviewing students at the college for a class assignment, or having a quick discussion with a native resident on the subway improves and adds another dimension to my Mandarin ability.

    This afternoon, my class and I will go and barter with shop-owners at a popular market nearby. Although I will still undeniably stick out as a foreigner, I feel much more comfortable and confident armed with the knowledge that I have acquired thus far throughout my time in Beijing. And I know that I will walk away with even more.”

    - Alexandra

    Sunday, July 5

    “Today, we had the opportunity to visit a multitude of interesting locations, including Pearl Market and the 798 Art District. At Pearl Market, I bought a silk shirt, a stuffed animal panda, and a stamp. At each of the stalls, I haggled with the vendors to lower the prices. I said “太贵了!”, “Too expensive”, very often and got a lot of incredulous looks from my initial prices but, in the end, I got approximately 40-60% off of the things that I bought, which I think is a good deal! It was pretty stressful, but I’m glad I experienced it because I got to use the knowledge I learned in class, which I thought was cool.

     At the market, there were a lot of amusing shirts with really bad English on them; for example, one shirt said “Creativity is like pants. You know it’s there, but you can’t see it.” Most of the shopkeepers would grab onto my arm and show me their bags and whatnot, which was very irritating. Also, one of my friends was kicked out of a shop because he asked for a suit at too low a price, which offended the shopkeeper. At the 798 Art District everything was super expensive, so I bought nothing except for my food, which was approximately 48 kuai. I guess I could have gotten a small painting, but I spent most of my money on a shirt for my mother.

    After that, my friend misread the time so we ran to the meeting spot with our food but ended up eating it in front of a wall covered with graffiti. A guy took a picture of us while we were there, and I don’t know if it was because we were wearing the camp shirts or if he thought the juxtaposition of us and the wall was artistic. I was kind of irritated that the guy that took our picture, since he didn’t ask us. The food was only okay, but we successfully used our broken Chinese to ask for a bag to go.

    When we returned to the college, we had activities with our Chinese buddies. We played card games, bingo, musical chairs, question games, and sang songs. I couldn’t really understand much that they said because they were speaking pretty fast. Then, we ate more food, which made me happy even though we’d already eaten. Overall, today was a good day. Bye-bye!”

    - Tylei 

    Wednesday, July 8

    “Even if I would have tried to understand the realities of Chinese culture at home, I couldn’t have understood without truly experiencing them; its environment is too distinct, the food too unprecedented. China would have simply been unbelievable.

    Ever since I arrived in China, I have experienced something new and enthralling every single day. I attribute this mainly to the Language Pledge® . No one is allowed to speak any English unless an emergency arises. Such need to break the Language Pledge® has, unsurprisingly, occasionally arisen. In one particular case, my friend got into a fierce bout of haggling with a rather truculent watch-seller. I blissfully watched as my composed friend battled with the raging shop owner for a watch that was worth over 3000 yuan. The owner’s face was drenched, and his arms flailing as he watched the price for the watch slowly dip. By the 30 minute mark, both my friend and the shop owner were speaking English. The shop owner was so terrifying, our head RE–who most of us think can be rather scary, when provoked–frantically tip-toed away, not daring to intervene and ask that the bargaining continue in Chinese.  After an hour of intense haggling, the shop owner finally relinquished the watch at the price of 300 yuan while I stood there clapping my hands and breathlessly laughing like a seal.

    In retrospect, the intense round of bargaining with the shop owner summarizes my experiences in Beijing. I had heard stories of people bargaining before, but to see such action first-hand was completely eye-opening. The same goes for the rest of my experiences in Beijing. Seeing everything first-hand leaves me in awe and wanting for more. Although I thought that this program would be a bad use of my summer, I now believe this to be one of the most interesting, and delightful summers I’ve had yet.

    (你好妈妈!你好! Hello Mom! Hello there!)”

    - Grant

     

  • A Day Well Spent

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    This afternoon, we visited a local high school. Our students participated in several activities with the Chinese students, including fan dancing, diabolo, basketball, paper-cutting, calligraphy, ping pong, and more! Check out the many photos for a recap of the days activities!

  • Fun with Friends

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    After our excursions to the Pearl Market and the 798 Art District today, the students came back to campus and met nearly 30 Chinese “buddies”, all local high school students, for three hours of fun activities.

    The students were split into five groups, and took turns rotating through the activities organized by our REs, including a game of bingo, card games, musical chairs, 3-minute speed interviews and singing the Chinese song “Friends”. Most of the Chinese “buddies” were not familiar with the games, since the games are much more popular among children in America than in China, but I was especially touched to see our students eagerly helping teach their Chinese “buddies” how to play the games, as you can see in some of the pictures.

    At the end of the activities, we gathered all the students together in a large classroom and sang the song “Friends” as a group–which all the students had nearly memorized! Afterwards, we all went out to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner.

  • Eat, Play and Learn in Tianjin

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    On the Fourth of July, America’s birthday, we went to Tianjin, a municipality which is about a two-hour drive from Beijing, to experience the local customs and culture. The district has a rich historical background–it was conceded to Japan and several European countries in the late 19th Century–and a great amount of spectacular architecture to visit. Food is also an important part of Tianjin culture, so if you want to experience the local snacks and specialties, Tianjin is the best place to go.

    We arrived in Tianjin around nine in the morning to start a busy day. Our first stop was the Ancient Culture Street Pier, which is located on the Hai River. Then, we went on a sightseeing cruise from the southernmost end of the river and the Revolution Bridge to the northernmost end famous for the Tianjin Eye ferris wheel. Around noon, we went to the Nanshi Snacks Street for lunch, where we ate at a restaurant called Tianjin Cafeteria. Later in the afternoon, everyone stopped for a look inside the local market and many students tried different kinds of snacks, including dry fish slices, hawthorn jelly, and Chinese pancakes–Tianjin’s most famous food. At the end of the tour, our guide took us to the Tianjin Museum, where we learned the history of Tianjin in detail.

    On the bus ride back to Beijing, many of the students fell asleep to recover from our acvitiy-packed day, but everyone enjoyed their delightful and inspiring trip in Tianjin.  

  • A Hot Pot Excursion

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    During one of their afternoon excursions, Zhou Laoshi and He laoshi’s classes combined to enjoy a hot pot meal in Zhong Guan Cun, an area of Beijing, at a popular chain restaurant called “Xiabu Xiabu”. Many students took a shot at ordering dishes for themselves for the first time!

  • Presenting at the Evening Assembly

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    Today, students gathered in a large classroom for another night of evening assembly presentations. Each class took turns going to the front in small groups, and presenting or acting out a skit based on the new material they had learned during the day.

  • Calligraphy, Tai Chi and More!

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    Every day, the students have one hour of extracurricular activities, including tai chi, Chinese painting, and Chinese calligraphy. It has only been over a week, but they have already made amazing progress!

  • The Power of Experiential Learning

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    Below are several student entries written about the students’ experiences in the program to date. In addition to the cultural and historical classes and excursions they have participated in, the students are all developing close bonds with their new friends in the program. 

    Learning Chinese is not an easy thing to do. A lot of people underestimate the complexity of the characters you are required to memorize, and the almost inaudible tones of each syllable. This is because most people don’t actually pay attention to the people speaking Chinese around them; all they hear is a bunch of gibberish. If you stop and listen closely, you will soon understand that each sound has many meanings based merely on how you say it.

    My time at the Academy hasn’t let me forget this crucial detail. I am constantly being challenged to listen closely and, although there are occasional lapses in communication and mistakes are made, this is okay because mistakes are one of the best ways to learn! Another big challenge for me has been not seeing the sky or the sun for over a week. Thankfully, today after the rain cleared, the clouds, smog, and pollution parted to display a beautiful blue sky and shining sun. Unfortunately, I am currently stuck inside writing this while my peers are outside enjoying the weather. Aside from this, all is well and I will be joining them soon.”

    - Noah 

    Although this is my second year at the Academy, it is my first in an international program, and I would have to say that being here, in China, has been really helpful for learning the real-life applications of the language. Every day, I need to apply my Chinese skills for things like buying food and asking where the bathroom is, and this has made me more motivated to learn. I have also seen some incredible sights since I came here, including but not limited to, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and learned a lot about the culture and history of China. Seeing these historical places firsthand has helped make China real in my mind, and has motivated me to do better and work harder.

    Similar to my experience last year, the teachers and REs help to make learning Chinese enjoyable; however, even though learning is fun here, you still have to work hard and concentrate on using your Chinese, just like any other skill. Other people involved with the program, be they teachers, REs, or fellow students, will always be willing to help you out in a tough situation if they can, so it’s never overwhelming. Overall, I think the Academy is an amazing program, and I will definitely be returning next year!”

    - Aurora

    “The Academy has been a blast so far! A challenge, yes, and tiring, at times, but undoubtedly rewarding nonetheless. Though we students have only known each other for a little over a week, we have all risen to the task of assimilating into this vastly new culture, and have supported those who may find the task particularly difficult.

    At home, in the farm country of Pennsylvania, I had never experienced a pure sense of confusion when I tried to order at McDonalds. But here in Beijing, ordering a meal sometimes becomes a team effort, full of adjusting tones and letters as the Maidanglao, McDonalds, staff became ever more confused, until finally, with a profound sigh, they type up our order and send us down the line for our food. At first, this felt uncomfortable and different, but as we have adjusted to the culture, we students now pounce on any opportunity to flourish our Mandarin abilities.

    - Jack

     

  • “It’s Only the First Week, but We’ve Accomplished So Much”

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    “Today we visited Peking University and the Summer Palace, two of Beijing’s most well-known tourist sites. I really enjoyed visiting both of them; they were so interesting and pretty to see. First we went to Peking University, China’s oldest and most renowned University, known as北京大学, or Beijing daxue, in China. The University’s campus is covered in beautiful gardens and scenic trails and even has a small lake! We rested for a few minutes at a small gazebo, and listened to a musician play a mix of Chinese and Western songs on a traditional Chinese instrument known as an erhu.

    Once we were well rested, we visited the University’s library, which had an art museum with many old statues and paintings. After visiting the University, we ate lunch, and then saw the Summer Palace, known as 颐和园, or yiheyuan, in China. I found it very interesting to see. There were many buildings dating back to the time of the emperors. One of the corridors is the longest in the world! There is a beautiful lake at the center of the palace grounds, and a small hill next to it with a temple at the top. The view from the temple was astounding! Today was definitely great day.”

    - Thomas

    “Today we went to the best university in all of China: Peking University. It is every student’s and parent’s dream to go to Peking University, but only the high school students who perform best on the Gaokao, a college entrance exam which is comparable to the ACT and SAT, will go to this university. Many students study for 14 hours a day and most have school on weekends to prepare for this life-determining test! But the Gaokao is more than just a college entrance exam; it not only has a huge influence on which college or university a student will attend, but also determines their future occupation and their entire life!

    Students who go to the top universities are far more likely to live happy, wealthy, and more successful lives, while students who do not perform well end up working in factories or other blue collar jobs. Unfortunately, this system gets worse when considering the crucial influence of money and personal connections. For example, the city of Shanghai has the easiest Gaokao in all of China, and students who take the Shanghai Gaokao have a much better chance to attend China’s top universities than students in any other city. Families with connections and money will move or send their children to Shanghai for high school just so they can take the easiest Gaokao and attend a prestigious university. 

    Since many students study 14 hours a day, they have no time to pursue extracurricular activities such as sports or the fine arts. In China, the educational system is geared for taking the test, and that’s it. This means that math and the sciences are emphasized more than fine arts like painting, music and photography. The educational system may prepare students to take the test, but it does not give them opportunities to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that are necessary to live a healthy and physically fit lifestyle.

    I think the Gaokao is a major obstacle which prevents Chinese students from reaching their full potential as students and human beings. All of this demonstrates how fortunate we are, since our entire lives and future successes are not determined by a one-time, high school multiple choice test.”   

    - Zack

    “Today, we went to Tianamen Square and the Forbidden City. Tianamen Square was very fun because we could take pictures with the soldiers. We also got to see Chairman Mao’s grave; it was really cool. After that, we walked underground to the Forbidden City. There were so many people that it was hard to move around! It was so big that it was hard to see all of it but my friends and I tried to see as much as we could. After we got back, some of my friends went to this great place that sells all-you-can-eat pot stickers. We went through six pans and they were delicious! Tomorrow, we are going to the Summer Palace and I am super excited because I’ve heard it’s beautiful.”

    - Trinity

    “Today is Friday, June 26th, my fifth day at Capital Normal University. I arrived in Beijing Sunday night, and the next day the group and I had a campus tour, orientation session, and placement exam. The placement exam was a version of the STAMP test, which I had taken last year as well; however, the questions were different than they were last year. The next day, Tuesday, we went to a tea house for the Dragon Boat Festival celebration, where we had tea, zhongzhi, and partook in other celebratory activities. The next day, Wednesday, we began our classes. Our classes start at 9:00 and finish at 11:50 for lunch, then resume with class projects from 2:00 until 5:00. Each day, our class project involves going out into the city and talking with native Chinese speakers or touring areas in Beijing and then presenting our findings to the rest of the group at our 10:00 meeting.

    For our class project on Thursday, we visited Nanluo Guxing, one of Beijing’s hutongs, or alleys, via subway. I was glad we got to visit the hutong because we had studied them in class and I was eager to compare what was written in my textbook with what I really saw. When we returned, we prepared a presentation about the hutong and how to get there. Since Wednesday our schedule has not changed, but I know that tomorrow and the day after we will not have class and instead take a tour of Tiananmen, the Forbidden City, and various other locations, since it is the weekend. I am very much looking forward to touring more of Beijing, as this is the first time I have ever been overseas. So far it has been very interesting to observe foreign culture firsthand!”

    - Connor

    “Today was very eventful. We went to Peking University, where I bought a number of things at a local supermarket, like stuffed animals–a penguin and a dog–as well as a very nice towel. After this, we went to the Summer Palace, where I took a boat ride with three other classmates. We were allowed one hour and, in the last 10 minutes, we saw a boat that was trapped on a wire in the water, my classmates decided that saving them was more important than getting on the bus back to campus. Overall, I have enjoyed my stay here at the Academy program in Beijing.”

    - Jack

    “It has been one week since I have come here, to Beijing. So far, I have found it very difficult due to my lack of knowledge of the Chinese language. Already, I have experienced a lot of Chinese culture and visited many tourist attractions, like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was interesting to see these famous attractions and I was amazed by how fast I was able to pick up the little things that other people were saying. During our journey, I have also found that it is a part of Chinese culture to take pictures of Americans and we are frequently stopped when we are out by locals asking for pictures.

    To further embark in Chinese culture, we are taking classes in traditional Chinese activities. For the first two weeks, I choose to take tai chi and, for the last two weeks, I have chosen to take painting. So far, I think tai chi is very different than what I originally thought. I thought it would be high energy like other martial arts techniques, but instead it is very slow-paced and calming.

     Personally, although we have learned lot about Chinese culture, I find classes to be long and stressful because they give us lots of work and we always have to speak in Chinese. But even though they give us a lot of work, I find the classroom vibe to be very calm. Throughout my whole Chinese experience, I have found Chinese to be stressful and yet very interesting at the same time.”

    - Jordan

    “The travel ads never actually show you what a place is truly like. You don’t see the crowds, smell the smells, hear shouts in languages you don’t speak or only know a handful of mumbled phrases in, despite several years of high school class.You don’t understand the feeling of hiking to a mountain temple in 90 degree weather, reaching the top and being unable to feel your legs, cresting the hill and looking out past the people gathered like ants around the base of the temple. There, you can see all of China. And what seems like all the world.

    It’s been a week full of tomato red shirts ensuring that we stick out from any group and disgusting smells, since we have worn these shirts– with the most unflattering cut I’ve ever seen on any article of clothing– many 90 degree days without being washed. A week full of class with people incredibly far above my Chinese level–I test well, maybe?–incredibly helpful peers, and projects based on half-understood prompts given by a teacher who is perhaps the nicest I’ve ever met despite my not being able to understand a single thing she says. And a week full of feeling that, as much as I love America, how sad I am to be missing the 4th of July and how glad I am to be going home in several weeks, maybe the United States is not the middle of the world. Maybe it’s China, as the 中 in 中国 implies.”

    - Claire

    “Today, we went to more of Beijing’s most well-known sites. We saw the most prestigious university in China, Peking University. The architecture and gardens throughout the university were extremely beautiful and traditional to Chinese culture. After Peking University, we returned to campus for lunch and then we went to the Summer Palace. At the Summer Palace, known in Chinese as “yi he yuan,” we went on a relaxing boat ride on the lake. Then we walked up to the top of the Palace, the view was breathtaking! After our exhausting day, we went back to Capital Normal University and chilled. Once we were refreshed, we ate a delicious dinner at a local dumpling restaurant. It was a great day and I am ecstatic to begin another week with the Academy in Beijing!”

    - Sophia

    “Having never traveled outside of the US, I expected to feel extremely out of place in China. I experienced a bit of culture shock last year at the Green Mountain College session of the Academy as a Southerner in one of the northernmost states in the country, and if I felt different in Vermont, I couldn’t fathom how strange I would feel halfway around the world!

    Leading up to my flight, everyone I knew was intent on telling me what cultural and social differences to expect; in fact, I think “different” was the most frequently used word in all of my conversations with family and friends before coming to camp. After arriving in Beijing and getting settled during my first week, I learned to back away from the word “different” and focus on the word “similar”. Don’t get me wrong, differences are what make us unique–please excuse the cliché statement. However, zeroing in on cultural differences seems to be the first–or only–thing we do, instead of appreciating the similarities between us all.

    We students have had a lot of time to speak with Beijing citizens, young and old. For example, in class today we went to a supermarket down the road and talked with people about their favorite fruits, vegetables, why they liked said food, etc. The warmth and friendliness of every single person I spoke with made me feel as if I were back home! We marveled at how fragrant the durians were, talked about our families, and even laughed at how we all like taking artistic photos for Instagram, if such a thing is possible. It’s conversations like those that make me realize how similar we all are, and how I had an incorrect view of China being a somewhat foreign, unapproachable place. It’s only the first week but we’ve accomplished so much. I can’t wait to see what the following days will bring!

    - Sara

     

  • A Week Full of History

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    The students have just completed their first week at the Academy, and what a week it has been! Today was the fifth day of the Language Pledge®, and though it has been challenging, the students’ Chinese skills are already improving. 

    After two days of orientation, the students settled into a routine. On Thursday, they went on their first outing. Using Beijing’s public transportation, the students navigated to Nanluo Guxiang, where they interviewed locals and wandered through the historic Hutong neighborhood. On Friday evening, we had our first movie night. This week’s theme was romance and the students could choose to watch either 匆匆那年, Fleet of Time, and 致请春, So Young. At first, many of the students were uncertain whether they would enjoy the comedic love stories but their laughter soon filled the halls!

    On Sunday, we all woke up early and headed to Tiananmen Square. Throughout the day, the students were stopped by and asked by Chinese locals for a group picture. Many students were surprised and excited by the attention and happily took pictures with the smiling Chinese tourists. From Tiananmen, we entered the Forbidden City! Though the sun was very hot, the students enjoyed the walk. They were able to see the towering buildings where the central government once worked, as well as the quarters and gardens where the Empress and concubines spent their lives.

    After our tour of the Forbidden City, we took a quick walk through the famous gardens of Jingshan Park before heading to Hohai. At Hohai we had a wonderful lunch, with the students enjoying typical Chinese dishes of eggplant and green beans, roasted duck, lotus root and much more. They then had free time to explore Hohai in their groups, try snack foods, listen to live music, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Before heading back, we stopped for a little taste of home at Starbucks.

    Overall, the first week went very well and we are all looking forward to the upcoming weeks’ adventures! 

     

     

  • Exploring the City

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    In the past few days, the students have finally settled in and started to explore the city. Below, a number of students share their views on these new cultural experiences. The last entry is particularly impressive because it was originally written in Chinese! I have presented a quick translation following the original. Enjoy! 

    “Today, my class and I went to Nanluo Guxiang, a historic street filled with tons of small shops and restaurants. To get there, we took the Beijing subway. If you have ever ridden a New York Subway, the Chinese subway is a total culture shock! Not only is it incredibly clean, but also very empty, quiet and well air -conditioned.

    When we got to Nanluo Guxiang we split up to explore with our friends. Haggling prices and ordering food in Chinese was challenging but really fun. I can hardly believe how much my Chinese has already improved!

    The most interesting part of the trip was how the natives reacted to us. Everyone is very friendly and helpful, but it is a little strange when people stop to take pictures of you or point at you and say ‘so white!’–in Chinese of course. Overall, I definitely can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!”

    - Sarah 

    Today in Chinese class, we learned about public transportation. After class, we went out into the city to ask Beijing residents how long it would take us to get to different destinations using the bus and the subway. Then, we asked for directions to the nearest subway station, and with our teacher and RE, we traveled to Nanluo Guxiang, a cultural site full of ancient alleyways. We visited many interesting shops, including the oldest ice cream shop in China!

    After visiting that landmark, we went back to the classroom and prepared our daily presentations of the day’s activities. Our assignment was to describe the differences between the American and Chinese public transportation system. In China, the subways are much more quiet and secure. Their security system includes checking your backpack, and they have a wall that prevents people from walking onto the tracks. Overall, today’s experience in Beijing was helpful because now I can efficiently use public transportation in China.”

    -Wiatt

    “In describing my experiences living and studying here in Beijing, I feel that it is necessary to state that I feel extremely naïve to have come here without first familiarizing myself with the most basic levels of Mandarin Chinese. In comparison to my peers, I can very easily claim that I was the least prepared for the difficult realities of the Language Pledge®. Because of my inability to communicate even my most fundamental needs in Chinese, signing away my right to utilize the languages I actually did know seemed equivalent to relinquishing my ability to function as a human being. Fortunately, I’ve come to realize the benefits of complete immersion in that the nature of my current environment has enabled me to adapt rather quickly to absorbing the language.

    I must admit, picking up bits and pieces of crucial conversational terms and phrases whilst immediately being pushed to put them into practice has truly accelerated my learning process. For example, right after a fellow student would teach me the ways in which to indicate the floor numbers of our dormitories, I found myself staring blankly at an elderly Chinese woman in the elevator who had inquired as to which floor I was headed. Though it’s been undeniably difficult, I hesitate to claim that I’ve disliked the experience. The benefits of being exposed to a demographic and culture completely foreign to my own surpass those pertaining just to the academic sphere. It has been incredibly humbling and exciting to be able to learn from those around me in Beijing. As cliché as it may sound, even reduced to my broken Mandarin, I truly am excited to be here!”

    - Emily 

    我今天做很多特别的活动,比如说太极拳,旅行上南锣鼓巷去,做介绍南锣鼓巷的表演,什么的。我今天非常享受我在南锣鼓巷的时间。我比较喜欢南锣鼓巷因为在这个地方你想买什么东西就可以买什么东西,想买什么小吃就可以买什么小吃。我陪我的朋友们和我的老师到南锣鼓巷去。我们坐地铁去,过六个地铁站就到了。在南锣鼓巷我买了一件说“奥巴毛”的T恤衫,我也买了三只艾窝窝,很好吃!我还没买我妹妹一个生日礼物,但是我觉得如果我回南锣鼓巷去,我很容易可以找到一个生日礼物。我今天晚上的表演是非常好玩儿,我只需要告诉我的同学我今天做什么,很容易但是还好玩儿。我现在想我的家人,但是我觉得北京是非常好玩儿的。面条王,我的老师,告诉我的班提高中文水平最好的办法是多听多说多复习。我觉得这个办法是好的,但是我觉得如果你加一个“多吃面条”那特别好. 谢谢.

    - 何瑞恩 

    “Today I did a lot of special activities, including practicing tai chi, visiting Nanluo Guxiang, and introducing Nanluo to the entire Academy during a performance. I really enjoyed the time at Nanluo today. I liked it because you can buy anything you want to buy, and eat any snacks you want to eat there. I went to Nanluo with my friends and teachers. We took the subway and got there in just six stops. At Nanluo, I bought aT-shirt that says, ‘ObaMao’, which is a combination of the names Obama and Mao, and also bought three skittles packets–very delicious! I still haven’t bought a birthday gift for my little sister, but I think if I go back to Nanluo then it will be very easy for me to find one. 

    Tonight’s class performance was really fun. I only needed to tell my classmates what I did today, which was really easy but still fun. I miss my family now, but I think Beijing is a very fun place. My teacher Wang told our class that the best way to improve our Chinese is to listen more, speak more, and review more. I think this is a good method, but I think if you add “eat more noodles” at the end, it will be particularly effective. Thank you.”

    - Ryan 

  • Our First Few Days in Beijing

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    It’s amazing to think that the students arrived in Beijing only four days ago. Already, jet lag has started receding and the students are becoming familiar with the Capital Normal University campus, Chinese food, and most importantly, the Language Pledge®. So much has happened in the past few days; every day is packed with orientation, classes, and activities from 7:30 am to 11 pm. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to in Beijing:

    Day 1: Arrival Day

    All day we had staff eagerly waiting at the Beijing airport for students to arrive. The day was a bit hectic but we made sure everyone arrived safely to the campus and was checked into their rooms. At this point, the Pledge was not yet in effect, so students were busy getting acquainted with their new friends.

    Day 2: Orientation + The Pledge

    Monday was the last day the students and staff could speak English. We spent the day familiarizing the students with the Academy’s daily schedule, activities, and rules. Then, we took the students on a tour around the neighborhood and showed them the local bank, grocery store, and restaurants they would be eating at every night. The students also took a STAMP assessment to help determine class level.

    For their last English-speaking night, everyone went to a nearby restaurant for a welcome dinner. Afterwards, students, teachers, and REs all gathered together to sign the Language Pledge®. Each participant promised not speak any language other than Chinese for the duration of the program. This way, we can improve our Chinese speaking, writing, and listening abilities as much as possible.

    Day 3: The First Day with the Pledge

    The first day with the Pledge is always the hardest, so we started out on a light note. Students met with their teachers and played a few games in Chinese. Afterwards, we held a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood! After lunch, the students headed out to a Cultural Center in Beijing to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. They learned about the holiday’s traditions by eating zongzi, pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves, making incense pouches –which, according to folklore, protect you from evils and diseases– participating in a tea ceremony, and tying calamus and wormwood together to create wreathes that are traditionally hung on doors to repel insects and other evil spirits from the house. This holiday let the students become truly immersed in an important part of Chinese culture.

    That night, the students had their first chance to talk with their parents since arrival. 

     Day 4: Falling into Schedule

    Today was the first day of regular classes. Students got placed in the appropriate groups and quickly became acquainted with their teachers. They also attended their first Cultural Exploration activity. This week, the students chose between learning calligraphy, painting, or tai chi, all taught by experts in the field.

    It has only been four days, but we’ve been able to experience so much! The month ahead of us is equally busy, not just on campus but also at sites around Beijing as well. We’re all anxious to see how much the students language abilities and cultural knowledge will improve within the next month.

     

  • From the Staff

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    Now that the students have been divided into their classes, we would like to introduce some of our wonderful Chinese teachers:

    “My name is Liubin and I was born and raised in Beijing. I have been living and studying in this city from elementary school and high school to university and graduate school; I love my hometown. I welcome you to study and live in Beijing! I believe that this summer you will all have a memorable experience which will open many new doors for you. I expect that we will have a wonderful summer together.

    - Liu laoshi

    “Hello everyone! My name is Zhou Wei, and I’m from Shenyang in the Liaoning Province. However, since I’ve lived in Beijing for more than 10 years, I consider Beijing my second home. I graduated from Renmin University of China with a major of linguistics and application of linguistics with a focus in Chinese education. This year was my 5th year teaching Mandarin with CET; I really enjoy working together with students. I am very excited to be teaching at the Academy this year. Welcome Academy students! I wish you all the best!”

    - Zhou laoshi

    “Hi everybody! Good to see you in Beijing! My name is Wang Ju. I come from Beijing. I am a CET teacher and have been teaching with CET for 15 years. This is the second time I will be teaching Academy students. This year, I will serve as the Advanced Level Chinese teacher. I am very excited to accept this challenge and cannot wait to enjoy this time in Beijing with you. This summer, I believe that you will not only improve your level of Chinese, but also harvest good friendships and have a wonderful experience. Let’s do it, come on!”

     - Wang laoshi

    Hello, everyone! I am Jessica. I was born and raised in Minnesota, but I live in Chicago. I have been teaching Chinese at a private high school in Chicago for 7 years. Before I became a Chinese language teacher, I studied at the Harbin Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University, and received a Master’s degree in teaching Chinese. My hobbies are traveling, reading, walking, cycling, watching matches, and baking. I am very excited to have this opportunity to teach the students who are participating in the Beijing Academy this year. Welcome to Beijing!” 

    - Jessica, Di laoshi 

  • From the Students

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    The Language Pledge® has been taken and the students are no longer allowed to speak any language but Chinese. However, with the help of our staff, we have compiled the thoughts and feelings of several students to present their perspective of the last few days:

    “Even though it has only been three days, living in Beijing has been a very interesting experience. One of the main activities that we did in the last few days was celebrating the Dragon Boat Festival at a restaurant. I had the chance to drink tea made by a professional and I was also able to make a Chinese medicine from scratch! The restaurant served us a festival specialty called zongzi; a steamed rice pyramid with pork and dates. Even though it didn’t look appetizing, it was very delicious!

    During my stay, I have also gotten the chance to familiarize myself with Capital Normal University. Its campus is huge and there are many restaurants and supermarkets in the neighborhood. During the rest of my stay, I hope to greatly improve my Chinese and continue to experience Chinese food and culture. I also hope to meet as many people as I can and make this trip one I’ll never forget!” 

    - Arjun

    I have only been in Beijing for three days now, but I think it has been both hard and fun at the same time. At first, it was hard to switch from English to Chinese in the same day. And now, I can’t speak English to anyone.This has been hard because there are a lot of things I don’t know how to say so there are times when I can’t communicate with other people. But now, after three days, I have started to come to grips with speaking only Chinese. Also, over the past few days I have gotten to know about Beijing National University and what it is like.

    Yesterday, we visited a café that familiarized us with the Dragon Boat Festival. I learned about what they use to decorate when the Dragon Boat Festival arrives. I also got to taste a traditional food that the locals eat during the Dragon Boat Festival called zongzi. This is a pyramid that is made of sticky rice and is filled with dates or pork; it is then wrapped in bamboo leaf and served. I think I liked it more than others did. Over the next few weeks, I hope to improve my Chinese overall and be able to have more diverse conversations in Chinese! I hope for the best over the next few weeks.

    - Barnaby

    “Yesterday, we spent a few hours learning about different aspects of the Dragon Boat festival; this was very educational for me. We learned how tea is traditionally made, Chinese flower arranging and how Chinese herbal medicines are made. Afterwards, we were given a traditional Dragon Festival meal called zongzi, which is sticky rice with vegetables wrapped in a leaf with cherries and lycees.

    Today was our first day of lessons. We engaged in some activities to improve our speaking abilities which involved communicating with people on campus to determine the Mandarin names of the buildings.This really got everyone to engage and participate. Afterwards we had our first class sessions where we learned about directions, which will be used to complete a project later in the program.

    Soon after our lessons, we were taken out into town to find places where we were asked to write directions on how to get back to the college. This was a difficult task as some locations were quite far away and needed a lot of writing and conversing–all in Mandarin. Overall, so far I have really enjoyed my Academy experience in Beijing.”

     - Ben 

    “Yesterday was our first almost normal day here at the Academy in Beijing. We spent time introducing ourselves during the multi-level cultural activity and then drove about an hour in a bus to learn about the Dragon Boat Festival. We wrapped flowers, made our own traditional tea, and rolled herbs!

    Today, we separated into our class levels and met the people we will be spending most of the program with. We went to class and did some activities to work on our language skills. Then, we traveled outside in groups to interview people and discover the building names in the area. My group ended up talking with a German study-abroad student about the program and she gave us her we-chat number! Tomorrow will be our first day with the regular schedule and I am excited to see what that will be like!”

    - Hayley

     

  • Breakfast of Champions

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    If you have ever heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, well it is certainly true in China. But we aren’t talking about some sugary cereals or plain bread here. Breakfast in China is a savory spread of many different dishes and this morning, the sleepy students got to feast on some steamed dumplings and bread, cold tofu, and pepper salad with rice and some soup. While this might not be their usual breakfast, I can attest that there were not many leftovers on the plates!  The students dug in and hungrily tried all the different dishes.

    The students were then ready to start a full day of orientation, campus tours and pre-program language assessments. This busy first day will end with a banquet and the Language Pledge® ceremony. After today, there will be no more English spoken here!

  • Arrival Day!

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    It doesn’t matter whether it is on campus in Vermont or in the middle of a busy airport in New York, arrival day is always a special moment where the students show up with a sparkle in their eyes. They are determined and ready for the unexpected! It is the moment just before the big plunge where they decide to do something important and courageous that not many other teens do –but don’t tell them that because they will not believe you. For four weeks, these brave students agree to be put out of their comfort zone and in this case, parachuted into a foreign country.

    Upon arrival, I asked the students how they were feeling, and while a few of them gave whispered confessions of being nervous, all of them were incredibly excited. While we waited, the students shared their Chinese and travelling experiences and the parents got to know one another and were reassured that their children were in good hands. After a teary goodbye, mostly from the parents, we were off! 

    Now, I could recount what we did minute by minute: security, and the flight, and immigration, but instead I want to share what I saw. What I saw was a young man reassuring his mom that he would eat well and enjoy the trip, two young friends for the previous summer reuniting in a big hug and ready to take on their next challenge together. I saw students joking together in the line for security and then passing through with the ease of seasoned travelers. I saw students bonding and making new friends over a huge Starbucks drink, getting up in the plane to talk to their new friends and taking long, long naps in between two movies. I saw them acting with a maturity well beyond their years, being friendly, polite, and patient, even after a 13 hour flight. And once we finally made it to China, I could see excitement in their eyes when they realized that this was it, they were finally there and this was really China!

    Once we collected all our luggage, we boarded a bus to get to campus. The ride was quiet –some might say from jet-lag– but I think that seeing Beijing for the first time will do that to you. The lights of the city and the constant traffic, even well after 9 pm, are impressive to see.

    Then, we were finally on campus! We passed the gate to discover a beautiful campus with lots of trees and flowers. The weather was nice and warm so many people were walking outside, getting some snacks or enjoying the fresh air. All the students in our group made it to their rooms, where they settled for their first night. Tomorrow they would be starting their new life in China–and most importantly in Chinese!

     

  • Welcome to the Beijing Academy!

    Welcome to the Beijing Academy blog for summer 2015! All the teachers and staff have arrived on site for our program, and now we are eagerly waiting for the arrival of our students tomorrow.

    A group of our dedicated staff will be heading out bright and early tomorrow morning for the airport and staying until late at night so we can greet all of our students and transport them to their home for the next four weeks, Capital Normal University. We will also have a group stationed on campus to receive anyone that arrives independently. Before you leave, please taken one final look at the depart and arrival information which you should have received through email in the past few weeks. 

    As soon as students arrive, they will be assisted with check-in procedures. Then, they will be allowed 15 minutes of call or email time each with our site laptops on an ad-hoc basis until 11 p.m. After that, internet will be off limits until the next scheduled call time on Sunday night, June 28, starting at 7:30 p.m Beijing time.

    The first two days after students arrive will be filled with placement tests and orientation activities, including our Language Pledge® ceremony which takes place right after the opening banquet on the first full day! We are also looking forward to our first city excursions with the students next weekend, including two UNESCO world heritage sites, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace! We will also be seeing Tiananmen Square, Hou Hai Lake, and Peking University as well. It will be a busy but very exciting start to the Academy.

    Stay tuned for more updates on the blog!

  • 5 Packing Tips for Four Weeks at the Academy

    The Academy is almost here! And while packing may seem like a challenge, reading the list provided in the student handbook can help you determine what to bring and what to leave at home. Additionally, here are some of my insider packing tips for four weeks at the Academy.

    1. Pack what you can carry. Unless you plan on rummaging around in your bags every time you need something, make sure not to pack a bag heavier than you can manage.
    2. Research the weather. Determining how hot or cold it is going to be can really help free up space in your bag. If it’s not going to be below freezing, it’s probably best to leave the parka back at home.                                     
    3. Bring something social. A small board game, a pack of cards, a Frisbee: things like these can really help make your down time fun. Just make sure it’s either in your target language or doesn’t require words. 
    4. A book in target language. I’d suggest packing something you’ve already read that has been translated into the target language, like the How to Train Your Dragon series or popular graphic novels like TinTin or Batman. This way, you already have an idea about what’s going on in the story.
    5. Don’t’ forget snacks. If there is a specific food that you love and are going to miss, bring it. Candy and cookies are not only great bribes to get your roommate to do your laundry, but can also ward off homesickness

     

    imageSasha Corr currently lives in Hong Kong SAR, China. A native of Sydney, Australia, Sasha will be returning to the Chinese Academy for a second summer. When she’s not studying Chinese, Sasha enjoys making pop art and writing while listening to music by My Chemical Romance.

     

     

  • What the Academy Has Meant for Me

    Unlike many students at Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy, I live abroad. While living in Hong Kong SAR, I’ve been able to travel around China and have fallen in love with the country. To me, it is fascinating how much culture, history and, of course, different food there is to discover.  

    Most schools in Hong Kong offer Chinese, but in my school it’s mandatory. Many of my classmates are fluent Chinese speakers and it can be difficult to speak only one language in a bilingual school. I often sit in class or in the common room with the conversation going straight over my head. Sometimes, when all the important words in sentences are swapped out with the Chinese translation, I feel like I’m playing a really intense game of MadLibs, or watching Kill Bill with no subtitles. 

    When I returned to Hong Kong after my first summer at the Academy, the first thing that hit me was my ability to understand the principal’s welcome back-to-school speech. I cried. Up to that point, I’d spend five or six years in school zoning out whenever the assemblies switched from English to Chinese.

    I always imagined that when my principal was speaking in Chinese, she was bestowing ancient wisdom upon the student body. Turns out, she was just wishing us a good year of studying. But, because of my time at the Academy, I could finally understand the words for myself, which was nothing short of a miracle; it was beautiful.

     

    imageSasha Corr currently lives in Hong Kong SAR, China. A native of Sydney, Australia, Sasha will be returning to the Chinese Academy for a second summer. When she’s not studying Chinese, Sasha enjoys making pop art and writing while listening to music by My Chemical Romance.

     

  • Photos of Capital Normal University

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    We’re finalizing many details for the Chinese Academy in Beijing this summer! The Academy will take place at Capital Normal University, located on the Third Ring Road in northwest Beijing and is one of China’s foremost foreign language teaching universities. The main building on campus contains the student living space, a walkway to classrooms and academic spaces, as well as numerous restaurants. Students will live in a dorm setting; all rooms are doubles with private, en-suite bathrooms. Rooms include televisions and desk lamps. The dorm also houses two restaurants, a coffee shop and a small convenience store.

    We will be posting more information about the Chinese Academy in Beijing, including field trips and curriculum. Visit us often to find out more!