I wanted to try and post weekly but then class work was getting heavy and for some reason my account wasn’t working but it’s all good now! Now that I’m really starting on my classes and adapting to life here in Beijing, there’s definitely a lot more I want to explore and do!
My impression of the classes right now at Peking University are that they’re pretty challenging! I’m currently taking two Chinese language courses (learning Chinese, not classes in Chinese) and one International Relations course (Chinese Perspectives on Global Issues). Different from the Cambridge and Yonsei programs I was previously on, the English taught courses here are normal courses that are taken by students of the school as well-aka not study abroad oriented. They’re definitely a lot harder to grasp and I’m back to discussions and input after a semester of not doing that while at Yonsei. The local students here are legit and my other classmates are also very well versed in the material. Although I was an International Studies major and now an Asian Studies major, I find myself struggling a bit with the topics in class. I’m sitting in class and everyone is spilling out all these technical terms and I’m wondering what I’ve been learning these past two-three years. I better start studying up!
I also sat in on a lecture for the China and Global Organizations class which was just as hardcore. However, I’m quiet liking these courses because they spur a lot of discussion regarding China’s policies and which interpretation of them is really the right one? Especially important in these classes is the discussion US-China relationship and the contrasting and common views these two powers have in regards to each other. Source materials are used from both countries and multiple views are presented through different works.
I’ve also been looking into possible internships since my schedule is quiet free even though I have a lot of work to do for my classes. It’s been a stressful few weeks looking here and there while juggling settling in and starting classes.
The UCEAP office here in Beijing has paired every two UCEAP student with a local PKU student which has been awesome so far for everyone. The language buddies here have all been engaging and super nice and I really like mine as well. She’s a graduate student studying law and she’s going to be in UCLA (with her friend whom we met as well) so we’ll probably be seeing each other back in the States.
On Wednesday of week 3, we all got together and I finally tried some good ol’ Beijing styled hotpot with the little round chimney in the middle. The food was really good and it was super cold that day too so a hotpot was perfect.
I also met my roommate’s language buddy and now we have a little badminton group with some other UCEAP kids and the locals. The badminton stadium is really nice at PKU by the way, so if you plan on coming on this program, definitely go check it out.
Week 3 Weekend
Since I needed to make myself read the extra long course readings (oh my gosh…there was more than hundred pages and I’m an impatient person), I checked out a cafe in Wudaokou (closer to Tsinghua) called Bunnydrop. I think its a pretty good place to study in with plenty of outlets to plug your laptop into, free wifi, and pretty good food and drink options.
On Saturday, my roommate and I went on a picture taking adventure across Beijing, but first we ate. We went to this underground plaza that had A+ interior design and some restaurant options. Of course, it took us around thirty minutes to find the way down there since the security guard told us to go down the escalator behind the bamboos…but there were about five places with bamboo and no escalator and we both suck at listening to directions. We ended up eating at 小吊梨汤 which serves up some traditional Beijing fare. We had some pears dipped in wine, a braised beef bowl and some okra.
Afterwards, we headed to the home of Song Chingling-one of the famous Song sisters who played an important role in the founding of modern China, and the wife of Sun Yatsen-near Houhai. The bus ended up only going to the stop before our actual stop for some reason but all the better because we got to get lost in some the hutong alleys along the way and take lots of cute pictures.
After visiting Song Chingling’s old place-which was very, very big and nice-we grabbed some tanghulu (dripping melting sugar all over our hands) and headed towards some hutongs called 五道营胡同, specifically No. 15 for the cute tea-infused desserts. Since we are hungry, growing young adults, we ended up eating a hot pot dinner at 4pm. We shopped for a while as we made our way down the hutongs towards No. 15 and I bought these really cute earrings that resemble shooting stars. There’s lots of small and unique stores and cafes here so if you’re into that (I am), definitely check it out.
Finally, after dilly dallying everywhere, we made it to 觀品 (scrolled so much for that first word which is in pinyin ‘guan’) aka hutong No. 15 but we had to wait awhile for a seat since it was such a small place. So, continuing our hungry young adult mission, we went to a nearby ice cream store and got some cones to eat while we waited…to eat cake…
After thirty minutes or so, we were finally called in and got to enjoy the highlight of our one day adventure, a jasmine tea cream cake and a white fungus cake (which tasted like cheese cake but with flowers and white fungus). Both were super good: really light and not too sweet. Would come back here again.
The weather has been G R E A T these days. There hasn’t been a single smoggy day in two weeks. Definitely do PKU in the spring. In other, more exciting news, the cherry and plum blossoms have started to bloom on campus. Everything looks gorgeous and I can’t wait for all the trees next to the lake to go into full bloom. Photo-ops anyone? I basically skip napping now just to go to the lake to check on the trees and the views. It’s super relaxing to ride a bike there. Of course on the other side of town…things are still a little frozen.
On Saturday, I went to the Great Wall at Mutianyu (慕田峪) with my roommate and her language buddy group. Turns out we were driving there ourselves and I got to experience a little roadtrip while in Beijing! I’m too scared to drive in Asia, but three out of the five people in our group could drive really, really well and I just ended up chilling/napping in the backseat-occasionally waking up to snack. Why are people so good at driving.
When we got there, we decided to start from the furthest end of the 慕田峪 trail at guard tower no. 8 and not take any kind of transportation up because we were ‘young and healthy college kids.’ We barely made it up the first stretch of stairs heading TOWARDS the Great Wall before we had to stop for a long breather. We are not young and healthy college kids. Eventually we made it up by lunchtime and sat outside the guard tower to have a small picnic. After being complete pigs, we continued our trek upwards towards our goal of the day: guard tower no. 20. It probably took us twice as long to get to the end than average because we literally stopped for five minutes each time we reached a tower or a cool bend to take pictures-who knows when we’ll make the trip up there again.
Finally, we got to guard tower no. 19 and the steep and excruciating last stretch of the 慕田峪 section of the Great Wall. The steps to no. 20 is a physical depiction of trying to make it big in life- the struggle man. My roommate made a bet with our friend that he had to run up the entire thing or he would have to pay for the snacks we bought. He actually managed to run up more than half-way and we gave it to him because it took us three times as long, with many, many breathers in between, to get to the top of no. 20.
After making our way down from the Wall, we drove back into town and had some traditional Northeastern (东北) Chinese food for dinner. Then, I sat back down in the comfy backseat and slept my way back to Beijing.
This visit to the Great Wall was super fun. The company was good and we took lots of goofy pictures. People were looking at us weird and laughing and we would just reply ,’Because we’re young.’ The weather could’ve been better (if only we went a day earlier) because it was cloudy, but it was still a magnificent sight. My legs are in pain but it was well worth it!