Two weeks have passed since I checked in at Zhongguanxinyuan (中关新园) and I’ve officially started classes here as a student in PKU. The program is definitely turning out to be different than Yonsei and Cambridge and I’m looking forward to see how everything develops!
First thing first is the dorm since that’s the place I’ll be sleeping, eating, and breathing in most of the time. As an international student, I get to have the opportunity to room in ZGXY. It’s a pretty nice place and definitely nice compared to the dorms local students have to live in. Of course, the price is also a lot higher. The rooms are all suites (in ZGXY buildings 2 and 3 where most UCEAP students will be living) with a shared small living area and two or three private rooms and a bathroom attached. Even numbered floors have washers, dryers (although it doesn’t really work so just hang your clothes in the drying rack room), a microwave, and an electric stove. There’s no purified water so people usually go to the convenience store inside ZGXY-located on the side of building 4- to buy gallons of water. I’m pretty satisfied with the place although it does get dusty quickly-or maybe I’m just dirty. The cleaning lady comes in every other day to clean the bathroom and shared living area which is also nice.
Roommates are randomly given and I was lucky enough to get a super nice and cool roommate who is also from UCEAP (she goes to Berkeley instead of Los Angeles though). We’re both Cantonese too so it’s super fun to talk with her in my really bad Cantonese. She’s a biology major and will be taking biology classes at PKU this spring. We’ve been food hunting a lot and I managed to finish a whole fish with her at the Nanjing DaPaiDang （南京大排档）restaurant for the first time. For future reference the restaurant is located near the Carrefour in 海淀黄庄. We also tried a lot of school cafeteria food (there’s a lot of cafeterias on campus) and there’s such a wide variety of food!
First week, UCEAP brought us along to set up our PKU student ID cards, our internet accounts (you have to charge your card to pay a monthly 10元 for internet, which is pretty fast by the way), and introduce all the cafeterias and lecture buildings to us. We got to eat a lunch with the Tsinghua UCEAP kids as well. Signing up for classes was relatively easy since I could read some Chinese (and there’s Google Translate) and the local PKU student volunteers basically help you sign up for everything. I will be taking two Chinese language courses and one English-taught International Relations course which has already proven to be a lot more thought-provoking and challenging than any other IR class I have ever taken. The students in class are very diverse as well, with people from all types of backgrounds-everyone is breaking stereotypes here-and in a good and enriching way. There’s something for everyone and everyone has something to share with the whole. I’m excited to see where this class takes me.
Weather wise, it’s mostly been beautiful days here in Beijing. The smog days aren’t as frequent in the Spring semester and it even snowed really hard one day. The entire campus was transformed into some winter wonderland. It was like walking through a fantasy and combined with the more traditional Chinese architecturally built buildings on campus, the sights were just breathtaking. The Nameless/No name/Lake without a name Lake was also frozen over-I’ve never seen a frozen lake as a Californian so I was just super happy even though everything I was wearing was either frozen or wet or soggy.
Taking advantage of the winter scenes, a group of us UCEAP students headed to the Summer Palace (颐和园) since it is practically a once in a life time opportunity to see the beautiful palace in snow for us. The palace did not disappoint and even though we were freezing our butts off, it was totally worth our time and suffering. We also dared one of our friends to dip a foot onto the ice to see if it was hard enough and the ice completely shattered upon contact, earning us looks from all the tourists there.
I also visited Houhai (后海) and tried out some local street foods and enjoyed a dinner of tasty Peking Duck with my friends. The server kept on explaining to us how to eat it which was hilarious because our table had already eaten it before in the past and even had a local, but they wouldn’t believe us even though we told them. A+ service though. The service people here are super nice. Besides Houhai, I also visited the club/bar area Sanlitun (三里屯) which is a little far from PKU so I’m not planning on going there a lot and also Qianmen (前门) which is located near Tiananmen Square and offers a newly created taste of traditional Beijing streets and food. It’s a really long pedestrian shopping street and a must go if you’re in Beijing for a visit. It’s definitely touristy, but in my opinion, it’s quite well kept and made.
So far, so good in Beijing. Although I’m still not used to the food here, everything is fun and running smoothly. Teachers are good and so are the people.