Settling In

Hello everyone! 大家好! On the 2nd of September, after months of anticipation, I finally left to go to China. I am here for ten months, learning Mandarin at Tianjin Normal University. Arriving here was so surreal after only being able to imagine what it would be like for so long. Plus I was still very tired from the eleven hour flight. We very quickly got to the Balitai Campus of the university, which is the campus for the foreign students and where we are staying. Our campus only has three buildings but it is very central and in a busy part of the city; the nearest subway station is only a minute away and there are lots of options for food and things to do near us, which is very strange for someone who has only ever lived in the countryside. Our subway station is called Wujiayao Station which I really like because it has the character 家 (jiā) in it which means home and Tianjin is already starting to feel like home now.

For the first couple of weeks we didn’t have classes, so we all took the chance to explore the city that we now live in. It was very, very hot in the first week, mostly around 37 degrees Celsius, although it has cooled down a bit now which I’m very happy about. The day after we arrived in China, I went on a trip to the Water Park near us. We had been told about this park from some of the previous scholars, although I think some people thought it was a theme park and were a wee bit disappointed. It’s actually just a park with lots of lakes and fountains and you can do boat rides while you are there. While we were walking in the park we spotted a salsa class and managed to get ourselves invited to join! I had no idea what I was doing which seemed to be quite amusing to the people in the class. For one of the other scholars’ birthday, we had a group trip to the Italian Quarter in Tianjin where I had some lovely pizza. Also, because of the heat, we went to a lot of shopping centres for the air conditioning shopping and food. There’s still a lot more to see in Tianjin, though; I really want to go to the Ancient Culture Street and Tianjin Binhai Library.

The second week was a lot less fun as it was the week when we had to sort out all the chores that are involved with moving to China, including: registering at the university and having tests to put us in our classes; going to the hospital to have a health check; getting bank cards; and getting our residence permit. The university organised some of this for us and advised us on the rest which definitely saved some stress (only some, though). The last thing we did before classes started was attend the university opening ceremony which was held in the other campus in Binhai. It was basically a big concert with lots of acts and singing, including some from fellow students. It was a great way to start off our time in university!

After all this I was kind of looking forward to having a routine. Our day starts at 8.30 but that isn’t a big deal because the commute to class is only across the car park outside. We have four classes for Mandarin: comprehension, writing, oral and listening. We have the same classroom for each lesson; in China the teacher moves classroom between lessons. My teachers speak completely in Mandarin which has even quite hard to get used to but I can already tell that it is really improving my listening and speaking. A typical class will start like this: the teacher will come in and say  你们好 (nǐmenhǎo) and we will reply 老师好 (lǎoshīhǎo) or 您好,老师 (nínhǎo, lǎoshī). When the teacher does the register we will say 到 (dào) to announce that we are here. The teachers will always use our Chinese names; mine is 白若芸 (Bái Ruòyún) which means ‘pure as the clouds.’ Then the teacher will go through the lesson for that day; each lesson involves learning new words, characters and Chinese grammar, so, after classes are done, I have to revise what I learnt that day. We also get given homework every day from each lesson, often for the next day.

We are now just about to go on holiday for a week because of National Day- even though we have only been in classes for two weeks. I am very lucky because my gran and my aunt are coming to visit me and my sister, who is also in China, and together we are all going on a trip to 西安 (Xī’ān). I am very excited and I will tell you all about in my next blog!! 再见!