Year Abroad – Living in Beijing and The Course at Beijing Normal University (BNU)

By Brigitta Goedhuys|December 10, 2019|China|

by Milla Sutton – Year Abroad student to China, 2018-19

My name is Milla, and I am a third-year student studying Modern and Classical Chinese at SOAS. I arrived in China early, for I had signed up for a homestay programme which was to last 8 weeks, right before enrolling into university. After completing the programme, I felt like a true international student. Running around sorting visas, accommodation, all while attempting to get by on my limited vocabulary. That, of course, had to change rapidly! Studying at SOAS provided me with a solid foundation for living in China.

Classes at Beijing Normal University initially were very intense because I had to adjust to the language. An average day involved attending an 8 am class and finishing by 12 pm. I took the mandatory classes: reading, writing, newspaper, and classical Chinese. My favourite was the newspaper class, where we would present articles to the class and have discussions on controversial topics. Some of my presentations included the Extinction Rebellion protests which were gaining prominence in the middle of the year, which certainly sparked interesting views on the environment and protesting. This really helped with my fluency because you must have an adequate vocabulary and quick wit to fire back! I also enjoyed the classical Chinese class, where we read a selection of texts and translated from ancient Chinese to modern Chinese, thereby improving our vocabulary. I also had enough time in the first term to buy the textbook for the class above me, therefore by the second term I was enthused enough to move up two classes. There I experienced a different environment, because the students were often older, more experienced in learning Chinese, and determined to do well. So I more thoroughly prepared as not to embarrass myself! In any case, it was a great experience to attend a class with different people, and it made my second term all the more memorable.

The academic year is divided into two terms, with the two-month Spring festival from January to the end of February, but we had a few breaks in between. Through these ‘independent study’ weeks the university arranged trips. During one of these breaks I went to Jiangxi, which was really exciting for me. In year one I wrote about porcelain for the history module and was extremely excited when I got the opportunity to see such art in person. I also went on the Great Wall trip organised and funded by the school, which was a wonderful opportunity.

A view of the Great Wall

A view of the Great Wall

A view of the Great Wall

A kiln in Jiangxi

A kiln in Jiangxi

A kiln in Jiangxi where we given a tour of how the pots were made

making our own ceramics

making our own ceramics

We learned how to make our own ceramics, and how to decorate them (I still have my decorated cup!)

Through everyday classes and educational trips organised by the university, I learned about the Chinese language and culture through various ways. I am glad to have gone on the year abroad during the second year as it has made me enthused about what’s to come.

See also:

Year Abroad in China – Activities in Beijing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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