by Maddie Zimmerman
So I thought I would devote a post to talking about my classes and my weekly schedule to give you all a sense of what I’m up to on a fairly daily basis!
The very first weekend we were here, on Sunday morning, we all took a placement test (yikes, right?) to help the Chinese language professors determine what level we should be in. There are three levels offered with this program: Intermediate, Advanced Intermediate, and Advanced. I knew that I wasn’t going to be placed in the Advanced level because students in that class are often near-fluent in spoken Chinese, so I was hoping for the Advanced Intermediate level because that would be closest to where I left off at Hope. The placement test itself also had two parts: one written and one spoken. Once we finished with the written portion (all reading passages, answering questions, and writing short responses), we had to go into a different room to chat with the professors for a few minutes in Chinese. I felt pretty confident about both portions of the test, though I definitely wished I had practiced writing more characters before I came. I could remember how to say them but not how to write them! However, by that afternoon we got our placements, and I found out I was in the Advanced Intermediate class! There are 8 of us in that class, with 4 in the intermediate class and 2 in the advanced class. We then started classes immediately the next morning.
On Monday-Thursday mornings, I have my two Chinese classes from 8-12. These classes are split up into Readings in Chinese and Spoken Chinese, two hours for each with one professor for each class. When I first read that I was going to have four hours of Chinese classes a day, I thought it was going to be really difficult to get through, but it’s honestly been pretty great! We have 10-20 minute breaks around every hour mark, which are really helpful because we get the chance to get up and stretch our legs and go buy a snack or some coffee. I also thought the classes were going to be very different from each other, but we use the same textbook and learn the same things for both classes, so it’s really like having one class with two professors, each focusing on a slightly different aspect. It’s definitely very intensive though – we learn pretty much one textbook lesson per day, which means that we’re studying 40-70 new vocabulary words per night. We have a 听写 (listening quiz) about the new vocab every day, and exams every Thursday. The exams trade off, so one week we’ll have a reading exam, and the next week we’ll have a spoken exam.
During weekday afternoons, we have optional activities we can attend, such as tai chi or volunteering to teach English at an elementary school! I’ve signed up to volunteer at the elementary school this semester, which we do every other week, but I’ll talk about that more in a later post. We also have three hours of one-on-one tutoring a week, where we can meet with our tutor whenever works best for the both of us and they can help us with homework, studying, or whatever else we need.
On Thursday afternoons, we all meet up for our third required course called History of US-China Relations. This class is taught in English (thankfully) and it’s about the relationship between China and the US beginning with the first arrival of the US in China in 1784 to now. We have it for three hours, but it never usually feels that long. Our professor is very engaging and asks us really great, thought-provoking questions throughout the class, so it’s never just like he’s lecturing at us for the full time. I also love history (I mean, I would hope I do with my Art History major), so I’ve been enjoying this class a lot.
Then on Fridays we don’t have classes in the morning, but we do have field trips in the afternoon! Sometimes we go to historic sites like 夫子庙 (Fūzǐ miào – Confucius Temple), 鸡鸣寺 (Jī míng sì – Jiming Temple), 明城墙 (Míng chéngqiáng – Ming city wall), and 玄武湖 (Xuánwǔ hú – Xuanwu Lake), and sometimes we have events like karaoke! The weekends we have completely to ourselves, so sometimes we go see movies, go shopping, go to cafes to work on homework, go out to a bar in the evening, or just walk around Nanjing! Weekdays are definitely more stressful because of how much work we have, but the weekends make it worth it.
Even though I’m for sure busy, I really do love my schedule, I love the classes that I get to take here, and I have great professors and friends who are all so willing to help me out if I need it.