Time passes so fast that we are already in the third week of this semester. During the past few weeks in Nanjing, CIEE students, teachers, Chinese roommates and tutors have bonded closely through a bunch of activities such as orientation, welcome lunch, field trips and tutoring. Every member of our CIEE Nanjing family is so excited about this semester and unique adventure in Nanjing.
Our semester began with a well-organized orientation at the CIEE Study Center in Nanjing University by our resident director Dr. Fu Yanfei. On the very first day, our students learned a lot about the geographical and historical knowledge of city as well as the ways of living in a different environment and culture, which laid a good foundation for students’ adaptation to local culture. Moreover, Fu Laoshi recommended American students plenty of useful apps to help them quickly get accustomed to local life. In addition to living in a different culture, Fu Laoshi also talked about the academic requirements and cultural activities regarding to our Intensive Language and Culture program. It really surprised us that our students chose the highest level language commitment as they committed to speak Chinese all day long. It shows their strong determination to learn Chinese and we are looking forward to witnessing their achievements in the coming days.
After orientation, American students and their Chinese roommates went together to downtown Xinjiekou, a place with tons of modern skyscrapers and countless shopping malls, for welcome lunch. American students found that it was a great opportunity for them to bond with their Chinese roommates as they were introduced a lot of local dishes such as steamed bun (小笼包) and salty duck (盐水鸭) as well as Chinese table manners. Welcome lunch really gave them an eye-opening experience as they learned about why Chinese people liked to treat their friends and seating orders. Soon after the welcome lunch, our American students and their Chinese roommates were quickly becoming friends and couldn’t stop talking about food, dining habits, cultural differences and young generation’s lifestyle in both countries. They had a downtown tour afterwards and Fu Laoshi showed them the cityscape and introduced historical background to the students.
The second part about our orientation was campus and neighborhood tour. Nanjing University as one of China’s top universities has hundred and fifteen years history and Gulou Campus where our classrooms and dorms are has the most convenient location right in the city center. Campus and neighborhood tours with their Chinese roommates made the transition much easier for American students since them began their adventure in Nanjing by getting familiar with the environment nearby and further bonding with their new friends. Both the American students and their Chinese roommates were so excited about living in together for the next few months. And for those who were going to live with a host family, they expected to experience more authentic Chinese living style like homemade food and family life. Those host families we chose were quite experienced in hosting foreign students, as they were fully prepared before the students arrived. American students were warmly welcomed by their 叔叔，阿姨 and 弟弟，妹妹 while the strangeness were soon melted away by sweet smile and sincere greeting exchange between each other.
After the two-day orientation, our first week began! Students gradually settled into their new schedule and got to know their teachers’ teaching styles and class pace during the first week. As the theme of our program indicated, they have intensive language learning in the morning for 4 hours. Our Chinese instructors not only base lessons on their textbooks but also strategically emphasis on presentation, field trip reports as well as into the community activities.
In additional to intensive language class, we provide them with diverse cultural classes with Chinese characteristics. American students are quite into Taichi class where they get a chance to experience Chinese Kungfu at the first time. Taichi is a traditional Chinese material art and is well known for its great combination of movement and stillness from Daoism. Contemporary Chinese Study is also one of their favorites as they discussed a variety of aspects covering China’s economics, politics and culture with their instructors. Intercultural Communication and Leadership class, to a large extent, broad their horizon and develop their internal leadership in intercultural context.
According to our language commitment, students agreed to speak Chinese all day long. It was a challenge for them, especially when they tried to explain something with limited vocabulary (sometimes they tried to order food in a local restaurant and found it hard to get what they want in Mandarin only). However, with the help from teachers and their Chinese roommates as well as their strong determine and passion in learning Chinese, they are getting used to it and more comfortable and confident in speaking Chinese in daily life. One thing that encouraged a student a lot was when a salesman tried to talk to him in English but he replied him in Chinese fluently.
After a few days, students got to meet their tutors. After icebreaking activities, they talked and shared lots of common interests and began to discuss about tutoring time on their own. On one hand, peer tutoring as a complement to Chinese classes, gives students customized after-class tutoring and chance to thoroughly research in areas they’re interested in. On the other hand, it provides more opportunities for American students to form social network with local peers and fully integrate in young people’s social life. Students sometimes invite their tutors to local restaurants with language meal fee we offer to study menus, dishes and to practice new vocabulary they just learned.
By the end of the first week, one of our students, 歌扬, had his 22nd birthday in Nanjing! At first, he didn’t know there was a surprise party for him. We prepared a cake and invited all the students and Chinese roommates to the lounge waiting for him. The moment he entered the door, we jumped out and yelled “Happy Birthday!” 歌扬 was so thrilled coz it was the first time he celebrated his birthday in China and said that’s the day he would never forget. One interesting gift from a Chinese roommate was a happy birthday song in four languages.
Students are so excited about every Friday as we usually arrange field trips for them together with their Chinese roommates. Our first field trip was to Jiming Temple; visit Ming City Wall as well as Xuanwu Lake. Jiming Temple is one of the oldest temples in Nanjing with more than a thousand years of history. While walking along from the main hall to the well-preserved medicine Buddha temple, Dr. Fu introduced the splendid history of temple as well as Chinese Buddhism to the students. They were also interested in the authentic way of praying with burning incenses. Stepping on the 600 hundreds years old Ming Dynasty City Wall, we took our first CIEE group picture against crystal clear sky and the highest skyscraper in Nanjing. Everyone was impressed by the perfect combination of historical sites and modern skyscrapers. We ended the trip by boating on Xuanwu Lake. Students chatted with their Chinese and American friends while paddling boats on the beautiful Xuanwu lake with the blossoming lotus flowers. Laughs spread out in the peaceful lake with the cool breeze of the early fall.
Last Friday, we took the students to the renowned Confucius Temple where they learned a lot about Chinese imperial examination 科举考试. Imperial examination museum showed them the most profound examination system had involved thousands of years history since Sui Dynasty. The highlight of Confucius Temple was visiting Lao Mendong Historical Culture Block where students were totally attracted by Chinese traditional handicrafts such as clay figure, sugar painting and paper-cut.
Living in Nanjing likes an adventure for our American students as they get a lot of chance to explore and experience a different life with their Chinese friends, especially during the weekends and returning with fascinating stories. Since it’s only the third week of the semester, there still more to be expected. And you know what? CIEE students are now learning Chinese songs for the coming Karaoke day this week!