Actually Studying While Abroad

Today is Thursday, and I have officially finished my first week of classes here at SWUFE!

The building where I have class from 8:30 – 12 every day.

Our language class is from 8:30 am to 12 pm every weekday, and it is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. While our UF professor explained grammar and new vocabulary in English sprinkled with Chinese examples, our Chengdu professor explains everything in Chinese only. I may look like I’m sitting serenely in class, but my mind is frantically running through a library, grabbing random books and searching for an English equivalent as fast as possible.

Monday, I felt like someone had tossed me over Niagara Falls without a life preserver or swimming lessons. Every time I finally grasped a concept or a new word, 等 老師 (Deng laoshi - said Chinese professor) had already leapt ahead to something new and I felt like the little I said was completely wrong. It’s been four days, and I’ve slowly progressed to treading in a lake – staying afloat but not completely confident.

We’ve finished one chapter already and next week we have a group oral presentation in addition to a test, so the pace is definitely quicker here. Our weekly culture class starts next week so I’m excited for that – next Monday we discuss “Cultural Aspects of Chengdu.” (Does this include the giant water park I spotted on our map? I really hope so.)

We all had a ten minute interview with Deng laoshi so she could observe our speaking and listening ability and get to know us. While most people had a short interview with a variety of questions (what do your parents do? where are you from?), I had an interview that lasted over fifteen minutes simply because I managed to keep veering off into topics and discussions where my poor professor was just confused by my life. For instance, she asked about my family and that turned into a convoluted explanation that culminated in “你 怎麼 說’artificial insemination?’ – Ni zenme shuo, how do you say ‘artificial insemination?'” The upside of this is that I now know the term for “sperm bank” should that topic every come up again.

Miscellaneous Experiences:

– Thursday afternoon, most of us went to a tai chi class that our professors told us about. I had no idea that tai chi involved so much self-defense (I chalked it up to more of a yoga experience) and how bad my sense of balance really is. We all looked like water benders from the TV show Avatar, but I had a great time and definitely look forward to next week’s class.

– There is a special place in heaven for restaurants that have menus with pictures you can point to and restaurants that listen when you ask for no spice. My tolerance for spicy food has risen in that I can now eat without having to gulp down water, but today I bit into a red pepper by accident and my ears, nose, and throat burned in simultaneous agony. Conclusion? R.I.P. taste buds. Stomach? We have a long way to go, my friend.

– Red lights are suggestions, seat belts are optional, and right of way is for those on wheels only. Cross the streets en masse, my children.

Tomorrow, we wake up early for our first excursion! We are headed to E’mei Mountain and Lenshang Mountain (I think, the names kind of got lost in a slew of newfangled Chinese vocabulary – the mountain part is a definite fact though) where we will see a giant Buddha statue, evil monkeys, a face changing performance, and markets. When Zhang laoshi came to talk to our class about the trip, she handed us a paper with restrictions and regulations. The entire class laughed at me because when we got to “don’t take pictures of the monkeys” and “don’t step over the fence to get a good picture of the mountain,” she pointedly said “Kang Ai Mei! NO PICTURES OKAY?” The fact that I took 832 pictures during my first weekend here was not lost on my professor – or my class (the poor subjects of all my photography).

I’m not sure if my pictures showed up in my last post but if they didn’t, the pictures can also be found here:


See you on the other side of the mountain,



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