6/26 – School’s (in) for Summer!

Day Four – Monday, June 26

Today is my first day of language class!  Honestly, I don’t think that I have ever been more excited for class – I think the mixture of beginning a completely new thing and getting out of the house made me really look forward to this day.

This was the first day that I had to get up by a certain time (7am), which wasn’t very hard because I am still waking up at 6am each morning.  My host mom came and knocked on my door and told me to get ready for school.  I only had about 15 minutes to get ready (plus the hour I was awake beforehand) and ate breakfast on the way to school.  Since I live close to Zack, Katie, and Anthony, we all carpool to school and take the bus home together; this morning Katie’s mom drove us to school.

Immediately after we arrived at school, Isabel told us which classroom and level we were in.  I got just what I wished for, the intermediate class!  I know that my Chinese skills aren’t great, but relative to the group I am not a beginner, so I was happy that this was my placement.  At 8:30, our first class began.

Today’s classes weren’t very informative and were much more “getting to know you” based.  Our teacher, Qiu Lao Shi, seemed kind-of scary at first because she is the head teacher for nsliy students at BNUZ.  However, once we talked with her a little while, we realized that she is actually incredibly nice and really wants to help us learn.  We also have three teacher assistants, who are college students studying to become teachers. During class today, we mostly learned about basic Chinese history, shared our backgrounds (age, grade, from where, etc), and began practicing tone pronunciation.  In Chinese, tone pronunciation is very important, as tones correspond to different characters and therefore different meanings.  For example, sì (四) means four while sǐ (死) means dead.  Because these small changes mean completely different things, it is very important to practice pronunciation.

Right before lunch, I met my language partner.  Language partners are Chinese students studying at BNUZ and majoring in teaching Chinese as a second language.  Each nsliy student was paired with a language partner, who come into our class for two 30 minute periods each day to give us one-on-one attention.  This is a unique perk of the nsliy language study; our partners help us specifically with what we are struggling with and can give us personal attention.  My language partner is Mengnan, or Katie in English.  She is very nice and attentive, and even speaks a little English.  So far, she has focused on my pronunciation and helping me recognize and say the different tones.  Outside of class, each day we eat lunch at the cafeteria or a campus restaurant with our language partner (along with other students and their partners).  I am very excited to get to know Mengnan better and for her to help me learn Chinese.

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Interior of Maan Coffee

I caught the bus home from school at 4pm with Zack, Katie, and Anthony.  We all have the same bus route, just get off at different stops.  I really like taking the bus because it is easy to navigate, convenient, extremely cheap (2yuan or 30cents), and allows me to have some independence.  Today, instead of going straight home we decided to visit Maan Coffee, a famous coffee and waffle cafe about 10 minutes away from my house.  I enjoyed a vanilla latte (I’ve been craving coffee drinks!) and took in the air conditioning.  The atmosphere of Maan is very nice – the cafe is spacious and we could just sit and unwind for an hour or so before having to go back to speaking Chinese (a break is well deserved between Chinese class and Chinese families).

Tonight I celebrated one of my biggest accomplishments yet; being able to hold a full conversation with Linda, my sister!  We were out on a walk in the evening and chatting about our day and the differences between China and America.  Since it was just the two of us, I think she was less nervous and more willing to hold a conversation with me.  She is very polite, yet corrects me when I pronounce something wrong or use incorrect grammar; I am very thankful for her because my parents think it is too rude to correct me so I’m not learning too much from them.  Even though we just used basic words and constantly had our translator out, I felt that I really bonded with her over our little walk!