10/13/14

Busy Life of a Graduate Student

Sun Yat-Sen University

It’s been a busy start of the semester, but finally I found the time to share my first thoughts and feelings how it’s like to be a graduate student in China. As most of you know, I did my bachelor degree here at Sun Yat-Sen University first, and continued to the master’s this August. Doing the undergrad was more like going to high school: go to lessons, do your homework, take exams, just with an added bonus of writing a thesis in the end.

mastersstudiesschedule

Doing a master’s in Teaching Chinese (or International Chinese Education as we call it), is something totally different. My studies consist of following elements:

  • lessons
  • individual homework
  • group projects
  • reading articles, research papers, books
  • writing project reports and course papers
  • listening to experienced teachers teach
  • teaching simulation
  • internship at Chinese Teaching Materials Base

My current courses can be seen on the schedule above, later this year two courses will be added to the mix. Next year Spring and Summer semester will continue more or less in a same way, leaving the teaching internship and thesis writing for the last year.

Challenges

Studying a graduate degree in a second language is always a big challenge, what makes it a bit easier is that in our class of 63 students, we have 22 foreign students from all over the world. We come from different cultures, but also have similar challenges in studying a degree in Chinese. It means a lot to have this support group.

All of our courses are of course taught in Chinese and I can follow the lessons well. I can see that some teachers are still a bit unsure in which way their teaching can keep both the foreign and Chinese students happy, but in general it’s us foreigners that need to keep up with the Chinese.

Reading a lot of material in Chinese is also a challenge at the moment, but at the same time a good way for me to improve my reading skills and speed. I will be reading papers mainly on teaching, psychology and culture fields, using digital versions on my iPad whenever possible.

Later on writing course papers will present another challenge, I need to improve my written Chinese and avoid too colloquial expressions in my writing. I believe reading a lot helps with writing skills as well.

A good choice

I’ve been very happy that I got the scholarship and the chance to continue my studies here at Sun Yat-Sen University, during the years it has already turned into my home university. I just got the news that the supervisor teachers I chose also chose me, so I will be doing my thesis next year in a good company.

This is just the beginning of my degree, there will most probably be sweat and tears along the way, but hopefully also feelings of success and happiness. I will keep you posted!

09/21/14

Watching sun set at Hangzhou West Lake

Hangzhou West Lake

My one week trip to Hangzhou and Suzhou feels like ages ago, even though it was just last month that I did this trip alone to find some joy after being at home for such a long time. My husband encouraged me to go out and see new places before starting my master’s degree, luckily I listened to his advice!

What I liked about Hangzhou and Suzhou is that you could actually explore parts of the city by foot. Guangzhou is so huge that by foot you don’t really get anywhere and have to rely on metros and buses. In Hangzhou the best place to wonder around is of course the famous West Lake!

 

Sara and Jocelyn

I had Jocelyn from Speaking of China as my local tour guide, showing me beautiful views to the lake and also taking me to taste both local and foreign delicacies. I’ve been reading Jocelyn’s blog since I first came to China in 2010, it was great to finally meet her. And as it happens, we just talked and talked for hours that day!

Hangzhou Tea House

Our day started at Qing Teng Tea House were we had this amazing lunch with main dish, fruits, snacks and dessert. Not to forget the famous longjing tea. We had our own small room with beautiful decorations, offering a very peaceful and calming surrounding for our lunch.

Hangzhou West Lake

Back in February 2010 I was walking on the foot steps of emperors and concubines in Forbidden City, but now in Hangzhou I was following poets and painters through dynasties who had been fascinated by the breathtaking scenery at West Lake.

The best time to visit West Lake is sun rise or sun set when the sky is painted with soft colors. And don’t make a lit of visiting the most famous spots around the lake, it’s much better to just wander around and avoid the crowds if it happens to be a weekend or a public holiday.

Hangzhou West Lake

As many beautiful places in China, the West Lake is also a popular destination for wedding photos. This bride looked amazing in her figure-hugging lace bridal gown, that I had to snap a picture.

Hangzhou West Lake

“Green mountains surround on all sides
the still waters of the lake.
Pavilions and towers in hues of gold
and azure rise here and there.
One would say a landscape composed by a painter.
Only towards the east,
where there are no hills,
does the land open out,
and there sparkle, like fishes’ scales,
the bright colored tiles of a thousand roofs.”

—From Daily life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276

Hangzhou West Lake

When the sun set below the horizon, fishermen came out with their long boats. Me and Jocelyn continued our discussion about everything between heaven and earth. I guess when two Western girls living in China and both having Chinese husbands, interesting topics for discussion are never-ending.

Next time I hope to visit Hangzhou and Jocelyn together with my husband.

09/9/14

Wedding Planning In China

Life’s been busy since the new semester started few weeks ago. Starting of my master’s degree means lessons, lectures and internship. On top of that I have started tutoring a beginner learner two times per week. Lots of exciting things!

Before I have time to continue with the travel posts from Hangzhou and Suzhou, I show you my first video for Out and About in China Youtube channel. In this short video I go over the 4 basic steps in wedding planning and also offer a few tips for others who are planning their multicultural wedding.

Hope you enjoy the video! Please subscribe to our Youtube channel for more videos around Asia.

08/23/14

See me on Chinese TV show Hello中国!

My first appearance on the Chinese TV is finally here! It was shown on GDTV late Thursday night this week and yesterday a friend of mine already found it online. Last month I wrote about how its was like to shoot the show, now it’s time to watch it.

I have to admit I haven’t watched it yet! Watching my self on a TV show like this makes me very nervous, almost more nervous than doing the quiz show. Perhaps it’s the same “logic” when you feel strange listening a recording of your own voice, it just sounds different. I’m gonna watch it soon together with my husband who also makes an appearance with my mother-in-law.

Speaking of my popo (MIL) she of course watched the whole show on TV and called all family members and friends to watch it too. Many of my friends and teachers have also sheared it on WeChat. Thank you everyone for the encouragement!

I really hope that you all enjoy the show! Please let me know if it’s too slow to watch outside of China and I will do my best to get it to Youtube.

08/19/14

Wuzhen Water Town

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Wuzhen Water Town is a famous and popular travel destination near Hangzhou. Wuzhen has a history of 1300-years and ancient Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal flows through the town. As a representative of the ancient water town architecture and culture, it has become a huge tourist spot for Chinese and foreigners alike.

I visited Wuzhen on 8th of August this year, having just arrived to Hangzhou on the very same morning after midnight. My flight from Guangzhou was delayed several hours, but even with sleepy eyes, I managed to make to most of my visit to Wuzhen.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen includes two areas that are close-by each other, the West Scenic Zone and the East Scenic Zone. Ticket to the west are 120RMB, to the east 100RMB and for both 150RMB. If you have a full day or are staying the night, it’s best to get the combined ticket.

Wuzhen Water Town

While searching for information about Wuzhen, I find out that the West Zone is mostly designed for tourists with tea houses, restaurants and shops. Because of time limits and being able to visit Wuzhen during the week, I decided to brave the crowds and head to the West Zone. The village had many tourists wondering along, but I was possible to find more quieter alleys as well.

Wuzhen Water Town

Wuzhen Water Town

The West Zone alone is quite big and you can spend a full day there walking around, taking photos and spending time with local delicacies. The Chinese tourist seemed to be able to buy something new to eat on every stall.

Wuzhen Water Town

When walking along the numerous streets and alleys, I noticed it’s easy to get a bit lost in Wuzhen. The maps they have in many crossroads are sometimes from East to West and sometimes from West to East, making navigation harder. At the same time getting lost is always part of the experience in all ancient villages, just take your time and let your feet lead the way.

Wuzhen Water Town

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I didn’t have time to visit the East Zone, but that’s said to be more quiet, less tourists and the place where actual locals reside. Of course those same locals also offer hostels and hotels there, but most of the commercialism seems to be gathered at the West Zone. If you have a full time, I recommend visiting the East first and then continuing to West with the shuttle bus.

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Wuzhen Water Town

Because of the popularity, avoid public holidays and even weekends if possible when visiting Wuzhen. In my opinion Wuzhen is not a place to explore the daily life of locals, it’s best to be seen as a picturesque village ideal for great photography and relaxation.

Wuzhen Water Town

If you decide to stay for a night, take a good book with you and find a nice spot in a tea house along the river. Watch the sun set and see another beautiful side of the water village. I bet the evening view with lanterns lit is amazing!

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If you are going to Wuzhen from Hangzhou, take a bus at the couch terminal (客运中心站), easily reachable by the one and only metro line at the moment. The bus tickets is 30RMB and it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Wuzhen. From the Wuzhen bus station you can take a local bus K350 to both of the Scenic Zones, costing only 3RMB. At the bus station you can buy your return ticket too when you arrive, that way you don’t need to worry about not getting a ticket during the busy season.

For more information on how to get to Wuzhen check their own website.

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I recommend Wuzhen for everyone who is interested in ancient Chinese water towns South of Yangtze river, but isn’t looking for finding a quiet and tourist empty place out of the beaten path. Wuzhen is a nice and easy village to visit, which makes it great for day trips from Hangzhou or Shanghai.

Wuzhen Water Town

Plan your trip away from national holidays or Summer vacation weekends, and you will have a pleasant time wondering the streets and canals of Wuzhen. I had about six hours in the West Scenic Zone, walking slowly and stopping often to admire the view. I found Wuzhen to be a great place to visit with my camera, something totally different than I see daily in Guangzhou.

If you have any questions about visiting Wuzhen, just leave me a comment! More posts about my week-long visit to Hangzhou and Suzhou are on their way too.