By Diana Choi (笛安)
I also apologise for the lateness of this blog entry. Needless to say, I had such a fun-packed time in China that I didn’t have any time to write a blog post there and then straight afterwards I went to Korea so once again I had to postpone this post. However, now that I am back in Sydney, I can finally write about my experience in Beijing :)
So, a quick summary would be that I had the most amazing experience in Beijing and I am really glad that I decided to go! I met a lot of great people and learnt so many new things in the space of one month at my time studying at Beida :))
Now, down to the nitty-gritty! This can be long, but if you are thinking about going to Beida or have decided to go, hopefully this will help you a bit :D
So the program (I was in the beginner’s stream because I had just finished CHNS1102) basically involves 4 weeks of classes, 5 days a week, 8am to 12pm each day. Each day is divided up into 2 hours of reading/writing/vocab and 2 hours of speaking & listening, with different teachers for each part. The teachers were all really nice and friendly and gave us very interesting and fun lessons filled with laughter (and jokes).
Since this is an intensive course, the amount of things you learn in a day can be overwhelming. Plus, I think we basically had some kind of homework / presentation / vocab test every day so you need to be ready to learn and also be enthusiastic about it! I remember that we had a major test half-way through and towards the end of the program. You are also required to attend at least 75% of the classes to be eligible for a satisfactory pass mark.
You also get assigned a buddy from PKU as a part of the program. I just want take this time to thank PKU for assigning me such a great buddy! My buddy, Sally, was so helpful, friendly, kind and open-minded and just made my stay in Beijing so wonderful. She came to pick me up from the shuttle bus stop, helped me settle in, and introduced me to basically all the things I needed to know, took me shopping, took me sightseeing, took me to trendy restaurants, helped me exchange money at the bank, lent me things, explained to me China’s history and culture and the list goes on. I still keep in touch with her now and really miss the fun times we had together :( I think a part of the great experience stemmed from the fact that I also really made an effort to hang out with her and get to know her, so really it’s a two-way process.
We stayed at the PKU Global Village (otherwise known as 中关新园 Zhong guan xin yuan）which was located across the road from PKU. We were required to pay 500 yuan deposit when we check in. My stay in total cost around AUD $550 for the month.
PKU Global Village was very clean and close to the uni (although walking to class took like 15 mins because the campus is so big) and also very close to the subway station (Exit C of East Gate of PKU station “Bei jing da xue dong men"). There were also a lot of bus stops nearby as well (for those who want to go to Wudaokou without having to change trains twice) :)
I stayed in a two-bedroom dorm, which meant that I had my own room, but had to share the bathroom and small living area with a roommate who also had their own room. It can get quite dry in the room, so I would recommend you bring a mini humidifier (like one of those desktop ones) to put next to your bed when you sleep! Otherwise, you can be like me and put wet towels on the bed head before you sleep.
There is an internet cable in the room which can be connected to your laptop, but there is no wifi in the Global Village (there is wifi in the classroom on campus though) so some people brought a wifi router with them so that they could have a mini wifi hotspot in their room! Also, a multi plug consent is really handy and there is no need to buy an adapter because China uses the same plug points as us. There is a kettle provided in your room for all your cup noodles / instant coffee / tea needs (hooray!) but they don’t provide any towels or clothes hangers so you’ll need to bring them yourself or buy some! Linen and pillows are provided.
There are little stores in this small courtyard areas in Global Village, next to building 4, including a small cafeteria like store where you can buy food / dumplings etc. However, the prices at the convenience stores in the courtyard are quite high so I recommend that you buy everything from the supermarkets inside the campus (Wu-Mei and Boshi) or there’s this small convenience store near the bus-stops before you approach the boom gates of Global Village which is quite cheap too.
Also, when packing for Beijing, try to pack as lightly as possible! I know they always say this but seriously you can buy a lot of the things you need there for much cheaper :) (eg. things like toiletries). If you need to go shopping for clothes, you can always head to one of the markets in Beijing (Zoo Markets, Silk Markets, Pearl Markets etc) where you can find cheap clothes and also bargain, or you can head to the malls at Haidian Huangzhuang or head to Xidan, which is packed with large shopping centres. There is also a large bookstore in Xidan which can be an interesting experience.
I got to Global Village on the airport shuttle bus from Beijing Capital International Airport. After you get out of the airport, you’ll see a booth across the road selling tickets. You want to get on the shuttle that goes to “Zhong guan cun” - I think I said something like “wo yao qu zhong guan cun, gei wo yi zhang piao". The stop closest to Global Village is the final stop, so just stay on the bus until the end and the bus will stop at a car park in the middle of the road. I think it took around 40-45 mins. From there it’s best to catch a taxi and ask them to take you to 'Zhong guan xin yuan' or 'Bei jing da xue dong men’. Other people took the taxi directly from the airport and it cost them around 100 yuan, however, some people got overcharged (like 300 yuan) so watch out for that.
For day-to-day transport, we generally just walked to class every day, although some people bought bikes as well. As I mentioned before the subway station is really close so you can use the subway to get around Beijing. I suggest that you buy a “yi ka tong” which is like a rechargeable transport card (20 yuan for the card) which makes it so much more convenient when using the subway. Also, there are bag checks / scanning in every station so be ready for that! Personally I found the subway quite safe and very reliable (and cheap!), however there were instances of people’s phones getting pick-pocketed so it’s important to be weary of your belongings on the train.
I actually got my SIM card at a vending machine at the airport. It cost me 150 yuan and it included 100 yuan worth of credit, including data. If you need a micro-SIM or nano-SIM you would probably have to go to a China Mobile or China Unicom branch (I think there were some at the uni).
The food on campus is super cheap and quite delicious (for the price you pay). There are many cafeterias (“shi tang”) around the campus, but most them are located at the south side of the campus. Food costs about 7-8 yuan for a meal which usually includes two dishes and rice. You just need to point to the food you want and say “wo yao zhe ge” and then ask for “hai yao yi wan mi fan” for a bowl of rice. Then they input the price for you on this machine where you can beep your student card (you need to recharge your card before hand at the recharge station…which your buddies will hopefully take you to on the first day). You need to buy drinks separately and they usually only cost 1-2 yuan (I was quite fond of the Pear Juice “li zhi” I must say). If you want cheaper food, there’s a place that specialises in noodles (around 4-5 yuan a bowl) and also dumplings and congee (around 3 yuan? I can’t remember properly).
Ok, for those of you who like / need to drink coffee every morning before / during class, you can go to Paradiso Cafe on your way to the classrooms (which are in the Russian Building). The location of Paradiso is a bit ambiguous, but basically it’s on the northern / right side of the 100th anniversary building. As you’re walking down the alley with the 100th anniversary building to your left and you see Yan nan cafeteria (blue & red sign) in front of you, you need to look left and there will be these stairs which will lead you to a set of doors (which can look a bit shifty I must say). And voila you will be at Paradiso (btw, the prices aren’t cheap and the coffee isn’t as awesome as Sydney so be prepared for that).
For food outside of campus, there are good restaurants on the west side of the campus at the “Changchun Garden Food Street (畅春园食街)". You can go out through the “Little West Gate” and then cross the road. There are also good places in Zhong guan cun, which is a short walk south of campus. You can also take the subway to Haidian huangzhuang and there are two large malls there with lots of good options. Below is a list of some of the wonderful restaurants that my buddy took me too (nearly all of them have more than one branch so you should be able to find them throughout Beijing).
- Spice Spirit (Sichuan cuisine) [I went to the one in the La Vita building in Zhong guan cun]
- Nanjing Impressions (Nanjing cuisine) [Also in the La Vita building]
- Mei zhou dong po (Sichuan cuisine) [I went to the one in Zhongguancun Tower at Haidian Huangzhuang]
- Dong lai shun (Mongolian hotpot) [I went to the one in Qianmen]
- Hai di lao huoguo (Sichuan hotpot) [I went to the one in Bagou]
- Xiao diao li tang (Beijing cuisine, famous for hot pear tea) [at the Changchun Garden Food Street]
- Mei ming er sheng jian (Shanghai dumplings and other snacks) [also at the Changchun Garden Food Street]
- Bellagio (Taiwanese cuisine) [I went to the one in Galeries Lafayette in Xidan]
- Xi bei xi bei cai (Xibei cuisine) [I went to the one in Beijing APM building in Wangfujing]
- He yi zhai xiao chi (Beijing cuisine, with Beijing snacks) [in Ping’anli]
I am sure I don’t need to elaborate too much on this because you can easily access information on where to visit in Beijing! It’s also really fantastic how the program has cultural activities included (free of charge) such as watching Chinese acrobatics, Peking Opera, going to Tian’anmen Square and Forbidden City, The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven and Pearl Markets. The team at PKU really put a lot of effort into making our time in Beijing really worthwhile so I would like to thank them for that. 谢谢！
From my own point-of-view, I would really recommend that you visit Nan Luo Gu Xiang, which is like a long “hutong" style street full of cool things, and also Yan dai xie jie, which is another cool street leading you towards Shichahai lake, which is really amazing at night. I also really like Qianmen Dajie, Liulichang St, Wangfujing snack alley and the 798 Art district. I also recommend a visit to the National Art Museum of China if you are interested in art. I also went for a stroll in Purple Bamboo Park, which is only a few subway stops away from PKU and it was so relaxing and beautiful and made me wonder whether I was really in the heart of Beijing...
I also visited Tianjin, which is another city 30 mins away from Beijing by bullet train. The speed went up to 300km/h and it was quite amazing! Tianjin is renowned for its European architecture, so it was great to see that. They also have a small snack street in the city centre called “Liaoning Snack street” which was packed with yummy treats.
I found Beijing to be quite safe in general, however, people experienced some pick-pocketing on the train and streets so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to keep track of your belongings at all times. I nearly got pick-pocketed on the street as well but luckily I realised and stopped the pick-pocket from stealing anything.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at the USYD Department of Chinese Studies for giving us the opportunity to study Chinese at one of the best universities in China and especially a big thank you to Zhang laoshi for organising the program and Esther laoshi for also organising and coming with us to Beijing and helping us sort out any issues we had!! 谢谢您！
I have also attached a few photos of life at Beida below :)
PKU Global Village
Typical room at PKU Global Village
Typical scenery at Beida
Typical scene at the cafeterias
4 yuan (AUD 80c) noodles
Dry hotpot and rice for 3and pear juice from Yan nan cafeteria
Beef noodles and dumplings at Yi yuan cafeteria
Watching a play competition in the 100th anniversary building (with my buddy as one of the actors)
Our farewell luncheon!