Our First Few Days in Beijing

June 24, 2015

It’s amazing to think that the students arrived in Beijing only four days ago. Already, jet lag has started receding and the students are becoming familiar with the Capital Normal University campus, Chinese food, and most importantly, the Language Pledge®. So much has happened in the past few days; every day is packed with orientation, classes, and activities from 7:30 am to 11 pm. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve been up to in Beijing:

Day 1: Arrival Day

All day we had staff eagerly waiting at the Beijing airport for students to arrive. The day was a bit hectic but we made sure everyone arrived safely to the campus and was checked into their rooms. At this point, the Pledge was not yet in effect, so students were busy getting acquainted with their new friends.

Day 2: Orientation + The Pledge

Monday was the last day the students and staff could speak English. We spent the day familiarizing the students with the Academy’s daily schedule, activities, and rules. Then, we took the students on a tour around the neighborhood and showed them the local bank, grocery store, and restaurants they would be eating at every night. The students also took a STAMP assessment to help determine class level.

For their last English-speaking night, everyone went to a nearby restaurant for a welcome dinner. Afterwards, students, teachers, and REs all gathered together to sign the Language Pledge®. Each participant promised not speak any language other than Chinese for the duration of the program. This way, we can improve our Chinese speaking, writing, and listening abilities as much as possible.

Day 3: The First Day with the Pledge

The first day with the Pledge is always the hardest, so we started out on a light note. Students met with their teachers and played a few games in Chinese. Afterwards, we held a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood! After lunch, the students headed out to a Cultural Center in Beijing to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. They learned about the holiday’s traditions by eating zongzi, pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves, making incense pouches –which, according to folklore, protect you from evils and diseases– participating in a tea ceremony, and tying calamus and wormwood together to create wreathes that are traditionally hung on doors to repel insects and other evil spirits from the house. This holiday let the students become truly immersed in an important part of Chinese culture.

That night, the students had their first chance to talk with their parents since arrival. 

 Day 4: Falling into Schedule

Today was the first day of regular classes. Students got placed in the appropriate groups and quickly became acquainted with their teachers. They also attended their first Cultural Exploration activity. This week, the students chose between learning calligraphy, painting, or tai chi, all taught by experts in the field.

It has only been four days, but we’ve been able to experience so much! The month ahead of us is equally busy, not just on campus but also at sites around Beijing as well. We’re all anxious to see how much the students language abilities and cultural knowledge will improve within the next month.