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10/21/2014

Summer 2014, Issue I

CIEE Beijing Newsletter Banner  CIEE Beijing - Walking through the valley

There's no place like Beijing!

Though the 2014 Summer Intensive Chinese Language program is coming to an end, students still have so much more to do before they leave. What they have done already, though in a little over four weeks, though, is impressive.

New Life, New Challenges

After getting here on June 15, students hit the ground running the very next day with a trip to Tiananman Square followed by a welcome lunch of Beijing Duck. After coming back to the CIEE office, they went off with the CIEE tutors for a tour of PKU's imposing campus, maps in hand!

The rest of the week featured lectures by Pat Lucas on intercultural communication, a requirement for students who live in homestays, as well as a lecture on environment, which was a pre-requisite to participate on one of the two themed excursions

 

CIEE Beijing - Tiananmen Group Photo
Students and CIEE teachers stand for a group shot in front of Mao's portrait at Tiananmen.

 

CIEE Beijing - Welcome Luncheon
Students enjoy CIEE's welcome luncheon by trying Beijing Duck after touring Tiananmen Square.

 

New Area Studies courses

On top of regular language courses, students now have the opportunity to take 1-credit courses, including HSK test preparation course, learning Chinese through drama, and Issues in Contemporary Chinese Society. The first two courses, allow students to focus on different language learning techniques. The HSK course gives students the background on how to study for the HSK Chinese proficiency test by introducing the format, going over structure, key grammar points, and strategies for preparing on one's own. Learning Chinese through Drama which in Chinese is literally translates to Performance Chinese (表演汉语), students study to perform scripts from short plays, while receiving instruction on key points of each play. Stand outside the classroom during this class, and all you will hear is non-stop laughs. Though as students giggle their way through scripts, the intonation, and improved speaking techniques they have learned are seriously impressive!

CIEE Beijing - Practicing their skit
Students practice their lines for their performance.

Students this semester have also responded positively to the aforementioned Issues in Contemporary Chinese Society course, taught by our summer Resident Director, Mattew Chitwood. Though more of an overview of China, students have responded enthusiastically to the points covered thus far, including sustainable development in China, China's housing bubble, and Chinese civil society. As part of the class, students are required to attend CIEE's expert lectures. While optional to other students, these lectures fit in with the topic covered in that week's class, and thus far have included lectures by the US Treasury attaché at the US Embassy in Beijing, and will conclude with a talk by a Senior Program Officer from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Beijing office.

CIEE Beijing - Gates Foundation Lecture
Bin Pei from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation talks about civil society in China.

 

Field trips

Once again, CIEE students visited the countryside and the ultra-modern port city of Dalian. Students, each time, are consistently contrasting their surroundings with those of Beijing. For CIEE staff, many of whom have been to these locations multiple times, find themselves constantly second-guessing themselves with the rapid change that takes place not only in the Dalian, but also the rapid changes to rural areas in Shanxi and in Hebei provinces.

Countryside - Shanxi, Hebei

In the countryside, students and teachers encountered some of the best weather of 2014. Blue skies welcomed students to rural Shanxi as they climbed a section of great wall made of pressed mud, and unlike when spring students made this trip in May (when it snowed!), students enjoyed perfect weather during their village stays, and many families with their new foreign members, were able to weed potatoes uninterrupted that afternoon.

CIEE Beijing - Weeding Potatoes
CIEE students take to the fields to weed potatoes with their local host families.
CIEE Beijing - Countryside Hike
Students rest after hiking nearly four miles over sheep trails.

The seaside - Dalian City

Things went smoothly in Dalian, where students and teachers examined the foreign influence of the Russian's, Japanese, through architecture, cuisine, and other historical sites. Students hit the big time when they spotted an unclaimed 100 RMB note sitting next to a parked police car, no less, and proceeded to buy everyone pastries and ice cream!

CIEE Beijing - Dalian Lighthouse
CIEE Students stand in front of the lighthouse on their excursion to Dalian.
CIEE Beijing - Selfies by the Sea
CIEE Students take seaside selfies while traveling in Dalian!

 

CIEE Beijing Welcomes you! CIEE北京欢迎你!

As more of a general news item, the CIEE office finally returned to a state of normalcy as renovations capped the end of CIEE Beijing's half year move to its new location on the southeast corner of Peking University's campus. The Shaoyuan Building #2 was CIEE Beijing's home for decades, is currently being renovated and once complete, will become housing for undergraduate Chinese PKU students. Because of this, the CIEE office is now on the southeast corner of PKU campus in the newly refurbished Taipingyang Building. With a more wide-open office plan, the new office features almost double the size of our old office, for students to study, as well as our very own dedicated classroom that overlooks Beijing's Zhongguancun district.

Students come here for their Language and Culture Practicum course, as well as one-on-one tutorial sessions. On top of that, the free water, air-conditioning and, most importantly, free Wi-Fi, make the office a popular destination for students to come and study or in some cases, simply relax!

 

CIEE Beijing - Office Shot
The CIEE Office on the southeast corner of PKU campus.

 

11/08/2013

Fall 2013, Issue I

Beijing Newsletter

Back to Beida: the fall semester begins!

CIEE in Beijing welcomed a new group of students, all of whom were excited though a bit jetlagged!

CIEE Beijing - Making new friends at the Airport

Students get acquainted with their new classmates while waiting for the shuttle bus to campus.

Peking University and PKU, Beijing Daxue and Beida--the full and short names for our host insitution  in both English and Chinese. Though students were still jetlagged, and confused, we dove right in with orientations and activities during the first few weeks!

Around Beijing and on campus, we have been keeping busy through many different activities, including visits to sites around Beijing like Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, places off the beaten path, like a blind school or autism institute, and CIEE activities like small group themed meals, that between classes and adjusting to a new way of life, students find themselves with packed schedules!

CIEE Beijing - Peking University Alumni Bridge

As always, here is our group picture on the Peking University Alumni Bridge (校友桥), which is a tradition at the beginning of the semester for all CIEE programs held at PKU!

CIEE Language Commitment Week in Beijing

One such CIEE-centric activity we have every semester is "Language Commitment Week". All CIEE language-based programs in greater China all have a Community Language Commitment. This is an agreement amongst everyone to speak Chinese in certain situations. What this isn't is "speak English and you're on the next plane home, buddy!" By creating a welcoming environment, students feel comfortable speaking Chinese, not scared.

We have many ways to remind students to speak Chinese. One of them is we display CIEE Language Commitment posters that pose different (often humorous) situations where it would be helpful or necessary to know Chinese. Additionally, we have a Language Commitment Lottery that has drawings every day! However, to enter the lottery, students must come and talk to the CIEE teachers about something in Chinese. The turnout this semester was outstanding as students got even more excited to speak Chinese than they already were. Prizes this semester included CIEE-branded pens, passport covers, a CIEE backpack, specially made CIEE Beijing Language Commitment T-shirts, and the grand prize of a 300 RMB (50 USD) dinner at a Chinese restaurant of the student's choice to share with friends! McDonald's doesn't count! :)

 

CIEE Beijing - CIEE Language Commitment Week

Student Services Coordinator, John Urban, poses in a Beijing CIEE Language Commitment sweatshirt.

Mid-Autumn Excursions

In mid-September, after being in Beijing for not even three weeks, thirty six students and five teachers went on an excursion to Qüfu and Tai'an in central Shandong province. The theme of the trip was "Chinese National Imagination, and Personal Pilgrimage". Both of these sites have long been key destinations for ritual visits by scholars, officials, and even emperors, and today these sites have become highly popular sites for pilgrimage of people from across China (particularly Han Chinese).  Both of these sites loom very large in both historical and modern Chinese imagination, Qüfu as the origin of a hugely influential indigenous Chinese philosophy (Confucianism/儒家学说), and Mt. Tai as a richly imagined symbol on the landscape, virtually marking the region as not only being “Chinese,” but at the same time through Mt. Tai’s historical importance, creating an imagined connection to an ancient Chinese past, and thus reaffirming a sense of deep historical antiquity for the Chinese people.  For many Chinese nationals today, visiting this kind of site (each site with its intricate and multiple meanings and symbolisms), is part of a complex process of exploring and affirming Chinese identity. Thus our visiting these sites with the Chinese public (sometimes in the midst of very large crowds!) was a kind of participation in this ritual pilgrimage of identity.

One highlight was a day spent in a village in groups in homes, being hosted, interacting with families, and engaging in farm labor, as well as a taking a short hike and visiting a unique local temple.  Just this one village visit took significant effort to set up, including two personal trips by Beijing CIEE staff to the village in the weeks before our visit, but the satisfaction felt by students, staff, and village hosts made it all worthwhile!  And the food was no less than "Yum!"

CIEE Beijing - Students walk into Confucius Temple

Students enter the Confucius Temple (孔庙), in Qüfu, Shandong Province.

CIEE Beijing - Resting in the Confucius Temple

Students and CIEE Beijing Center Director Patrick Lucas smile for the camera!

CIEE Beijing - Qufu Tai'an Ready to Pick Corn

After seeing Julia's clothing was not suitable for the hard work that goes into harvesting corn, her host mother for the day, Ms. Lei, unprompted and without a word, jumped into action and gave Julia an apron more suitable for harvesting. Their faces say it all.

CIEE Beijing - Qufu Tai'an Corn!Harvested corn dries in the courtyard of a village home.

National Holiday Excursions

During the national holiday break, which spanned nine days from September 28 to October 6, some students elected to travel around China on their own or with classmates, visiting such places as Jiuzhaigou, Chengdu (and the Pandas), Inner Mongolia, and Shanghai. 

For us, a highlight of the break was the two CIEE-led excursions to the port city of Dalian, and to the countryside of Shanxi and Hebei provinces, of which students could select one.... and students were once again enthusiastic about both of the trips to urban and rural settings.

Dalian and the Dream of Modernity

Below are some notable pictures from the trip to Dalian. Led by Dr. KuoRay Mao, students went to Dalian and saw a city steeped in a rich history, which in its role as a major port of trade sees the influence of different cultures not only on its culture, but also the physical landscape with architecture and cuisine from Korea, Japan, and Russia - neighbors of China whom with trade through Dalian was and still is significant.


CIEE Beijing - Dalian Excursion I

CIEE Beijing - Dalian Excursion II

Changing Landscapes of China's countryside

As the theme of this trip is "Environment and Rural Governance in China", going to the countryside, students were able to encounter firsthand one of the issues facing rural Chinese currently. As we have in the past, we arranged a village stay where we spend one day one night living in village homes being hosted by local families. The homes which are made of pressed mud are incredibly energy efficient. The thick mud walls act as superb insulation, which reduces heating and cooling needs by staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter. A home can be heated for an entire day using the kindling needed to cook for the family. However, not only are they susceptible to crumbling from heavy rainstorms, but also the Chinese government sees these dwellings as being outdated or stuck in the past. Thus, in a nearby village, when that village experienced a heavy rainstorm two months back and many homes' roofs collapsed, instead of helping the villagers rebuild, they leveled the village with bulldozers and broke ground on modern brick homes for the villagers. Sadly, these rows of new structures feel more prison-like than a home. In the meantime, the villagers have been living in government-provided emergency tents.

The nearby village who had hosted us before was excited for us to come back, but they knew emergency tents were not suitable for hosting. So the village secretary was able to coordinate with the village on the other side of the mountain - a village that had never hosted guests foreign or Chinese - to host us and our students. And what a fine job they did!

When we arrived, students and teachers split up into groups of three to four to a family. After eating lunch in their homes, we all went to the family's field and helped with the potato harvest. That evening, after a dinner (which in many households included freshly dug potatoes!) the villagers had a potato roast in a bonfire and nearby, hired a local movie cart that projected 《泰山功夫》/"Mt. Tai Kung Fu", a 2009 Chinese film for villagers and students to watch together. Having just been to Mt. Tai, the choice was oddly appropriate!

The last two days of the trip, we went hiking through the mountains, visited a Catholic church as well as a damaged Buddhist temple (seen below).

CIEE Beijing - Loading Potatoes

Villagers and students hoist bags of freshly harvested potatoes onto the donkey card.

CIEE Beijing - Rural Excursion Host Sister and Student make Lunch

On some activities, students from multiple programs participate. In this shot, Ms. Wang and Morgan make lunch together. Morgan is from the CIEE Environmental, Cultural, and Economic Sustainability program at Minzu University. 

CIEE Beijing - Watching a Move in the Village Villagers and students watch the movie 《泰山功夫》/"Mt. Tai Kung Fu", a 2009 film of Kung Fu and love. The movie was brought in on a cart and viewed under a brilliant starry sky, as others roast potatoes in the background.

CIEE Beijing - Rebuilding a Village

The village where we had stayed in some previous visits to the area, alive with construction of new homes as part of a government project.

CIEE Beijing - Exploring a Rundown Temple

Some students explore the damaged Buddhist temple, while others sit quietly. The temple, which was destroyed during the cultural revolution is slowly being rebuilt and repaired by local volunteers

 

CIEE Volunteers

 

A Trip back to the Autism Institute

Continuing our multi-year relationship with Hongyuan Qizhi Children's Autism Recovery Center, once again, we brought students from all Beijing CIEE programs to the autism institute in southeastern Beijing. CIEE students interacted with the school's students in organized activities that morning and ate lunch with students in the cafeteria. In the afternoon, CIEE students and their young, new friends had fun free time outside the on the school's playground.

CIEE Beijing - Autism Institute I

A young boy from the institute, Shufeng, checks out some new music with his new CIEE friend, Joey.

CIEE Beijing - Autism Institute II

A student, Bocheng, at the institute does some art with his new CIEE friend, Veronica.

Beijing School for the Blind

CIEE Beijing - Beijing School for the Blind Stone

Also continuing the relationship started last spring, on September 12, we visited the Beijing School for the Blind. We went for two reasons: to see the school and interact with students, and to introduce students who were interested in volunteering as English teacher volunteers. This semester, ten students commited to volunteer teach a few hours weekly all semester. Last semester, only three students volunteered, so you can imagine how excited everyone at CIEE Beijing and the blind school were to have our volunteer numbers triple! As of  late October 2013, The students have been volunteering for over a month, and are learning new teaching styles, communication methods and are adapting well to this unique learning environment.

CIEE Beijing - Beijing School for the Blind Students Observe a Class

Students at the Beijing School for the Blind attend class while CIEE students observe.

Anyone can volunteer!

This opportunity to volunteer is open to any CIEE Beijing program participant. Though this volunteer experience requires a weekly commitment for the duration of the semester, students have found this to be one of their most gratifying experiences. It truly is a unique and special way to give back to the Beijing community.

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This CIEE Study Abroad Newsletter, "Fall 2013, Issue I", was prepared by CIEE Beijing Study Center Staff.

We invite you to read our other blog posts and leave a note below if you have a question or comment.

Finally, tune in this November to read blogs from our students about selected experiences with CIEE in Beijing!