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Getting oriented in China

June 22, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Christopher's blog:
Hello, Sun Devils! I'm here at Sichuan University, which is located in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, learning third-year Chinese. Sichuan province is well-known for its spicy food (better known in America as Szechuan) and its Giant Panda Sanctuaries, but you might remember it from the earthquake that happened here in 2008. Also on this program are seven other ASU students and another large group of students from the University of Washington, who are also taking Chinese language classes.

I arrived in Chengdu a couple of days before classes started and got settled in my dorm. The oversea student dorms are actually really nice. In my room there are two twin beds, a private bathroom with a Western toilet (versus the Eastern toilet which you have to squat to use), a TV (which is a bit fuzzy, but clear enough that we can still watch the World Cup!) and a small refrigerator. We even get our room serviced almost every day where they take out the trash and replace the towels and toilet paper. Each room also comes with Internet access, although no Wi-Fi.

On Tuesday we had our orientation where we met our program coordinators and tutors. They then showed us around campus and helped us get Chinese cell phones and SIM cards. Unlike in the U.S. where we have cell phone plans, all cell phone service is prepaid in China and you get more minutes by purchasing refill cards.

Wednesday was our first day of classes, although it was a short day because it was a Chinese holiday called "Duan Wu Jie" or "Dragon Boat Festival." The holiday is in the honor of a famous Chinese poet and is celebrated by dragon boat races and eating sticky rice balls called "zongzi." Since our afternoon was free, we went out to lunch to eat zongzi and also checked out a nearby shopping mall. The mall was much like you would see in the U.S.; they even had McDonalds, KFC, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut and Papa John's!

After our morning classes on Thursday, we had our first session with our personal tutors. Each student in the program is assigned their own tutor to help them with learning Chinese. Then later that evening we were given a huge welcome dinner with our coordinators, teachers and tutors to celebrate our coming to China. There was a ton of food and it all tasted great.

After our hectic first week of settling in, it was nice when we finally reached the weekend. On Saturday I went with a couple of other ASU students to check out the nearby music district. In China, certain neighborhoods are often designated as being devoted primarily to specific kinds of stores and shops, such as an entertainment, art or music district. In the music district, not only could you find almost every kind of musical instrument made, but the streets had many statues and pieces of artwork centered on music.

That is it for this post, but I will be back with more as soon as I can.

Christopher Robinson, a sustainability and Chinese major, is a student in the Chinese Language Flagship Program and will be a senior this fall. He is studying abroad in China this summer.