A Travellerspoint blog

2nd Semester

My life at a Chinese high school, part 2

It’s funny how easily a fourteen-hour school day becomes just a normal part of your routine. If you had asked me in September what I thought of leaving for school at 6:30 every morning and getting home at 8:30 at night, I would have told you that I was sure I’d go crazy by June. At the beginning of the program, I spent hours every day in classes I didn’t understand, so I had nothing but time – I could read all the books I wanted, study as much Chinese as I could (which at the time wasn’t much, since I could only memorize so many characters in one day), and write blog posts. Now, though, I always have to budget my time to make sure I’m getting everything I want out of my experience in China – I have to find time to study Chinese, chat with my Chinese friends and host family, see all the cultural and historical sites in Changzhou, hang out with other exchange students, do all my homework… the list goes on. I’m really glad that I feel like I’m getting the most I can out of my program, but it’s also hard to believe that I’m going home in four weeks; I’m running out of time to do all the things I want to do in China (but I’m writing this on the train to Beijing, so I think I’m doing a pretty good job of fitting everything in!).

This semester I still have four Chinese classes every day, but other than that my school schedule is totally different. We spend the mornings from 7 to 7:30 in morning reading with our Chinese classmates, which means that I study Chinese or finish my homework from the night before while the Chinese students either read aloud from their English or Chinese textbooks or do English listening quizzes that are broadcast over the loudspeaker.
The rest of the morning, from 7:30 to 11:20, we have our four Chinese classes. We spent most of the second semester preparing for the HSK, and then the oral HSK once that was over, but now that we’re finished with our tests we’ve gone back to studying from a textbook. It’s more interesting than first semester, though, because our Chinese is good enough now that we can use more authentic and interesting study materials; this week we watched a few lectures about Confucius’s connection with modern Chinese life, and I’m currently working on a research project on China’s ethnic minorities.

From 9:10 to 9:40 we have “big break,” during which Caroline and Kaori and I go to a sort of dance class in the square in front of the school with all the girls in “senior 1” (like 10th grade, but the first year in high school). I really like this dance class partially because the dances are fun, but also because I don’t get a lot of chances this semester to spend time with my Chinese classmates besides lunch, dinner, and gym class.
We have lunch at 11:20, but at least a few times a week I study alone in our classroom and then go to lunch at 11:40, when all of the senior 1 classes go to lunch. Since I spend so much time with the other foreign students, I try to take every opportunity I get to spend time with my Chinese classmates and friends. After lunch I usually have an hour and a half until class starts, which I like to use to either do my homework or walk around Changzhou.
Our afternoons are the biggest difference from last semester to this one. From 1:30 to 3:30 every day, we go to Chinese culture classes with all of the AFS students in Changzhou. Each week is at a different school and has a different topic – we’ve studied Chinese painting, knot tying, taichi, music, and calligraphy. My favorite class by far is calligraphy, but I really like all of the classes except for taichi (which gets really miserable in the heat, but would probably be fun otherwise) and music (which I only don’t like because about half of the time we end up watching movies like High School Musical).

Here are some pictures from our various culture classes:


After our culture class, we go back to school and either have gym class, more Chinese class, or self-study time until dinner at 6:00. Like last semester, I eat dinner in the cafeteria and then stay at school with Caroline until 8. For the past few months we've been eating dinner every day with the same 4 Chinese classmates - now that we can comfortably talk to them in Chinese, it's a lot of fun! I like the culture classes we take this semester, but it's a little disappointing that we don't have more time together with our Chinese classmates. First semester we were with them all the time, but couldn't really understand or talk to them, so I spent a lot of time having the same conversations over and over again or taking classes that I didn't understand. Now I try to find every opportunity to hang out with my Chinese classmates at lunch or dinner or during gym class, because I can finally have interesting conversations, but I don't have a lot of time because I spend the mornings in Chinese class and the afternoons in culture class. Other than that, though, I'm really loving my second semester here in China. I've gotten very comfortable living here and speaking Chinese, so the year just seems to get better as it goes!

Posted by ccole 23:43

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Glad you are continuing to have a great experience! Looking forward to your return home in two weeks. Love, Mom

by Dawn

Impressive calligraphy, or were you just posing for the camera? I recall taking chinese calligraphy in Hong Kong as a kid. I think it was an American Club class. In comparison to what you are doing, however, I think it was all of 5 minutes of learning! Have fun. See you soon. Uncle Chris

by Favorite Uncle

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