While much of China remains a mystery, daily life at Beijing No. 80 High School has become routine after almost two months time here. Each weekday morning I’m up by 6:30 am, often to the dorm mom’s cries of “Qǐ lai le, 起来了!" (Get up!) First thing I peek out my window to see how thick the haze is which often obscures my view of distant buildings. After tugging on my school uniform of comfortable polo, track pants and a hoodie, I decide either to run to the cafeteria to grab breakfast, or eat from my stash in our floor’s refrigerator.
Air Quality Index via Dorm Window View
Almost all of my classes are in the international school building situated a short pleasant walk across campus. Students come from all over the world to learn Mandarin there. I’ve met students from Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Russia, Germany, Uzbekistan, and more. My intermediate language class has a dedicated classroom on the second floor. Unlike American high schools, the teachers switch from class to class while students stay in their own classroom. This means that we have the responsibility to both decorate and clean the classroom ourselves.
Decorating our Classroom
Finished Bulletin Board
The language classes are conducted entirely in Chinese and each teacher has their own unique teaching style. The class schedule is different each day of the week but consists of mainly different language learning classes such as reading, writing, intensive reading, speaking, and listening. We also get an elective or two everyday, some of our own choosing, and PE, a chance to move a bit and be outside. My personal favorite elective is Chinese painting class for two hours on Tuesday.
Painted a Class Poster
Track & Field Day
We get an hour and a half break for lunch at noon, but then it’s back to class until 4 or 5 PM depending on the day. Once the school day is finally over we may either eat in the cafeteria and head back to the dorm to get a head start on studying, or get a signed pass from the dorm mom to go off campus for two hours. Not all students get to leave campus, and this privilege was extended to the NSLI-Y American students at the request of our resident director. However considering we have to be back at the dorms by 7 pm sharp to begin private study time I rarely find it worthwhile to go out during the week unless I need to shop at the local grocery store.
Field Day Procession
Private study time starts with the dorm mom ushering us to our dorm rooms well after the Chinese students already left for scheduled study time in their classrooms. While I’m still not a fan of being isolated in a quiet room for two and a half hours, as the workload has gotten heavier I’ve found that the time passes quickly. My roommate and the other students in the Chinese school get back at 9:30 pm, and we then have time to hang out or hastily do more homework depending on the day’s workload. At around 10:10 pm the dorm mom begins shooing people back to their own rooms under the impression that we might go to sleep then.
Pomegranate, Favorite Study Snack
Unfortunately the workload for my intermediate language class is very heavy, with anywhere between 30 and 150 characters a night to memorize. I am often still studying when the lights shut off around 11:20 pm. If I still have homework I can go to the bathroom to use the dim light in there. Frankly the misery of having to study there is more than enough motivation to get my homework done on time. Finally it’s time to go to sleep, to wake the next morning fresh and ready to learn more Chinese!
Abigail is currently spending a year abroad in Beijing, China with the NSLI-Y program. She is excited to share her experiences with family, friends, and others on this blog.