This week started bright and early with our first Chinese class. As an international student, I was grouped together with everybody else in the program and assigned to Class 6. While there were theoretically 8 levels, Class 8 was never open, and they didn’t want me in Class 7 because otherwise I wouldn’t have any classes to take next semester.
And so we started the first lecture of Class 6 with “Conversational Business Chinese.” These were terms that were neither unfamiliar nor remotely interesting to me. When the dreaded two hours ended, I was resolute on switching classes. Fortunately for me, I got to skip Tuesday’s class due to a mandatory medical exam (read more about that here).
I came back on Wednesday for our main Chinese class in which our teacher spent an onerous amount of time correcting tone pronunciation and tongue curls. During the break, a classmate from Uzbekistan came up to me.
“Are you sure you’re supposed to be in this class?” he asked.
“This is what I was assigned, but I’ll probably switch out,” I replied.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much of a difference it would make for me to join Class 7. Everybody here was an undergraduate who started learning Chinese relatively recently. I still didn’t feel like Class 7 would do much for me.
And so, this morning, I went into the Student Affairs Office to ask if I could take classes with regular Chinese students. The secretary stared at me.
“At this point, I think the other students don’t feel too comfortable with me in the same class…” I admitted.
Ms. Lin, the director sitting behind her, hollered to us, “Just add him in!”
“But—” the secretary interjected. “He’s an international student!”
“And? He can obviously keep up with the Chinese classes. He’ll stick out less there than in the classes he’s currently in. Put him as sophomore/junior standing,” she instructed. “Alright kiddo, you can choose any of the core classes in the department.”
That was mostly true. I went into the registrar’s office to get the course list, but as she printed it, she also crossed off a few that I was told to not take—mostly because they were completely irrelevant. These included English for Chinese Teachers, Introduction to Maoism and Chinese Socialism, and Technology for Education. I wasn’t planning on taking them anyways.
And with that, I was approved to take Classical Chinese Grammar, Readings in Classical Chinese, and Chinese Culture in the World. While I wouldn’t receive credit for these (not that I needed credit), they would fulfill my Fulbright course audit requirement and give me a deeper understanding of the cultural background behind tea culture.
Let’s see how this goes!
While I won’t be making very many friends with the international group, this means I’ll have plenty of chances to meet local students—although they might already have their friend groups solidified by now. While I’ve made a few friends during our trip to the hospital for medical examinations, none of them are in my class, so I suppose those won’t be affected.
Most of the international students here tend to congregate with other students from the same country, but being the only American, there isn’t anybody for me to chat with. However, I’ve made a rather surprisingly close connection with the Japanese international students. One of them, Yamada-san, is in Class 6, and I suspect that she’s from Kyoto as she tends to use “-haru” as part of keigo.
In any case, we have a Mid-Autumn Festival gathering for international students tomorrow afternoon, which should be good for group bonding, and I seem to have been invited to the Japanese students’ dinner this Saturday.