A Day in the Life: Grad School in China

Hello all! Time is flying here in China, it’s already October. That means a weeklong break, since October 1st is the anniversary of the founding of the PRC. It’s celebrated with a national holiday called “Golden Week”—many people use this time to go travelling, but I’ve decided to stick around and explore Shanghai.

As promised, I’m going to share what an average day here as a grad student at STA looks like!

7:20 AM: I wake up in my dorm room, and try to not hit the snooze button. I eat breakfast in my room—usually a banana, and then a croissant/some other bread dipped in peanut butter for some protein.

  The view from my dorm room!

The view from my dorm room!

  My room (before my roommate moved in)

My room (before my roommate moved in)

8:30 AM: Chinese class begins—all of my classes are in the Zhongyi Building, which is for foreign students. My class is on the second floor, and I have to climb some pretty steep wooden stairs! I have different Chinese classes every day. Our class is very international—aside from me the American, there are people from Belarus, Russia, Korea, Czech Republic, and Japan!

  Outside of the the the Zhongyi Building

Outside of the the the Zhongyi Building

-Monday and Friday: 口语 (kou yu) class—my speaking class. It’s (obviously) focused on the vernacular, and one’s ability to have conversations. My teacher has a really strong accent, so ironically口语 is one of the classes I have the hardest time speaking in when asked a question!

-Tuesday and Wednesday: 精读(jing du) class—my intensive reading class. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing in Chinese (even though it can be a struggle), and this class is also a good chance for me to brush up on grammar, which is one of my weak areas in Chinese.

-Thursday: 听力 (ting li) and精读 (jing du) classes—in the first half of the morning is my listening class, and then the intensive reading class. Listening class is stressful—the teacher will play recordings, and then we have to repeat them perfectly! Her philosophy is that in other classes, we understand maybe 80% of what is said. In her class, she wants us to understand every single word.

10:00 AM: Break time during Chinese class! During the break, I usually run over to my favorite convenience store—Family Mart—and buy a snack, whether it be a $2 latte, a banana, or some baozi (steamed buns).

10:15-10:30 AM: Chinese class resumes at some point… I still haven’t quite figured out when this is!

  The stairs up to my Chinese classroom

The stairs up to my Chinese classroom

  Inside my Chinese classroom, where I spend my mornings five days a week!

Inside my Chinese classroom, where I spend my mornings five days a week!

11:40 (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday): Chinese class ends, and it’s time for lunch! My normal lunch routine is to go over to Family Mart and buy some combination of a salad, yogurt, and baozi. Then, I head back to my room to eat lunch and watch a TV show, or attempt to go on the very slow internet.

1:30-4:30 PM (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday): My M.A. classes are during this time slot. On Tuesdays I have Chinese Performing Arts in Global Perspectives (Traditional, Modern, Contemporary). I really enjoy this class, in part because our professor Jess is a really interesting person—she’s a dance and performance artist, and I actually helped out with her latest performance! I’ll go into that in a later post. Then on Thursdays we have Film and Contemporary Chinese Society, which is a lens through which we’re learning about 20th century Chinese history. So far out of all the films we’ve watched, I like Farewell My Concubine the most.

Then, on Fridays I don’t have any afternoon classes… yahoo!

  Outside the "foreign student classroom" where all of my ICS degree classes are

Outside the "foreign student classroom" where all of my ICS degree classes are

11:00-3:30 PM (Monday and Wednesday): Chinese opera class! This takes place on the other STA campus, so we take a shuttle from the school. On this other campus, there is a Beijing opera program for children and teenagers as well—they live and train at school fulltime. Our classes are divided by gender, and the girl’s class is taught by a lovely 20 year old student named Sherry—she has high expectations for us, and I for one don’t want to let her down!

  Stretching before Chinese opera class

Stretching before Chinese opera class

  My attempts to lie down gracefully with a fan in a complicated position

My attempts to lie down gracefully with a fan in a complicated position

  Obviously more stretching is needed...

Obviously more stretching is needed...

Evenings: during weekday evenings, I usually have an early dinner around 5 or 5:30 (the local Muslim noodle shop is my favorite cheap, quick, delicious option), and then study Chinese. My Chinese classes never officially have any ‘homework’ so it’s up to the students themselves to study and keep up with the work. I also try to make sure I’m prepared for my M.A. classes by doing the readings several days ahead of time, with plenty of notes and time to process the material.

  西红柿鸡蛋炒面/egg and tomato fried noodles... one of my favorite dishes!

西红柿鸡蛋炒面/egg and tomato fried noodles... one of my favorite dishes!

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading about what I do on a day-to-day basis... living abroad may seem glamorous from afar, but in reality it's still living life! Keep an eye out for my next few posts, in which I'll talk about some theatre workshops and projects I've been involved with so far in Shanghai.