First week of classes has come. The quality and intensity of classes isn’t anywhere near what I did in Harbin, with maybe only one class that is really going to be challenging. The conversation class is going to be very good though I think, and the modern and classical lit classes, while not super intensive, are going to be great exposure to some key Chinese works that would be hard to get otherwise. In addition to that I’m taking a composition class mostly to keep myself writing, “An Overview of China” which is taught by the department dean, and deciding whether I want to take a business speaking class (which would conflict with composition) or history or “Modern Mandarin” which looks very intensely at the physical construction of Mandarin. My main challenge to myself for the semester though is to learn how to effectively self-study. I’ve been lamenting about how I need a super intensive academic environment to learn effectively (especially Chinese), but since one is not to be found here, I should stop bitching and take this semester to train myself how to learn on my own, which I’ve never been very good at. Furthermore, since I’ll soon be entering the real world, I should really develop that ability if I want to keep learning things (kind of important).
Some choice bits from this week, my modern lit teacher had a really cool story. She was talking about Chinese history and the importance of studying history in general from different perspectives. She apparently was a visiting scholar at some American university, and had the chance to go to the Pima Aerospace Museum in Arizona, and saw a U.S. plane that was used in food airlifts from Myanmar to China during WWII. She said seeing the plane, learning about the airlift for the first time, and speaking to one of the pilots who was working there as a volunteer was one of the most moving experiences she’s had. I thought that moment of cultural connection and realization was super amazing, and is a part of what makes me want to keep working on U.S.-Chinese cultural exchange. Sat in on a Russian class (second year) which was interesting. Chinese students seem to focus more on vocabulary, so apart from a lot of words I didn’t know, I felt very comfortable with the material and speaking, yet to be seen whether I will keep doing that one or not. I also finished my first Chinese book. I’ve read whole books in Chinese before (Fellowship of the Ring and Murder on the Orient Express), but they’ve been translations, and I already knew the plot of Fellowship. This time around it was The Three Body Problem by Liu Zixin, one of China’s best known sci-fi books. There’s an excellent English translation for anyone who likes their sci-fi with a heavy dose of real science and/or is interested in the Cultural Revolution (where much of the plot takes place. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the series. Lastly, went to play pool for an hour last night and won a game with a jump shot combo, felt pretty cool (and lucky).
So goal for the rest of the day is to set up some self-study systems for Russian, Chinese (via books) and my research projects. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.