Thursday, January 12, 2012

Visits, New Years and The End of the Term

Hiya! Wowza has it been busy lately. After Christmas things ramped up pretty quickly. Our program director, Zhuo Jing-Schmidt, stopped by for a few days during the last leg of her trip to China to visit her hometown and check up on us. She took us out to dinner and lunch the next day while we wandered around Fuzi miao (the Confucius temple). It was a really nice time talking with her and talking all about our experiences both in China in general and school in particular. We got to talk about what we loved, what didn't quite work, challenges we faced and cultural experiences that we've had. It was nice. She seemed very interested on what we had to say (the program, while being established for a few years, is still working out kinks and improving, so we're kind of guinea pigs) and was helpful in answering some questions regarding thing back in Oregon.

One thing in particular relating to that, was internship credits. I'm currently working with the International Studies department (third major) to get 2 internship credits for my time abroad. It actually really complements the requirements from Flagship, because we need to have a confirmation letter, end of internship evaluation letter, and write a long report on the experience for both INTL and Flagship, so the only extra things to figure out are a faculty adviser and registering the credits. For once in my experience dealing with a University bureaucracy, it has been relatively smooth coordinating everything while abroad. There is a wonderful woman in the INTL office who has answered almost all of my questions, and those she didn't know, she just said it! No "I'll check on that, let me forward you to so and so", she just would say "I don't know that answer, you should check with the undergraduate adviser". Amazing! I'm definitely getting her a gift when I get back.

That's another thing! Today I start my internship (sort of). For a recap, I'm in the Nanjing University Institute for International Students, working as an office assistant and teachers assistant. I'm super excited. All of the staff are leaving today because of the Chinese New Year, which is in 10 days, but because there are still students taking classes during this time, I am the on-call assistant. I went in to the office yesterday, met some people, and got showed around and told what I would be doing for the week. This pretty much means that I have another week off, I just won't be able to stray too far away from campus, in case someone needs something "life related" (read: doors are locked, communication problems, etc). Tonight I am showing them a movie, then locking everything up. Pretty regular intern-like things :) On next Friday I have my first day of in-office work, reporting at 10 (yay, not 8 am!!) and seeing if there's anything that they need.

I'm really excited to start, especially because I've been plotting. I had to write a 4,000 character research paper for my writing class related to my major, and I chose to write on the difficulties of learning to write Chinese characters and teaching methods. So I'm hoping that once my internship gets in full swing and regular classes start, my teachers will be willing to let me sit in (probably ok) and observe students and how they learn characters (maybe ok). Hopefully from that I can expand my research paper into a thesis paper and possibly graduate with honors. I like plotting, it makes me do more with my time :p. I hope everything works out, I'd love to really make this free year worth it!

Now on to non-business (read: school) things. New Years! We had a very relaxed a fun new year's celebration. Kevin, Brandon, Brendan and I got together, bought some wine, and went to a local park area. There are no open container laws in China, so we plopped down around a stone table next to some old men betting on mahjong and played drinking games. It was fun, drew a lot of stares ;) Around 11:30 we went over to Sancho Panza and found that they had set up braziers (metal containers full of hot coals, no one here seems to understand that "brazier" does not mean "bra") outside, so we set up some chairs and hung out for a while, our circle growing larger as more friends showed up. We yelled "Happy New Year" in both English and Chinese to everyone who passed by, and some nice people gave us sparklers! At midnight Kevin and I kissed and when everyone started to go inside we headed home. We picked up some ramen on the way and decided that instead of going home, we were going to go to the building that I study/work in (because it's also a dorm and therefore is open) and get some hot water from the machine. We sat in the window-filled atrium and ate our ramen, and while the guard checked up on us, he let us be. Some students who actually lived in the dorms upstairs came by, and when we greeted them with "Happy New Year" they gave us some of their meat-on-a-stick. It was a nice cultural exchange, bonding with people whose names you don't know and probably won't see again.

After new years it was straight back to work, preparing for our end of term papers and presentations. I did my media presentation on Tuesday  and the writing one on Thursday. The media class presentations (14 students) took about 4 hours, and of course where I had wanted to go first, I was dead last. For writing I jumped and went first, spending the rest of the time working on other things and paying attention to some of the more interesting presentations. 

Friday we had our last internship training and final banquet. During the afternoon portion two alumni came and talked to us about working in china (where they still work), and it turned out that one of the speakers was my roommate from four years ago in Qingdao! Her name is Susan and she's an Ol' Miss alum. It was nice to catch up with her and see what she's been up to. The training was very useful because the two speakers actually told us pertinent information relating to working in china, from Chinese manners to dress code to networking.

That night we had the banquet. It was large, with 30 flagship students, their roommates, and some guests (spouses and friends). It was a tasty dinner with some performances and goofy going away things, like little awards (I was miss sunshine, I wonder why??). We also got our flagship certificate for the study abroad and a group photo.

Me and Lily!
It's been a pretty good semester when all was said and done. What the program may have lacked in one area they more than made up for in the people, and now that everyone is heading off to their different internships and traveling I know that I'm really going to miss the people that I've spent the last 4 months with. We made a home away from home, and now they're moving away. Some not as far as others, but away all the same. I'm lucky that there are a lot of people staying in Nanjing for their internships, so I'll still be able to see a lot of people, and because I'll be working on the 5th floor (the Flagship office is on the 6th) I'll still be able to spend a lot of time with Lily and Hongxia :)

 Now that everything is done I have a week (or two) off to spend with Kevin and explore Nanjing. Brandon and Brendan, having gone to Taiwan, have loaned us their bikes for the two weeks that they're gone, and while my butt hurts more than it has in a while, I really missed biking and am having fun learning the rules of the Chinese road and yelling at people in English and Chinese. More to come on our vacation adventures later. Love,

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