Campus life here – or quite possibly in all of China – is far more vibrant than what I’ve seen of campuses at least in the UK. There’s a much greater willingness to just go and do something. In the afternoons and evenings all the sports pitches are teeming with people. There isn’t any set of rules or required conformities for anyone who wants to make use of the areas. Some people will just turn up and do laps of the running track in the jeans they’ve been wearing all day! And if you want to get into any team sports, just find a suitable game and ask if you can join in. There are of course the official clubs and tournaments, but in terms of unplanned day-to-day activities, it really is as simple as just going there and getting started, which I think is fantastic, even if I’m not much of a sports person myself.
The university campus is a large enclosed area within four main gates (north, east, south and west). The layout can be seen in the map image I uploaded in the previous blog post. Even though the campus is a contained and guarded area, it is also a very normal community with everyday apartments and everyday people going about their everyday lives alongside the thousands of students who of course also exist here. So, as well as the educational buildings, sports fields and other typical university things, there are also standard shops, apartments and open areas where seemingly anyone can spend their time. There are little convenience stores and fruit stalls, often with little plastic picnic benches to allow customers to sit down and relax with whatever snacks or drinks they’ve just bought – great places to sink a few cheap beers on a Friday evening before moving on to somewhere else! And plenty of old people relax in the park areas during the afternoon, playing cards or mahjong or chatting wildly about whatever old people chat about.
Another facility worth mentioning is the campus canteens. There are several and they’re all cheap, tasty and very efficient. Students are issued with a canteen card which they the top up with their own money and can use on a ‘touch-pay’ system to order food. It’s as easy as telling the servers what you want on your plate, then paying for it by touching your card on a little device above the serving window. The food choice is fairly diverse with a huge range of vegetable and meat options with rice or noodles and also various types of dumplings. After eating you put your plates on a conveyor belt which magics everything away to be washed by a crew in the back. It’s cheap, efficient and the food is pretty good! Also I think this kind of canteen system is great for bringing people together and maintaining a good, thriving social hub. This, alongside the natural tendency for people to go outside and use the sports fields and park areas, leads me to conclude that Asian culture is very social indeed, much more-so than that of what I’ve seen in the UK. Personally I think this is a good thing. It may be because everyone here lives in a shared room. The overseas students here, such as myself, mostly have to stay in rooms of two, but local Chinese students on campus will be in bunk bed rooms with up to six people! This may be why everyone prefers to go outside…
Classes here aren’t too bad either. All the overseas students do their language classes in one designated building near to the dorm we’re staying in, only a couple of minutes’ walk away. We have a class from 8:30 to 10:00, then a half hour break and another class until 12, and are then free all day, Monday to Friday, apart from Thursdays where we have one other compulsory class at 14:00. Some students on different programmes have other necessary modules or are taking optional modules in areas such as Tai Chi, Chinese culture, Japanese language, Tibetan studies, etc.