Two months in China

On: April 7, 2009
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About Heleen Kerkman
After finishing my BA in Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam I recently started the Ma New Media.


Two months of my semester in Beijing have now gone by. With everyday feeling like a year of new impressions, it is crazy to see how fast time flew by. Right now I just made my first blogpost, but from now on there will be a weekly update. This semester I’m studying Mandarin Language at the Peking University, better known as Beida. Without even knowing this when I signed up for the program, Beida is considered the Harvard of China and almost every day I detect families taking pictures of their children at the gate of our campus; hoping that one day their child will be selected for this University. The language program itself is as hard as one wants it to be. Luckily for me our class (elementary level) consists of only five motivated people and our teacher is now trying to teach us two semester worth of words in one. Our classes are five times a week and three times a week we complement our program with extra evening classes. Yesterday I finally bough myself an electronic dictionary in which I can either look up an English word and  get the character and pronunciation or draw the character and get its pronunciation and meaning. It is interesting how almost every Chinese student carries these little dictionaries around to help with their spoken English. Off course my little dictionary is not a real brand but ‘jade’(fake); but that is the way things work here. I wondered why this little gadget has not reached Europe yet, since it would benefit so many student that are for instance in international masters. Maybe our English is not good enough to be fluent, but not poor enough to carry on of these around. Still, having my little electronic dictionary around me has already benefited me so much in just one day.  Although I plan on writing my MA thesis on the new media in China, right now my sole focus in on learning Chinese. I surely won’t be fluent when I come back, but I will be able to have small conversations and get around easier. For now the most striking thing about the usage of new media in Beijing is that it is so common (the little dictionaries, ‘jade’ I-phones), but that other things are so hard. It took me a month to get internet in my room and I have to sign in with my student number every time I want to go online. For weeks now Youtube (amongst others) has been blocked and even hyves (?) is inaccessible. This contradiction between the very modern and common used gadgets and the hassle to even get internet has been very striking to me. For now this paper will not be posted by me but I will have one of my fellow MA students to post it for me, since I am logged on with my own name on the university-internet. Ironically my test tomorrow consists of the words for computer and internet, so I will start learning these after mailing blogpost. Next Wednesday I will explain more about the Chinese version of Facebook and msn and the way they are used here.

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