Tyler is studying in with the Princeton in Beijing program, and has described his first week:
After a 19 hour flight, when I finally arrived at the Beijing Airport, I was hurriedly shuttled into some man’s car who said he was a Taxi driver. I quickly realized there were no markings to indicate as such. In fact, I am now sure that he just printed off his own business cards and shuttles foreigners around. During the hour long drive, I decided to ask what his impression of America was. He told me he loves Americans, but not Obama, who he said he sees as two-faced, or the American government, which he says is encircling China. Nonetheless, he told me that he thinks the U.S. and China will maintain good relations. He also told me that Japanese citizens are afraid to come to China due to the Diaoyu island dispute (with periodic protests at the Japanese embassy) and that a war between China may occur as Chinese nationalists demand it.
When I arrived at my hotel, I was given a free Chinese beer (there is no drinking age) and a American-style hotel room. Luckily, no squat toilet. The next day, I found an international relations professor to assist me with my research, and found the dorm at Beijing Normal University I will be staying at for two months (also no squat toilet – thank the lord).
The professor I met with, Dr. Zhang, was incredibly enthusiastic about my research proposal and set me up with a graduate student to assist me. Last night, Dr. Zhang and I had a two hour conversation about the future of China that certainly set some ideas I had in perspective. He does not think that China has the skills necessary to be the next great superpower, and does not wish to challenge the United States to become the hegemon. He asked me what I thought of Chinese socialism and their government system. And I also had a lot to say.
Yesterday, I also took a bus ride through Beijing to visit Tiananmen Square. A couple of Chinese students helped me find it, and they even basically gave me a tour of the Beijing’s national museum for two hours. When I went in, they told me my mini Axe spray that I had accidentally left in my backpack (I took a backpack from high school with me – don’t judge) was a dangerous item and must be stored in a safe location. I wasn’t even allowed to throw it away. I was also forced to show them my water wasn’t poison. They take museum security quite seriously.
This Saturday is my placement test to decide what level of Chinese I will take. I have no idea where I will end up, but I know just staying a week in China has drastically helped me grasp the language.