I (heart) Beijing 3

Tomorrow I’m finally starting my second semester of classes. Even though I’m not particularly excited about the idea, I’m happy that after 2 full months of winter holidays I can start learning some Chinese again.

Chinese educationChinese education system is completely different from the Western one, that doesn’t mean is better or worst, is just different. Here in China, the ability to learn by heart all the classes books by heart is very common, is actually the way we study here. While in my country and in many other Western countries, teachers encourage students to think for themselves, to investigate and ask for questions, in China students are supposed to learn by heart the books and don’t ask any questions because that would mean they are questioning the teacher’s ability to teach and also that the teachers’ knowledge is not enough. Chinese students specially in primary and high school are supposed to seat steady and don’t move unless is during the break time. Something that also catch my attention since I came to China is the big sense of competition in all students and parents. Since Chinese one-child policy only allows couples to have one children, families deposit all their hopes and effort in educating their children to get into the best schools, the best universities and eventually to land the best positions at foreign companies. Chinese children start receiving English, Maths and Art classes at ages as early as 2 and 3 years. Primary and high school students usually take four to five complementary arts, sports and languages classes every week that added to the big amount of school homework, creates a big stress in students who often can only go to bed at 11 or 12 pm to wake up at 6 am to go again to class. Chinese children almost don’t have recreation time, apart from the planned visits to museums, parks and historic interest places, they have to spend also weekends at school, with classes Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm. My closest experience is with Chinese university students, due to their competitive growing and their family expectations, often Chinese student suffer from stress, anxiety and lack of healthy friendship relationships. They have to study every day from very early in the mornings until 10 pm when they have to go to their dorms. The Chinese students dorms are separated buildings for boys and girls, without showers and rooms of 8 to 10 students. Shower buildings are usually far away from their buildings and often outside campus, and students have to pay for the amount of water they use every time. Dorm’s doors close at 10 pm, so if any student is outside later than that hour, they’ll be forced to stay up all night studying at MacDonald’s or any other 24 hours restaurant. So I can honestly say that I feel for Chinese students, their life is not easy at all.

For foreign students life is different, we often only have classes in the mornings, so we enjoy of a full afternoon and evening for ourselves, to study or enjoy the city. We live in a mixed building (girls and boys), but couples are not allowed to live together unless they present a marriage certificate. Rooms are usually bigger and better equipped than Chinese students rooms and of course we only have to share our room with one roommate, usually a Korean one. Even though we have shared bathrooms and showers, they are in our same floor and very clean and of course we don’t pay for the water we use.

Chinese shoppingTo me, shopping in China is one of my main attractions, there are several places I need to visit at least once a month. If I want to buy second hand and sometimes new electronics, I need to go to the “Second Hand Electronics Market at Laddies Street”. This is probably the most busy place in Beijing, they have EVERYTHING, and by everything I’m not only talking about electronics, but cloths, shoes, DVDs, audio-speakers systems…prices are considerably cheap and is the kind of place where you can go when you can’t find what your are looking for on any other place in the city. But I’ve lost more than one mobile phone there to thieves. Another place I really enjoy is the very famous “Chinese Silk Market”, this is definitely the number 1 destination for tourists, so prices tend to be a little bit higher. The bags collection there is amazing and what I love the most are the silk cloths (dresses, head scarves, qipao-Chinese traditional dress) and handicrafts. Another place I love going shopping was actually the first Chinese market I heard about since I was in my country, is the “Zoo Underground Market”, as its name says is a market very close to the Chinese zoo and it is obviously underground, is definitely the biggest market in Beijing, the funny thing about it, is that despite the fact of being the CHEAPEST shopping market and the number one provider for all the other shopping places in the city-hence the cheap prices, is only visited by Chinese nationals, foreigners have a hard time finding it, so most of the time they stop trying. The last one of this short least but one of my favorites is the Chinese antiques market “BanJiaYuan”, as its name says, is the biggest antiques market in the city, there you can find everything for decorating your room or your home, it has one of the biggest Indian/Tibetan cloths sections of the city, and despite the fact that is always completely full of tourists, the prices are amazingly cheap, sometimes is not even worth bargaining.

Do you have any of these experiences in China?
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