By Annabel Ricks
Today, the students of NISL-Y transitioned from yesterday’s July 4th festivities to their first full school day at Xiamen University. After a hearty breakfast, groups one and two gathered for their first E-portfolio meeting. Facilitated by Chen Laoshi and Tu Laoshi, E-portfolio meetings are designed to create cultural awareness through discussions about our own cultures and subsequently how we view others. In my group, group two (aka the tigers), we talked with Tu Laoshi about the importance of understanding our own cultures in order to be true “young ambassadors”. We each shared whom we personally identify as with the group (singer, dreamer, male, Buddhist), and discussed each identity’s traits as well as how each identifier affects the other. When we finished our discussion, all five groups went together to our classes in a separate building. In my class, Intermediate II, we are taught by the amazing Yang Laoshi. Unlike my school’s Chinese class, Yang Laoshi speaks to us mostly in Chinese. We began class with a test, and moved on to talking about sentence structures and vocab relating to weather. Once we got more used to the material, we had two competitions. In one competition we had to essentially “insult” each other in Chinese using the “A is more (adjective) than B” structure, and the other we tried to say as much of the vocab learned in sentences in a certain amount of time. I was personally very nervous about the competitions, but my team was still able to win the second game and get a prize! Even after one class, I already feel more confident with my Chinese.
Once class ended, we took a short break before lunch. When we aren’t studying, a large group of us love to get together to play card games. Our favorite is called Egyptian Rat-screw, and while we all have loads of fun, the game can get extremely competitive. There have only been a few minor casualties. Shout out to Mandy, who apparently isn’t capable of losing. We’ll beat you eventually. Our next class was our cultural class with Chen Laoshi. He talked about China’s geography, population, and political history. He also took time to draw similarities between America and China. For example, he told us about the conflict between northern and southern China, and how the relationship is similar to that in America between the north and south. The class will later go into other important topics including the One Child Policy, and the issue of Taiwan.
After these classes, we went to our interest groups, where we learn aspects of Chinese culture ranging from Taiqi to Peking opera makeup. Today, a girl from the Peking opera club came to talk to us about the Peking opera. She introduced the topic to us with a lovely vocal performance from one of the Xiamen University students. We then learned about the structure of Peking opera, including how the colors on each character’s mask describes the character’s personality. For example, black masks suggest a loyal character, while in contrast white masks suggest the character is not trust worthy. At the end of the class, we got to try some of the instruments, and try on traditional Peking opera clothing.
For the last activity of the day, we met with our tutors, also Xiamen University students, to work on our homework. The tutors would help us with any questions we had, so I was able to make good use of my time and finish some of my homework before dinner. One unique aspect of the tutoring that surprised me was that it was group based rather than individually. I especially liked this structure because everyone could work together as a group on our homework, which I have discovered to be a lot more effective in the case of language learning.
Although the first day of work was rigorous and in the future will only become more so, I think I can speak for every student here in saying that it will all pay off in spades. Students in the NSLI-Y program came here to pursue
an incredible education in the Chinese language and culture, and we couldn’t be in a better place to do so.