Week 2: Classes in China

I've begun auditing 2 classes, one in English and one in Chinese. The one in English called "Changing Roles of Women in China" by my adviser, Dr. Jiang Jin, is not super challenging, but really interesting, and has some pretty awesome readings. I also get to meet with exchange students from NYU. The class in Chinese is...insane. The professor speaks at light speed for 3 hours in a thick Shanghai accent, and I understand very little; furthermore, the graduate students all look at me strangely as I write down the pinyin of words I don't know, clearly looking uncomfortable and scared.

One interesting comparison I have been able to make is the difference in classroom decorum and teaching technique between the class for Americans and the class for Chinese. The NYU class is largely discussion based, where students (regardless of whether they did the homework or not) contribute their opinions on the subject. All opinions are welcome, few are shot down at all. Actually, of all the comments that were dismissed by the professor, only one girl was declared "wrong," and she was the only Chinese girl in the group. This may be a coincidence, but I found that fascinating. The Chinese class, on the other hand, was entirely lecture. The students copied down important points (all of which were clearly organized as "this topic is broken into 3 parts" or "we can analyze this from 4 vantage points." My professor from IUP humorously stated that much of Chinese scholarly writing is written in patterns such as "the 5 doors which are opened by the 4 locks which leads to the 6 roads of this theme.") No one talks, no one discusses, no one answers questions, and the only interruption is the ring of the professor's cell phone, which he answered 3 times in the middle of class.

Fortunately, through this class and through a lecture I went to on my first week by Bryna Goodman, a Chinese scholar doing research on the the stock market crash on 1921 and Chinese culture, I have been able to meet some of Dr. Jiang Jin's (my advisor) graduate students. While some have better English than others, all were very eager to exchange contact information. This is truly a very friendly city.

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