Second semester is in full swing here at Peking University, and it’s much different than first semester. After I returned to Beijing from my winter break travels, the city was basically abandoned, since most people returned to their hometowns to celebrate Chinese New Year. I didn’t really do anything festive to ring in the Year of the Dog, but there were lots of decorations all over the city. Lots of shops and restaurants were closed around the holiday, so it was generally inconvenient and boring. Finally, second semester began on February 26. Compared to last semester, everything went so smoothly. I just registered for classes online, and showed up.
This semester I’m taking regular undergraduate classes taught in Chinese and English from a range of departments. The 3 classes taught in Chinese are all in the School of International Relations. I’m taking a class on the politics of the “Belt & Road” Initiative, another on US-China trade relations, which has been very interesting in light of current events, and another on East Asian security. Although they’re taught in Chinese, I can mostly understand the lectures and PowerPoint’s; however doing presentations and writing papers is still challenging and time consuming compared to doing coursework in English. Hopefully though, my Chinese will improve through this process. Besides those, I’m taking International Trade & Finance in the Guanghua School of Management, China’s Energy & Environmental Challenges in the School of Environmental Science, and Chinese Economy: Reform & Development in the National School of Development, which are all taught in English. All in all, I am enjoying my classes and find the topics very interesting and relevant. Also, since class hours are all blocked together, my schedule is very flexible.
Not too much else has happened this semester. Of course, there’s been a lot of meeting new friends, although not as much as last semester. March had a lot of birthday celebrations, including mine, which were very fun. Other than that, we all mostly just go out on the weekends, and try new places to eat. Now that the weather’s gotten warmer, it’s nice to spend time outside, so hopefully I’ll be motivated to explore more places around Beijing. I recently visited Jingshan Park for the first time, which was super beautiful, of course with the iconic view of the Forbidden City.
We also had a public holiday on April 4th for Tomb Sweeping Festival, or 清明节. With a few days off of school, a few of us went to Tianjin just for one night. Tianjin is only 30 min. from Beijing by train, and, like Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, is a province-level municipality. All in all, I really liked exploring Tianjin, which had a much different vibe than Beijing. It felt a little more relaxed, walkable, and old-school. Tianjin used to be home to several foreign concessions, so there is a definite European influence in the architecture and atmosphere. While there, we walked around the old city, ate jianbing, visited the Porcelain House, the Italian-style street, did a little shopping, had an amazing dinner across from an old church, admired the architecture on the “Five Great Avenues”, went to the Old Culture Street, and walked along the river to see the “Tianjin Eye.” It was a great little weekend away for something different than Beijing, and hopefully I’ll go back again to explore more!