CAMPUS Asia students studying in Beijing join of Master of International Relations (MIR) program. Our classes comprise 14 MIR students along with dual degree students from Science-Po and the London School of Economics. Most courses in the School of International Studies (SIS) are held in small-classes and involve lectures, debates, and presentations. Professors give lectures from different points of view in fluent English. We are required to state our opinions, and we are sometimes expected to represent our countries.
Our classmates come from Europe, America, and other parts of Asia. We are on such good terms that we hold a family dinner every Thursday and often go on adventurous short trips together. In contrast, when it comes to Chinese students, most of us face a communication barrier. Moreover, since Chinese students usually do not take courses given in English, making contact with them by, for example, joining club activities is an important first step. I strongly recommend that students on the CAMPUS Asia program learn Chinese beforehand, to a standard at least equivalent to HSK level 4~5. If you pass the HSK test held at the beginning of the semester, you will be able take courses conducted in Chinese, which will broaden not only your course options but give you far greater opportunities to form relationships with Chinese students. Chinese Language courses are useful, but they are not enough for HSK4~5 level students to learn to debate in Chinese. You may want to find a language exchange partner.
Two months has passed since I came to Beijing, and I feel life here is comfortable as long as you keep to simple rules such as always checking expiration dates! When you first encounter sales clerks in Beijing, they may seem to you unfriendly or even angry owing to their strong intonation. However, you will soon find that “Beijing-ren” are very friendly and kind once you get to know them. I take comfort now in the smiles of the cleaning ladies. The dorms for exchange students are clean, and most people have no complaint, except perhaps when it comes to the squat toilets. In the school cafeterias, we can get a balanced diet for just 150~300 Japanese Yen (although some find the food hard on the stomach). You can buy a 2G cell phone for 5000 Japanese Yen, in a package that includes free calls and data communications for about 6-months. All things considered, you should be able to enjoy life here without much stress. However, one thing I want to caution you about is the weather in Beijing. In addition to its notorious air pollution, the weather is dry and cold in the winter, which causes some people to have sore throats or contact lense problems.Those who come here in the fall semester might want to prepare for this, for example by bringing facemasks or switching to one-day contact lenses.