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I was both excited and nervous about embarking on the two-week intensive language course in Beijing China at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT). This was partly because I feared the course would be very difficult as it was supposed to equate to the subject Chinese 3 in just two weeks, and partly because I didn’t think my Mandarin was up to scratch for communicating with locals in everyday situations considering my lack of revision since finishing Chinese 2 last November.

I was disappointed with the language component due to the timetable and how the language classes were managed. There was a group of 15 UTS students who attended, and we were all placed in the same classroom despite our different language proficiencies, which ranged from never learning Mandarin before to completion of Chinese 2, and completion of Chinese 4. I greatly sympathised with our teacher Zhang 老师, as she was an amazing teacher and tasked with this difficult job. As well as this the course had an unfortunate lack of classes with only six 1.5-hour language learning classes in total.

The culture classes were interesting and enjoyable, and consisted of topics such as paper cutting, tea ceremonies and calligraphy. In these classes we learnt about the history and cultural significance of each topic as well as engaged in these activities ourselves. Additionally, these classes provided an insight as to the complexity of the many traditions and reasoning behind them.

We also went on several excursions, to places such as the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Great Wall of China, Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City. During these excursions we were given free rein and just told to be at a specific meeting point at a certain time in order to be transported back to BIT. All these sights were remarkable in terms of their construction as well as their rich history, the immense detail and ornamentation were extraordinary and truly breathtaking.

There was also a lot of free time afforded to us due to the lack of classes which allowed for independent sightseeing. Initially the cooler weather was a fun change from the Australian summer heat, I found it impressive just how good the heating was in Beijing but also very odd at how hot it was inside establishments. I often found myself rugged up to combat the cold weather only to be sweltering once entering a building and having to strip off some of my many layers. With this free time, I was able to explore the more metropolitan aspects of Beijing as well as venture to places such as Longqing Gorge to attend the Ice lantern festival.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time in Beijing, and I am very grateful to have been given this wonderful opportunity. My interest in China’s language and culture has only increased and I cannot wait to visit China again and further improve my language skills.

Caro-Lynn Wong

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