It’s all about survival

It’s been seven days since we arrived in the Middle Kingdom. It still doesn’t feel quite real that we’re in another country. It’s easy to forget that you’re in China. In a much shorter amount of time than I anticipated, I’m used to the sounds of China – the sharp Mandarin language, horns beeping all the time, the general business of a city.

We’ve located the local cafes both on and off campus – 1897, Grandma’s, Panini and Gecko to name a few. We’ve survived our first party on Saturday night, and even made it through our first day of classes.

Delicious honey, lemon and rose tea at Gecko Cafe

I feel like the first week here has been all about taking risks and making it through. We took the bullet train to Shanghai. Kay set up a Taobao account so we can buy internet. We negotiated mobile phone contracts, taxi prices and some people have even bought bikes. The limbo of waiting for class to start has ended today, as we begin our first real week of timetables and learning.

Welcoming ceremony for International Students

I’ve now got more tea in my room than I know what to do with. I’ve also discovered a love for Innisfree cosmetics and I’m slowly getting used to the haze that hangs around the city (pro tip – it’s easier if you just tell yourself it’s a lovely morning mist).

Today we had our first class. It was just an orientation with our teacher so we could meet our classmates. My class has 22 people in it, and they seem very friendly (we’ve already got a WeChat group). I’ve sort of worked out which textbooks are for which classes, which is more difficult than you’d think – they hand you a stack of seven textbooks, all the titles are in Mandarin, you have to work out which class they align to.

For the first time on Saturday we visited Hefangjie, one of the local marketplaces. Everyone bought little waving cat keyrings with our Chinese names engraved on them, to hang in our rooms. We went into a tea shop because Kay and I wanted some longjing green tea (a local specialty which is grown in Hangzhou), and ended up having a full morning tea with the shopkeeper.

My waving cat keyring
So much tea, so little time

One thing that consistently surprises me about China is how many people smoke. In Australia it’s unusual to see someone smoking, in China it’s unusual if you don’t smoke. It’s legal to smoke inside bars and clubs, so everywhere you enter has a haze of smoke. As if the air you breathe isn’t already bad enough, add a constant haze of cigarette smoke to it and it gets even worse. On the upside, it’s frowned upon to smoke in cafes and restaurants so people generally don’t.

Overall the first week has been quite nice. I’m getting used to dorm life and the millions of steps that you have to go through to achieve anything in China. Everything is a constant negotiation and the simplest things, such as switching your bedsheets over, take four or five steps to do. Tomorrow is our first full day of class with all of our teachers, hopefully it goes well!

Bits & Bobs #2

It’s the middle of semester again (well, not quite….but we’re five weeks in so it feels like we must be halfway through). I assumed everyone wouldn’t want to read another blog post about uni blah blah assignment blah blah study blah so I’m writing a second bits and bobs post. If you’re short on ways to procrastinate, then continue reading….

1. How I learnt to say “Let it Go” in Mandarin:

Also this:

Because who doesn’t love the Lion King….and I can understand most of the language so it counts as studying right?

2. Because everyone should know how to say “99 Red Balloons” in German:

3. The funniest recaps you will ever read: 

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 9.58.03 am

You don’t even have to watch The Bachelor to appreciate these recaps. Take it from the person who spent last week in Contemporary China catching up on two seasons worth of recaps.

Some of my favourite Rosie Waterland recap quotes:

Episode 1: And it looks like Channel Ten’s fierce feminist queen Sandra Sully forced her minions to catch a great one for us: Sam Wood, from Tasmania. Wood. From Tasmania. His last name is so perfect, I don’t care if it’s referring to his brain or his peen I just want to christen him Bachie Wood and have nobody call him by any other name ever again. BACHIE WOOD IS OUR GUY.

Episode 2: I still can’t decide if the ‘Wood’ in Bachie Wood is referring to his peen or his brain.

Episode 3: Queen Sully does not mess around when it comes to the budget. If they’re going to keep Oshie’s hairspray machine fully operational, not a dollar can be wasted.

Episode 4: Totally Laid Back Cool Girl Heather takes Bachie Wood to a prop studio for their date, because she’s an ‘aspiring filmmaker’ by trade (ie waitress) and therefore likes to spend time on prop studios.

Episode 5: Bachie Wood takes a moment to show us his very impressive ‘leather-wearing’ skills, which I’m assuming makes up about 63% of his yet-to-be-discovered personality.

Episode 6: Next we’re informed that Bachie Wood has decided the three identical dates will be filled with ‘secret tests’… Yay feminism! I really hope one the ‘secret tests’ will involve him telling the girls he has crusty genital warts to see how they react.

So yeah. Go and read them all here.

4. OMG. Talent. 




Happy procrastinating!

Day 15 – 20: Week 1 at Cambridge

Since Cambridge is a lot quieter than Contiki or Hampshire were, I decided to combine it into a weeklong post so it’s more interesting to read!

On Sunday we headed into Winchester for some final sightseeing adventures before driving to Cambridge. We saw King Arthur’s round table, the Wolvesey Castle ruins and the outside of the Cathedral.

The Round Table!
The Round Table!

We left Winchester around 12pm to head to Cambridge, about a 3 hour drive. I was pretty excited to get there, because it’s the next stage of my trip and I was looking forward to a little bit of downtime!

On the first afternoon, I checked into Newnham College, which fortunately turned out to be right across from the Sidgwick teaching site. Other colleges may have ensuites and kitchens, but I don’t have to leave until ten minutes before class starts! We had a welcome talk in Lady Mitchell Hall, before being turned out to get ready for our first dinner in College.

Home for the next two weeks
Home for the next two weeks

We had dinner and all that sort of thing, then most people went back to their rooms to deal with jetlag (or in my case residual tiredness from Contiki!). On Monday we had our first day of classes. The days are pretty long but class is interesting so that makes it okay!

A typical day is:

8.00: Breakfast in the dining hall at Newnham

9.00: Class A (Russia in the 20th Century)

10.30: Plenary lecture

11.45: Class B (The Romantics and Jane Austen)

1.00: Lunch

2.00: Class C (Crises in World Politics Since 1945)

3.15: Free time until dinner

6.30: Dinner in the dining hall at Newnham

8.00: Evening lecture

Classes for the Interdisciplinary Summer School start at 9am, earlier than all of the other summer schools. On the upside, we also finish earlier which means we get more time to explore in the afternoons. I was surprised upon walking in to my first class to find that there was only 6 students in it! We were from a range of countries – Australia, America, Romania, Sweden and China.

Having made some friends in the morning plenary lecture (the theme of which is Influence and Illumination – it’ll be interesting to see which kinds of topics we get lectured on!), we headed out to explore the town in the afternoon break. It’s quite a distance from our college, nearly a fifteen minute walk! But it’s a beautiful walk across the river and up through the back of King’s College. We found the Sainsbury’s in town, where the guys stocked up on food. Everyone was amazed that supermarkets back in Australia don’t sell alcohol – I was amazed that they do everywhere else in the world!

Finally we made it back to College for dinner, which was a buffet style meal. The food here at Newnham is really good, although they seem to love serving potato – we’ve had potato six different ways since arriving. Personally I’m interested to see if they can keep it up and make thirteen different types of potato.

Newnham College, Cambridge
Newnham College, Cambridge

Being uni students, on Friday night we decided to go and check out the nightlife in Cambridge. One of my friends, Sam, found out there was a festival in the town centre, about 20 minutes from Newnham, so we decided to go and watch the fireworks. We found the festival but then discovered that they weren’t selling alcohol – as we were midway to Sainsbury’s the fireworks display started! So we watched the fireworks display through a tree from the street. Then we headed out to a couple of clubs in the area, guided by Josh who lives in London and knows a little bit about Cambridge.

View from my room in Newnham
View from my room in Newnham

So far it’s been a great week, though a very different pace to Contiki! Tomorrow I’m going to see Othello in Stratford-upon-Avon performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and then on Sunday I’m heading into London to see the Tower and the Harry Potter Studio Tour which’ll be awesome.

ICS 2016: I’m going to Hangzhou!

I have just been told that next year I’ll be going to study in the beautiful lakeside city of Hangzhou, on the eastern seaboard side of China!

West Lake

To convince you all that you should come and visit me in sunny China, I thought I’d post some fun things about the “small city” of 2.5 million people that is Hangzhou. Also, you can get Facebook in China. So no excuses.

1. It rarely gets below 4 degrees in Hangzhou

Hangzhou has a very mild climate by Chinese standards. Forget Beijing, Hangzhou has balmy summers and barely cold winters. Plus, it’s super close to the beach! Summer is around 30 degrees and it rarely snows in winter.

Current weather in Hangzhou. To prove it to you all.
Current weather in Hangzhou. To prove it to you all.

2. Scenery

The beautiful West Lake is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. It not only has it’s own cultural square, it has inspired hundreds of paintings. Hangzhou also has the Jade Springs and the world’s largest tidal bore races up the Qiantang river. And, as a final scenic drawcard, the housing development of Tianducheng has a subscale replica of the Eiffel Tower. Who needs to go to France anyway?

Jade Springs
Jade Springs
World's largest tidal bore. Handy hint; don't Google this. The results are terrifying.
World’s largest tidal bore. Handy hint; don’t Google this. The results are terrifying.
Tianducheng: it really does look like Paris.
Tianducheng: it really does look like Paris.
National Silk Museum
National Silk Museum

3. Culture things

Interestingly, Hangzhou houses two national museums: the National Silk Museum and the National Tea Museum. There’s also a Zhejiang Provincial Museum. But personally I’m keen for the tea museum – bring on the oolong! Hangzhou also houses the Yue Opera, the second-largest opera company in China.

4. Food!

Hangzhou is the foundation of the Zhejian cuisine, one of China’s eight fundamental cuisines. Who can go past dishes like “West Lake Vinegar Fish”, “Beggar’s Chicken” and “Sister Song’s Fish Soup”? According to Wikipedia, locals describe the cuisine as “fresh, tender, soft and smooth, with a mellow fragrance”.

National Tea Museum
National Tea Museum

5. It specialises in making tea!

Tea is the most important part of Hangzhou’s economy and culture! Hangzhou makes Longjing tea, and the best type is Xi Hu which is grown in (you guessed it!) Xi Hu, Hangzhou. They also specialise in making Chinese hand-held folding fans. Because no visit to China is complete without one of these souvenirs.

So basically I now expect lots of visitors next year, because this is just five small reasons why you should come visit Hangzhou. Also, expect lots of post spam next year.

17,000 steps in one day (or a standard day at uni)

For some reason, people have this perception that UTS is all in one building (the huge ugly eyesore that is on Broadway). Here to tell you right now, that is totally untrue. To prove it, I wore a Fitbit on Monday this week to uni to measure exactly how many steps I took in a standard day.

To begin, here’s a map of the UTS campus:

That's right, there's 11 buildings.
That’s right, there’s 11 buildings.

On a standard Monday, I meet friends for coffee in the DAB cafe in Building 6. That’s the one on the right of Harris St. Then I have a 2hr break, during which I usually head to the tower (CB01 for the uninitiated) to study in Jumbunna, a glorious study area with beanbags and microwaves galore. Not really, there’s only one microwave, but it’s still quieter than your standard study space on campus.

Next up at 11am, lecture in Building 7. Closely followed by a tutorial in Building 2, broken up with a stop at the Concourse in Building 1 for whatever free goodies they’re giving away this week (NB – for all those wondering why we had eight tins of Pringles in Org. Comms on Monday, now you know our secret!).

After two hours of discussing diversity in organisations or conducting this week’s scavenger hunt (what even is communications…), a half hour break for lunch and then another coffee lecture, this time in Building 4. After some solid Facebook time note-taking, the long trek down to Building 5C for our kill-me-now fascinating and engaging CCIP tutorial. This week we learnt how to sign a Group Charter for a group assignment!

Finally, after 2 hours of sleep constructively learning about how turning off our computers will save the planet, only a short walk down to Building 5D for Chinese class. Then at 8pm, back up to Central Station for the enjoyable (and thankfully relatively short) train trip home.

Here’s a fun diagram of my daily walk on a Monday:

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So to all the USyd and Macquarie students haters who try to tell us we have it so easy, add in to this the ten minute walk to and from Central Station and the real truth emerges! Peace out.