By Géraldine Rougier
Arriving in China for most of us was one of the first time we set foot in an Asian country. We were all very excited and full of questions, eager to discover new ways of life and new traditions.
After a 10-hour flight from Paris to Beijing, we were greeted by our Chinese classmates who were eagerly awaiting our arrival. An hour later, we finally arrived at Tsinghua University with just enough time to discover our rooms, or shared rooms for some of us and went to dinner at a canteen on campus, not too far from the dormitories. First real Chinese dinner! So many different dishes, new flavors, both spicy and sweet, there was something for everyone!
Campus of Tsinghua University
We spent the following days walking through the campus for all of the many administrative procedures. We figured out step by step that it was going to be long and complicated, especially as many of the university staff barely spoke English. Our Chinese classmates were of great help and took charge of everything! Registration, new bank accounts, new SIM cards, new student cards… We were exhausted even before the beginning of the first week of classes!
The campus is a very enjoyable place to live. There are many green spaces and sports grounds spread all across the campus. While there are more than 46,000 students, we have found the campus to be very quiet and peaceful. Everyone rides a bike or an electric scooter. Thanks to Nathalie’s advice and help, all of us bought a bike off campus. She has been coming with the students every year for the past 4 years to help us get settled as she understands the process and can show us around. And indeed we quickly discovered buying a bike was one of the important tasks to accomplish over the first days as our dormitory is 2 km from the School Of Environment (SOE)!
After this busy weekend, we started our first week of classes at the SOE. Speaking of that building, well it is…a bit surprising! It has a “U-shape” and it is impossible to access our classroom without going up to the third floor on the western side, take a bridge to the eastern side and then go back down to the first floor. This leaves us all a bit perplexed!
First class at Tsinghua University
Despite a significant work load, we have been able to go off campus many times: historic sites, restaurants, pubs, and malls. We walked along the Forbidden City and, as Nathalie would say, we landed in the Chinese “Champs Elysées”. A large street with many luxury stores. From there we entered a small tourist area full of gift shops and restaurants. Here’s the time to practice our negotiating and bartering skills, thanks to Professor Faure’s advice! We also walked through Tian’anmen Square and on Saturday before Nathalie left to go back to Paris she went with us to the Temple of Heaven. As soon as we entered through the gate, the sounds of the city faded away and were replaced by the sounds of the birds.
The Forbidden City
At this point, Beijing is not what I expected. I expected to see more Chinese architecture and more people. Other big Asiatic cities in the South look different from the images I’ve seen, here in Beijing we are surrounded by big buildings, all well-organized, the road traffic is calm and fluid, the subway is clean and efficient, and the streets are not nearly as crowded as I had imagined!
At the end of the week everyone had a good impression of Beijing, Tsinghua University, and our home for the next 3 months. We look forward to seeing what this city has to offer as we are convinced it is full of surprises!
Photo album of the first days in Beijing