by Joseph Lemoine
When we first arrived at Tsinghua University, we were all amazed by this huge American-style campus: 400 hectares for tens of thousands of students, teachers, administrative staff and so on. First thing to do: buy (and of course bargain for) a bike, then the adventure on the campus could begin.
A few words of history: Tsinghua University (in Chinese: 清华大学 – Qīnghuá Dàxué) was established in Beijing in 1911 after some American politician made an important investment in China. Tsinghua served at first as a preparatory school for students to be sent by the government to study in the United States. In the late 1980’s, under the « Four Modernizations » movement introduced by Deng Xiaoping, it transformed from an institution dedicated to engineering sciences into a multidisciplinary university with the incorporation of several schools: School of Sciences, School of Economics and Management, and later, School of Environment! Today, there are as many as 14 faculties surrounded by dozens of research facilities and laboratories.
Three months are far from enough to discover the whole campus. While riding your bike for a campus tour you can observe the Tsinghua Garden, which was preserved for centuries, the Auditorium, mixing Greek and Roman architecture, Shui Mu Tsinghua, that is often compared to the Garden of Harmonious Interest in the famous summer palace, the Palace of the Ancient Moon, built for the emperor Dao Guang, and many more. In terms of services, you could live your life on the university campus without taking a step into the outer world of Beijing. There are widely available banks, post offices, super-markets, book stores, barbershops, laundries, sport facilities… And if you are hungry, you may choose from nearly ten canteens where you can enjoy an incredible variety of meals.
All the students are welcome to participate in various extracurricular activities. There are approximately 200 student associations covering pretty much everything imaginable. Some of us have already joined some groups: football, wall-climbing, calligraphy… Chinese student are always welcoming and well receiving their international classmates, and they will be very happy to talk to new foreign students.
Concerning the on-campus dorms, international students are well accommodated. The rooms, single or double, are clean and comfortable. Unfortunately there was a problem when we arrived the first night, the rooms had not been reserved… Ultimately they managed to find some place for us but we could not be together in the same building. No big deal though, compared to one really unpleasant surprise: the heating system in the rooms does not work! September was fine, but it got quite cold in the end of October. And actually, there is no heating in the whole campus: the reason for that is Beijing waiting for mid-November to switch the power on, probably for some energy-savings. Hopefully the next few weeks will be warmer!
What about the night life then? There are no places on the campus where you can have a drink at night. However, it will only take a 15-minute ride by cycle to get to Wudaoku, the nearest metro station, where you may find several bars. Many students meet there with their friends so the atmosphere is very friendly. And if it is still not enough, you can still take the subway to go downtown and find some other places!
We just realised that we have reached the halfway point already; time goes by so fast! But this experience will not stop in one month and a half since we will all meet again in January, this time in Paris and Fontainebleau. It will be the chance for our Chinese classmates to discover the French campus as we did here, although it should be quite different. Until then, we are sure there are still plenty of surprises waiting for us that we are eager to appreciate!