For those who may have thought otherwise, let me assure you that hernia surgery is no fun.I’m currently sitting on the couch in my living room trying to ignore the fact that I feel like someone hit me in the stomach with a sledgehammer. Perhaps the one upside to this whole situation is the fact that I’ve been rendered completely immobile, and seeing as I’ve spent around 16 of the past 24 hours asleep, my options are now limited to lying down with my eyes open or getting some work out of the way.
This post marks the beginning of a few final blog posts in which I’ll give some final thoughts on the summer and the Duke program experience, and also offer some advice for prospective students in the future. For today, I’m going to write up my approximate daily schedule , including class hours, extracurricular activities, meals and sleep.
DAILY SCHEDULE (Mon – Thurs)
6:30 AM: Wake-up, shower, brush teeth, etc.
6:50 AM: Go over text, review characters as needed, get backpack together
7:30 AM: Breakfast at campus cafeteria (typically 2 vegetable dumplings (包子), 1 pork dumpling, 5 hard-boiled eggs, assorted 青菜, all for around 5 kuai)
8:00 AM: Large lecture – Overview of text and grammar points
9:10 AM: First break
9:30 AM: Drill Class – Intensive review of grammar patterns, focus on fluency of response and ability to integrate new grammar into conversation
10:20 AM: Second break
10:30 AM: Discussion class – Instructor introduces topic, students engage in more or less open-ended discussion or debate
11:10 AM: End of group class
11:20 AM: One-on-one session – review of material with teacher, discussion of text-relevant topics. 4th-year one-on-one was split up into 3 slots, 11:20, 11:50, and 12:20, each session lasted 30 minutes.
12:00 – 1:30 PM: Lunch at cafeteria or restaurant around campus. The area surrounding UIBE is home to a variety of restaurants, ranging from standard Chinese 家常菜, to Korean, Japanese, and even Subway. I usually spent somewhere in the vicinity of 20 kuai on lunch meals.
2:00 PM: FREE TIME! How I spent my free time was usually dependent on my level of energy and the difficulty of the next day’s text. Some times I would use this time to visit places around the city, e.g. the Olympic Park or Panjiayuan, and other times I would get a head start on my homework. It’s up to you to gauge how much time you’ll need to devote to schoolwork and how much you can fit in in the way of cultural exploration.
4:30 PM: Workout – I bought a membership at a gym called Hosa, which is about a five to ten-minute walk north of campus. The membership fee is a little pricey, 960 kuai for three months, but the gym had everything I needed as far as free weights, weight machines, and cardio machines.
6:30 PM: Meet with language partner
7:30 – 8:00 PM: Dinner at local restaurant (~ 25 kuai)
9:00 PM: Prepare text, study new characters, go over new grammar patterns
11:00 PM: Bed time
Based on this schedule, you might have better sense as to why I never managed to achieve my original one-blog-a-day goal. I know there were plenty of kids in the program who managed to get by on four or five hours of sleep, but I’ve never been able to pull that off, so I really had to plan my days on an hour-to-hour basis. As I mentioned in one of my blog posts last year, this type of summer program is not really designed to allow for a lot of free time and open exploration of Beijing. That being said, if you can force yourself to stay off Facebook, work incredibly efficiently, and take advantage of every last minute, there’s nothing to stop you from simultaneously making linguistic progress in the classroom and getting to know Beijing on a intimate cultural level.