On a Saturday night in October, we were drifting off to sleep in our dorm beds when bloodcurdling screams coming from just outside the building jarred us awake. Moments later more screams followed, apparently chanting words I couldn’t decipher. The next morning, Sam revealed to the group what he had been told by a student of the university- the screaming was part of a game between girls and guys in separate buildings of the campus, modeled after a dating show on TV. What I had taken to be something horrific happening outside has actually been a fun event for students.
China West Normal University is in many ways a school very different from our EMU. For one, CWNU’s undergrad students number 30,000, while at EMU we’re hovering right above 1,000. CWNU is a teacher’s college, meaning most of the students will eventually be teaching in their respective fields. And, apparently, at CWNU you might be woken up by screams as you’re falling asleep. These differences aside, CWNU’s students are easy to relate to (even despite the language barrier) and we’ve had fun bonding with students over the similarities and differences of our respective cultures.
As a senior, Wang Hong Yan (English name Kiko) studies all day. She doesn’t have classes, so instead spends all her time in self-guided preparation for her teacher certificate exam on environmental engineering. She’ll spend all of next semester working on her thesis paper, a graduation requirement for her major. Other than meals and maybe a short nap mid-afternoon, you’ll likely find her in the library, sitting on a stool or pacing the hallway, textbook in hand, chanting aloud the material to aid in memorization. 25-30 other students will be doing the same thing in the same place, so the hallway will echo with the din of 30 students talking aloud to themselves, all this while classes are taking place in rooms just off the hallway. If Kiko does go back to her dorm for a mid-afternoon nap, she’ll be greeted by her roommates; 5 other senior girls in her same major. At CWNU, roommates are assigned by the school, and decided based on your major. When students enter as freshmen, the roommates they meet will remain with them all four years. Only in very unusual circumstances are students allowed to change roommates from one year to the next.
Liang Chun Yan (Ada) is an English major. As a junior, she still has classes, which typically start at 8. After leaving her dorm in the morning, she won’t return till around 10 at night. She’ll spend all day in class, or studying in the library. She explains that most of the fun activities on campus (like the screaming match I heard) are geared towards the freshmen. Their first three weeks at college, CWNU’s freshmen participate in required military training. During this time they don’t have classes, and just train with their unit all day. This consists of camo-clad guys and girls jogging around campus in groups of 10-20 students, or standing stock still in the middle of a field for up to half an hour while the leader of their section paces up front, making sure no one moves a muscle. After this three-week period, classes start, but the freshmen still have time in their schedules to join clubs and participate in fun activities organized by the school. After their freshmen year, many students will drop out of the clubs they joined that first year, as they no longer have time in their schedules.
Another strange orientation tradition is that during the first month of school, the freshmen are required to clean their entire dorm building and keep it spotless. Students themselves, and not a cleaning crew, are responsible for cleaning bathrooms, sweeping the floor, and making sure all surfaces are mess-free. Another group of students (usually upper-classmen) regularly inspect the dorms to make sure freshmen are meeting the cleaning standards. Dorms are ranked at the end of the month according to how clean they’ve been kept, and the residents of the building in last place have to clean other buildings on campus as punishment. How’s that’s for a Royals Cup event, EMU? When I asked Ada if there was anything else she thought I should know about student life at CWNU, she said that in the library there are 6 bathrooms for girls, and only 2 for boys. This highlights the gender imbalance among students, and as Ada said rather dejectedly, “Many girls are single, and almost all the boys have girlfriends.”… We feel ya Ada, we feel ya.
Chen Jun Feng (Bob) is also a junior English major. He confirmed that junior year is very challenging academically, but (luckily for Andrew) that doesn’t mean he can’t find time to fit in a ping pong game or two every once in a while. His favorite activities are ping pong, sports matches, mountain climbing, or pretty much anything athletic.
We’re lucky that no matter how busy the students of CWNU are, they still make time to hang out with us 🙂