Sunday, April 24, 2011

End of the year wrap up report

ACC End of the Semester Report

Out of 5
Teaching quality: 5
The engagingness of the course material: 5
The engagingness of class: 3
Living environment: 5
Outside of the classroom activity: 4

Overall, I liked ACC a lot. On one hand, my experiences were unique as the only 5th year in the program, however, on the other hand, because we were all living together, my social experiences are very similar to other students.

I can say for sure that being at ACC improved my Chinese ability. My reading, writing, and vocab bank has increased dramatically. As a native speaker, ACC 5th year was exactly the kind of structured language learning that I needed to make progress. However, I know that a lot of the students from other years found ACC's way of learning too structured and inflexible. They especially didn't like how ACC program did not give students very many chances to put their Chinese to practical use (because we were for the most part, memorizing vocab words every day).

One thing that I should stress about ACC is its language pledge. ACC has a very strict language pledge that for some reason, the students this semester did not follow it very well (I would even dare to say that we were probably the worst group in all of ACC history). ACC staff will tell you that the language pledge is the cornerstone of ACC Chinese education. You chose to attend this program knowing about the language pledge, and thus you should follow it. Additionally, if you choose not to, your grade will drop by a letter if you are caught speaking in English twice, and you will be expelled from the program if you are caught three times (one student was sent home with only 2 weeks left of the program).

I think there is great value is keeping the language pledge. Some students managed to do so all through the semester, and it was pretty obvious to everyone, teachers included, who had been sticking to the pledge and who had not. Students who did stick to the pledge really did improve by leaps and bounds while other students who were speaking in English all the time, did not have very dramatic improvements.

Although I am a strong advocate of the language pledge, I was not a student who stuck with the language pledge at all times. For me, the benefits of keeping the language pledge were few. In fact, by keeping with the language pledge, I actually started to unconsciously absorb other ACC student's foreign accent. Also, it is very difficult to speak to 2nd years and even 3rd years if the language pledge was maintained. Our group gave up on it fairly early on because 4th years essentially had to ignore their 2nd year friends.

In the end, I do not regret not keeping the language pledge because talking to students who spoke grammatically incorrect Chinese also caused me to pick up grammatically incorrect habits. However, if you are a future student who does not intend to keep the language pledge, please do not be a negative influence on the people around you and unknowingly pressure others to also violate the pledge. I think for many people there is great value is keeping to it.

The material at ACC, at least for 4th and 5th is quite engaging, however the repetitiveness of the teaching method can make class boring.

Tips of advice:
Go to office hours! The teachers are available in the dorm hotel, so not only are they super conveniently close, but it's also a great opportunity to practice speaking in Chinese and to get to know the teachers.
Buy a bike! It's like freedom on wheels.
Bali Gym membership: while I did not purchase gym membership at this gym down the street, everyone who did loved it

Monday, April 18, 2011


Perhaps right before finals is not the best time to be updating my blog, but life has been so fun lately and I've got pictures! :D

This past weekend was ACC's 中文之夜 (China Night), which were filled with student performances. I was a serious part of three performances, including impromptu Beijing Opera (never heard of it? that's because we invented it!), a game show challenge, and a movie! For Impromptu Beijing Opera, think Whose Line Is it Anyway + really high pitched Beijing Opera voice + foreigners speaking in Chinese + ridiculous props/acrobatics/costumes, and VIOLA!

As to the game show challenge, we had ACC's most beloved couple (an adorable Buddhist couple from Japan compete against ACC's most extroverted bros). Of course one of the challenges had to be Charades.

Lastly, I also wrote/directed/produced a movie. The movie is basically 75% true and all of the little stories in the movie are vignettes from ACC students' personal experiences. When I get the chance, I'll post it for you to watch!

And then, yesterday was one of my good friend 江磊's 21st birthday and so we went to one of his/mine favorite parks-北海公园. I'm not sure how much fun he had, but I sure had a blast. I danced with a group of elderly retirees inside a pavilion on the lake, and the proceeded to play badminton with some old timers near the famous double sided dragon wall. The dancing pavilion reminded me of my high school days when my friends and I used to go to Dance Away, a gathering at the downtown Unitarian Church. There, people from all walks of life (some donning flashy masks, some dancing with feathered boas, and some playing with glow in the dark hoops) gathered to do their own quirky dance. At Dance Away, my friends and I were the youngest participants, which is probably why I found the retirees' dancing pavilion so familiar.

Today I visited an awesome professor at 北大 (Beida)University (basically the Yale of China) who agreed to help me with my summer project and introduce me to survey work in China. Unfortunately, it wasn't as much of a done deal as I expected. She was so great and welcoming, but she says that the work that she's currently doing/having her students do is unrelated to my interests and also that at the moment, she doesn't have any full-time work for me. However, she did agree to contact me if they have field work/training sessions. She also provided me a lot of resources to consult as well as names of other professors and organizations that are also involved with public opinion survey work. My summer plans are slowly, but surely materializing! :D

My meeting with the Beida professor was also a good addition to my day. My thoughts on this visit are as such: 1) WOW, BEIDA facilities are so baller. 的确名不虚伪 (the name lives up to its reputation)。2) She told me that after looking through my resume, she really respected my independence. Students from the US (and perhaps more so at Yale) are very eager to pursue their own independent research projects and to 想方设法 (by any means necessary) reach out to professors, which is something Chinese undergraduates don't get much of a chance to do.

Dancing Pavilion featured with bonafide old timer hipster

She was really nice and tried convince 江磊 to dance!

However, because 江磊, being 江磊, kept on refusing, I took her up on her offer instead and we ended up dancing salsa together!

This lady is in her 80s!

She and I also became good friends. She is a retired optometrist and likes to dance solo. She dances mostly ethnic dances, and I had a good time imitating/branching off from her moves

Guess who!

Getting her stretching on

Badminton! I also played a few rounds, but I was terribly sub par.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beijing Urban Planning Exhibit

Wins the award for most amount of impressive technology found in a museum/WOW factor. It also had a 4-D theater that cost less than $1.

The cool model of Beijing. The whole floor is either covered by models or maps

During the light show

talk about detail!

The digital book that you can flip by waving your hand above it

Of course, what city planning exhibition would be complete without a part dedicated to sustainability?

Saturday, April 2, 2011


WOW! What an amazing experience! It just rained yesterday too, so the air was as fresh as fresh could be. :)

doing an Amber

the group

Friday, April 1, 2011

3 weeks left

These past few days, ACC has really been looking up for me. With our graduation date coming up in less than a month, I'm beginning to feel like I don't have enough time left. This week, I had many high moments, and I began to think about the adjustment curve that we saw during orientation. I don't think I ever sunk into a "low point", but I do feel life at ACC improving these last few days. I love my teachers, I love my curriculum, I love my classes(except the earliest class, but only because of its timing), I love the other students here, and I love Beijing.

One thing that does affect me in a very negative way is my current state of health. Although I anticipated pollution, I didn't anticipate to feel so physically miserable so often. It's not completely horrible, I'm just so use to being healthy that comparatively, to be coughing and sneezing on a daily basis seems like a health disaster. I've only come down with a cold once this whole semester, but my respiratory system has been displeased with Beijing this whole time. Many other students have come down with things way worse than me, especially those who have asthma. Especially in the days right after New Years, the entire program was sick (teachers included). I suspect that it had something to do with the amount of pollutants, such as heavy metals, the firecrackers released into the air.

I think what I'm trying to say is, my spirits are high, but my physical health is low. Given what I've seen of the ACC program this semester, I would suggest that students with asthma consult a doctor before they decide to study in Beijing for a semester.