Thomas Gatley, Tsinghua University School of Economics & Management One week in and we’re already on holiday…

中秋节快乐! Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

We may only be at the start of our first semester here at Tsinghua, but we are already in mid-autumn. The weather certainly testifies to the seasonal shift – just a couple of weeks ago temperatures were regularly in the mid-30s, but this week I’ve cycled to school most days in a chilly drizzle. There are definite advantages to this time of year, however, for instance moon cakes (月饼) – ubiquitous delicious round pastries with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings – and a weird three-day holiday (Wed-Fri) that is then counteracted by everyone going back to work or class at the weekend instead. That’s China!

Meanwhile, the work is definitely heating up. This semester is the most intense of the course, and I am currently studying six quantitative and qualitative modules (accounting; data, models&decisions: managerial economics: leadership development: managerial thinking and ethics) plus a Chinese language class on Fridays.

The workload, inclusive of group projects and individual homework, works out at about 11 hours a day for me, plus about two-thirds of that at the weekends. Any linguistic or experiential advantages that I have over my classmates regarding the academic modules is more than compensated for by the many hours I have to put in to keep up with my Chinese language class.

Check out my futile attempt to convince a Chinese shopper to support a charity that provides sports equipment for poor schoolchildren in Ningxia province. Fortunately you can’t hear me getting all my tones wrong!

Probably because my reading comprehension in Chinese is somewhat superior to my awful stumbling attempts to speak the language and the placement test was written, I was placed in the highest level set. Which means that most of my classmates either grew up speaking Chinese at home as children, studied the language for many years at high school, or are simply generally far more linguistically able than I am.

Nevertheless, it’s a great learning experience, but it does mean that I am up at the crack of dawn every day before school frantically learning new words and pre-reading class materials so that I don’t betray the full extent of my ignorance! Which, incidentally, has given me new respect for those of my Chinese classmates whose English is less than fluent – it is pretty frustrating to work really hard at something and still feel pretty uncomfortable in a learning environment, particularly when you’re used to being at the top of the tree.

Too much else is going on to fully document, but I’ll leave you with a few more photos as a taste of the last week or two.