Dear parents, families, and friends of our '00 summer China FSP participants:
Now that we have settled into a nice routine and have gotten over the initial
"culture shock" (none, really...), I thought that I should send a brief note to
update you on what has transpired over the past two and a half weeks. I'll focus
mostly on the academic side, since my able assistant Phuoc has been keeping you
well posted as to our students' extracurricular and recreational activities and
We have divided our language classes (Chinese 22/23) into three sections: two
"true beginner" sections and one "heritage student" section. For each of the two
"true beginner" sections, we simply divided up the "roommates", assigning each
to a separate section, as language competency amongst this year's true beginners
did not, at the end of '00 Spring Term, vary greatly, so that it was relatively
easy for us to "randomly" divide the 22 students into two sections. There are
seven "heritage students"--an ideal size for a language class. Responsible for
our three language sections are 5 BNU instructors. We have devised a system
whereby we "rotate" the instructors so that each of the three sections, over the
10-week academic term, will have had the opportunity to be taught by at least
three or four of the five instructors. Thus far, all is well: as always, the BNU
teachers have been caring and attentive to our students, both in and out of the
classroom; and the students have reciprocated with respect and affection.
As for the third course (taught by myself), it "feels" huge--30 people in a
not-too-big room in weather of 95-100 degrees F. However, we do have a
medium-sized air-conditioner and one working fan. I designed the course (The
Chinese Language and Its Writing System) in a way such that we can integrate--to
the extent possible--much of the materials introduced into our language classes,
and hopefully, into the students' over-all Beijing/China experience. I hope that
the FSP, as a whole, is internally coherent, and that all of its components,
academic or otherwise, are mutually re-enforcing.
Two extracurricular classes, Calligraphy and Chinese Shadow Boxing (taiji or
tai-chi), began on Monday, June 26. There are 15 students signed up for
Calligraphy, and 16 for Shadow Boxing. The Calligraphy class will meet once per
week, each session lasting 2 hours; Shadow Boxing will meet twice per week, each
session lasting 1 hour.
We started our traditional "Friday Chinese-language Table" last week (and
actually, I should say "Chinese-language Tables" because this year we find that
we need 4 tables to accommodate our 30 students and 6 teachers...); this
"language table" program has been an important part of the China FSP since the
mid-80s, the event taking place every Friday around noontime. We (i.e., the
teachers) take turns preparing a "menu" (a written version is handed out to the
class beforehand) and selecting a place (usually in one of the three campus
dining facilities). This provides an opportunity for the students to interact
with their teachers in an informal, out-of-class setting, and at the same time
allows them to learn a bit about some typical Chinese dishes (including their
names) and a bit about the etiquette of sharing a meal with Chinese people--food
being an essential aspect of Chinese social life.
So, as you can see, our students have been kept quite busy. Some have bemoaned
the workload, but in general they are cheerfully meeting their teachers' demands
and performing well.
I'll write again when I have a chance.
Hua-yuan Li Mowry