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all you need to know about my journey trying to stay afloat. 

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Finals Week

Last week were just final exams, with a total of 6 exams this week (the week before I took my Spanish exam, and handed in my 2 papers for two separate classes, the last paper is due at the end of the month) but it's basically all done now. 


Interesting takeaways:

1) The examination papers are not exactly 'user friend'. For every exam that had a writing component, we were given these huge pieces of paper that were printed in landscape mode that took up the entire desk. I ended up having to rip off the papers and fold them so that they could be comfortably written on. 

2) No electronic devices allowed at all, which I guess makes sense but is quite frustrating. We were allowed to bring dictionaries though. 

3) Final exams seem more of a formality than a grade component. At the end of exams most of our professors told us "don't worry, no one will fail", well.. That’s reassuring. 

4) Some teachers are really distant but others are really warm and sweet. We took pictures and exchanged wechat with our Wednesday teachers, but not with Thursdays. Friday’s teacher rejected a request for a group picture stating “I’m never going to eat lunch with you or be super close with you and have conversations outside of class with you so there’s no point in having something to remember me” lol. The other Friday teacher was sweet and we exchanged wechat with her.



The Exams:


Consecutive Translation Chinese-English: Topic on climate change, The professor took a segment of the speech and cut it up into segments for us to interpret within the pauses. He was really nice, and gave us a short glossary before the exam and about 5-10 minutes to review it before beginning. Love this guy, he’s going to teach in Wales though for the next year.

Theory & Skills of Interpretation: Just general principles of interpretation, and theory. The professor gave us a review sheet that was about 11 pages long and let us bring it to the test which helped a lot. The test wasn’t very long.

Wednesday left me feeling good. We took pictures with both teachers and our teacher gave us homework over the break, he’ll be our travel/tourism interpreting teacher in the Spring. He gave us three foreign students our own homework, which is mostly comprised on chinese culture. I'm guessing the chinese students homework will be focused on 'western' culture, i'll let you know when the banzhang sends it to us. 


Written Translation English-Chinese: 600 word text on the European economic model, looked like something from The Economist, it took me the entire test period to complete the exam. Heavily paraphrased and flipped through my dictionary. Kept forgetting how to write Chinese words.

Written Translation Chinese-English: Extremely short text on a company’s briefing report. Didn’t take me long at all.

Felt horrible after Thursday but the worst was done with. I think our written translation teacher (E-C) was surprised we finished the exam. Last week she asked us if we were taking the exam and we were like of course professor!


Sight Translation: Interpret 3 sections, the first E-C, second C-E, third just a passage in English to read out loud. The topics were on Food Security, Ali Baba Company, and the last part was on the Donald Trump & Steven Banon feud. The professor gave us about 5 minutes to gloss over the text, then 12 minutes for recording, most of us finished in 8-9 minutes. It’s really easy to get caught up in the speed of the class when you hear everyone talking loudly at the same time. I wish I had spent a bit more time to have a clearer and better interpretation but it’s done with already.

Consecutive Translation English-Chinese: Two parts. First part on just memory practice and retelling, the professor picked a passage from one minute Science America or whatever its called, no note taking, just memory practice. The second part was on a speech about the trade partnership between Australia and China. It went okay. I really need to work on my Chinese more hahaha, I literally cringe when I hear myself speaking in Chinese which unfortunately happened when at the start of the recording all of our headphones were echoing what we said.

I’m not sure how the grades will be or whatever but I think I feel okay. It seems like the professors don’t seem to be failing anyone, at least that’s the impression I get for now…

Our new schedules are out as well. Next semester we have 8 classes, and just two classes in the afternoon *yaaay*



Almost the end of the semester

(Sorry this is super long and incredibly overdue)

It was a challenging semester with a lot of ups and downs. I think I should reflect on a few questions before I begin.

1)      Did I learn anything? Yes. I think I did. For a long time I felt like I wasn’t learning anything, just stress and homework. But I had the opportunity to interpret officially for my school three times this semester. The first time was at the very beginning of the term before I even had any interpretation practice, the next two were just recently (last week and the week before). Based on the experience, I can see a big difference, the crowd was more receptive, my interpretation wasn’t as dry, I had a better sense of constructing sentences, and I even made people laugh (not at me haha but at the speakers joke). I also got a lot of positive feedback from people afterwards. I know it wasn’t perfect but no one seemed to notice or lose any of the information.

2)      Will I pass? Probably. But not because I’m a great student but because I’m not Chinese. This is kind of a bittersweet victory. The teachers have already made it clear that they’ll be easier on us 3 foreign students, though sometimes it comes off a little condescending. Our teacher for oral class basically told us that we should sit next to a Chinese classmate and copy from them because we probably wouldn’t be able to read the Chinese exam.  

3)      Will I continue? Of course.


There are some teachers who are a waste of time. The teacher who gives us weekly translations (E-C) is probably one of my least favorite teachers. Her idea of teaching is to sit in the class every week and tear apart the next person’s translation. She never reads them or reviews them in advance even though we’re required to submit our translations to her 2 days before. Her lectures tend to lead to rants about how all of us are horrible translators and that google translate and baidu translate does a better job than any of us. Sometimes she gives contradictory statements like “If you don’t want to do the HW or come to my class that’s fine it’s okay, just know that your grade will rely on the one you get in the final”, but when she realized people weren’t coming to class she got angry one day and called in what I’d call the ‘attendance police’, which is a person from the office who comes and takes attendance, if you’re not there when he’s there you’re late, if you get there 5 minutes after you’re ‘absent’. This attendance police entered quite a bit of our classrooms at one point. It’s a ridiculous waste of time. This same teacher then went on to say that the only way to pass was to do the homework. So as you can see she doesn’t make much sense.

Sometimes in class she gets angry and starts to say “minus one point minus three, oh look here you would have failed with this many mistakes”. By the middle of the term she decided to ask for feedback from us about her teaching and things we’d like her to do different. I was surprised at how direct my classmates were and vicious lol. Some commented on how she just sat all the time and spoke. But the most important was that the translations were too long. At that point she was giving us translations that were nearing 2000 characters (from The Economist) due every week (roughly 4 days to complete). She agreed and decided to go with shorter passages. Nothing too short but nothing as long as those 2000 characters. I think this was pretty good of her despite my hatred for her. Also, she never enlarges the screen. Nearly 90% of the class wears glasses but for some reason she thinks it’s appropriate to keep the screen at its tiniest font, and never turns off the light. My vision has gotten so much worse than at the start of the term.  

Another class that is a waste of time is the one taught by our department head (Translation C-E). I think she has a lot of knowledge but honestly has no time to teach. Our classes with her are either cancelled or half assed. Or she just talks about translation phenomenon or stories. Also one of her biggest and most frustrating faults is her last minute assignments. For example, She’ll send something on Sunday 10 or 11 PM, and require it to be due on Tuesday 8 PM, but then sometime on Monday afternoon a thought will occur to her and she’ll add an entire extra part, deadline remains as is Tuesday 8pm. Then for class she doesn’t go over it, weeks later finally goes over it but never looks at it beforehand. She just takes a look during the class and makes comments. I don’t find this helpful at all. Plus we missed a lot of classes to go to mandatory lectures.

The “meh” classes have got to be the three courses on translation theory. One professor just reads the textbook. I think he has a lot of knowledge but he mostly just stands there and reads the text in weird English that’s difficult to follow or understand. He’s really boring though and as a result I can only remember his name as ‘boring guy’. The other teacher I have that teaches two theory courses is a bit more interesting but I don’t find the class to be a help at all. We usually spend time watching whitehouse.gov or random video clips or translating random clips, bits of history etc. The other class is on presentations that the class has on each topic. At the beginning of the term we were divided up in groups and chose our day to present. This teacher used to be really weird around me, like he was scared of me… it’s hard to explain. But anyway since my presentation he’s taken a fondness to me so I feel a bit better. It used to feel really awkward when he’d literally jump when I’d come up to him to ask a question (nothing weird or sudden just normal).

I have another class that’s on speaking. At the beginning of the term the focus was on English pronunciation and stuff but later became a more useful class for me but at the same time not really lol. Actually I’m not sure how I feel about the class. The teacher gives us really good resources but doesn’t really teach. We have interpretation exercises, then we go through random topics (medical, science, technology, terrorism, holidays, etc.) Lol. Also he has a very sarcastic/joking attitude that I’m okay with because I don’t get offended easily but sometimes it gets to my friends. Like for example, once we had to translate this very poetic text, and he told us in class “You two are about the level of a HS senior” and of course hearing that I’m a HS senior level I’m like YAAAAAAAAY and he’s like “no that wasn’t a compliment” and I’m like It is to me lmfao. And he went on to say that we would pass, but that our other classmate had no chance. But since day one he’s taken more of a fondness for me and that guy, he has a lot of fun joking with the classmate he said would fail.

Then that leaves three classes. The two consecutive interpreting classes (E-C and C-E) are taught by really great teachers. They’re patient, helpful, and have really good exercises for developing interpretation skills. Plus I think their best trait is that they don’t try and destroy a student’s self-esteem. I have a lot of fun in these classes and the teachers really make an effort to include us foreign students in class. Exercises we had were on memory, note taking, taking down numbers (big numbers, think million, billion, trillion, etc.), organizing cohesive sentences, etc.

The other class that I like and don’t like is Sight translation. The teacher is amazing, great, whatever but she has really high standards. One day I came into class and she was like ‘you’re late’ and I was like “huh really? “ I looked at the time and it was 7:50 so I was like “actually I’m early its only 7:50” and she was like “not in my class” and then proceeded to tell everyone that as a professional we had to get to the class a minimum of 30 minutes early. So every morning I rushed into class by 7:20 or 7:25. She also doesn’t take a break and goes over class time. We can’t eat or drink in her class which okay is reasonable. If your phone goes off she’ll lose it. Sounds make her neurotic and if she hears the classroom across from us she’ll storm outside and slam the door shut and then return back to rant about how annoying they are. Lol. Besides these quirks we’re also required to prepare a piece of news each week as well as memorizing vocabulary (countries names and their capitals, important organizations, technical vocab) and preparing our background knowledge on topics of her choice. Our recent stuff has been speeches, so we have to prepare the materials like vocabulary and what have you. If you don’t have these things she’ll lose it. I’m actually really scared of this teacher lol. She’s cool to talk with but extremely strict. She studied at the Monterey institute and is a professional simultaneous interpreter. She knows her stuff but honestly speaking I sit in that class and pray she doesn’t notice me.

Oh and that just leaves my Spanish class. It’s going goodish lol. I found that I have great listening skills. Probably the best in the class. My classmates have no idea most of the time what the audio is saying.

I took a look at my ‘first impressions’ so I wanted to point out changes from my first impressions

1)      “Chinese students are insanely gifted. “ After a whole semester getting to know my classmates I can say most are quite average, there are about 3-4 that are really impressive but the majority are average and about the same level as me. They might be good at memorization but sometimes their translations suffer from lack of knowledge or misunderstanding. A lot of my classmates don’t really know much about the world. Actually one of the shocking things I found out was that no one in my class knew anything about the assassination of Kim Jung Un’s halfbrother in Malaysia.

2)      I don’t think that foreigners were supposed to be in this major. “ I still feel this way. Actually the worst part about being in this major is that I have to deal with the bitchiest secretary ever. Every time I’ve gone into that office she gives so much sass and attitude I can just tell how much she despises foreign students. I thought it was just the first time I went to the office but later I found out that’s just her state of mind. My friend said he gets the same attitude from her lol. She’s a ‘secretary’ but think ‘secretary general’ instead of office secretary. She’s got a lot of power which is unfortunate.

3)      “The Chinese classmates think all 3 of us foreigners are stupid and can’t speak Chinese.” Pretty much feel the same. Just wanted to add that they think that all the teachers love us. Which is so insane. I just think the teachers tolerate us. I also had one of my partners get really cold on me out of the blue. We correct each other’s translations for the economist teacher, but one day I had more time than most to really look at her translation carefully. I noticed quite a bit of clumsy mistakes. Like for instance, she began a sentence with ‘亦或是甚至可能’ so I just told her to pick one not use all of them because it wasn’t grammatically correct. Since then she’s been more distant but still wants me to go over her translations. Her new thing is to tell me that my Chinese sucks. I think that it makes her feel better. So whatever. Lol.

4)      “Students get to class something like 15-30 minutes before class begins. “ Hahaha. No. After the first few weeks wore down so did the Chinese ability to get to class super early.


Final thoughts:

I feel a lot better now than I did that first month. Especially after I began to realize that my classmates are not as good as I imagined and that in reality we’re pretty much the same level. Yeah their Chinese might be better than mine but my English is so much better than theirs hahaha. I think our level in foreign language is roughly on par so I don’t feel nearly as bad. They also don’t speak any other languages than English. I’m more impressed with my foreign classmates who can speak 3-5 languages.

I know it’s bad to admit but I’m really glad there are two other non-Chinese students in the class. We have so much fun laughing at each other and it’s not even in a condescending way. We also try and brain storm together or reconfirm translations with each other. And most important we’re always there for each other for support. All of us at one point during this semester hit a low point where we were discouraged or depressed. It’s really good to have a friend there for you who can relate with the problems and get you out of a funk.

I’d still like to get close with my classmates but I’m not making it a priority anymore. I’ll let it happen naturally if it doesn’t then it just wasn’t meant to be. Actually today I helped out my classmate with knitting. So maybe we’ll become knitting buddies.

What’s left?

3 weeks, 3 papers, and the rest are just exams. I’m a bit pressed because 2 of our papers are due by Christmas. The other paper has a research part, and that’s due in the middle of January. Actually if anyone has any free time to spare and would like to take part let me know. It’s a short study on translation protocols, think process rather than translation accuracy. Actually what you translate doesn’t really matter for the study but rather which approach you take and your methods for deciding it. I chose translating ‘slang’ J hinty hint hint. Haha. Sorry for being shameless.

I’m looking forward to going back home for winter break to relax, and give myself some time to go over all the vocabulary that I’ve been meaning to memorize. Also to read through all of those lovely resources that my tea


week two

All foreign students in the class are technically not even part of the system yet. What does this mean? I'm guessing it means we could literally not attend classes and no one would notice because we're not even technically registered in the course.


It's a bit strange. But I suppose I can understand. There are some classes that we 3 foreign students are not required to take. Such as the 政治 politics course, and the 中国语言文化 class. I also feel like I shouldn't even be in the 口译 class because it’s basically an English class, but I'm still attending these and just act as the teacher’s assistant when needed.


The Chinese democrat I mentioned last week has been telling everyone how stupid I am and picking apart my pronunciation. I don't care at all. It just makes it easier for me to ignore him because I didn't like him very much the first time I met him or any other occasion that follows. It bothered my friend a lot because she's in a group with him and she was like "OH next time I'm going to pick apart his English and make him feel stupid". I'm like It’s okayy I don't like him either. At least now I know the feelings mutual so I don't have to bother talking with him. haha.


I finally attended my other consecutive interpreting class last week (English-Chinese). It's quite different from the Chinese-English one because the professor doesn't want us to take notes at all. She wants us to focus on 1) presentation skills and 2) memorization. Some of the exercises in class consisted of having one student go up to the front and make a speech their own and present to the class. Afterwards, everyone had to record their own recitation of it. For now the professor said we should translate into our most comfortable language so naturally the Chinese used Chinese and I used English. But it's not as easy as you'd imagine. I found it quite hard to relay my translation of the speech while 30 other students were at the same time. I think this is good practice for more 'real life' interpreting. I also really liked the teacher who also seems quite 'western'. One of her requirements for the students is 'speak English', unless you're the 3 foreign students, in which case we all must speak Chinese. I think this is a little bit unfair on part of the other foreign students because their mother tongue isn’t even English.  


My other consecutive interpreting class (Chinese-English) has so far taught us short-hand. I find these a bit harder to remember, because I think short hand is a personal thing and some of the symbols don't feel personal to me at all. I included a picture under the description to give a small example of shorthand. I love the teacher though, he's very talkative and very cool kind of guy. Putting it to use is just as hard but the professor goes over it during class when we have translation exercises.


The homework this week was quite normal until my professor sent us a translation hw Friday night, due Tuesday night. Which is kind of stressful because she had a total of 3 days to assign us homework and waited until the weekend to give it to us. I caught a cold for the weekend so you can imagine I did not spend a single second on Saturday studying (mostly sleeping and mulling about miserably), Sunday was beautiful and I'm a bad student so I just went out for the pizza festival. I can see now how Chinese students have no life outside of school. D:


When I went into the office today I found out that we only need to take our foreign language class (I chose Spanish) for one semester. I find it a bit strange. It seems almost useless to bother taking it for one semester but that’s the schools requirements. Learning another language is hard enough as it is but learning it in Chinese is soo weird. My professor was going over this grammar point and I honestly understood nothing of it, I just looked at what she was writing and the pairings and figured out the grammar structure somehow by my own genius, but I can’t for the life explain the reason to you. 


Other than that the homework for most classes is pretty much the same. It’s something like 1) watch the news 2) prepare to present 3) prepare to translate. In about 3 or 4 of my classes it’s like this. I just have one teacher that prefers us to prepare different (not news) material to translate. I watch the news anyway but it's a bit more difficult to anticipate what your classmate will find as "the most important news of the week" is. Last week I prepared to talk about Irma only to find that was not the "most important" of the week.


Our first translation homework (a lengthy article on the housing bubble crisis) was put on the board for everyone to follow and discuss one student’s translation. It was one of the foreign students translation who was put up and I'm glad it was because she had told me before that instead of just having one person correct her translation, a total of 4 people decided to 'fix' it and they absolutely destroyed it and said everything she wrote was basically shit. When the professor went over the translation I was happy to find that the professor actually critiqued alot of the Chinese students 'fixes' and at the end advised everyone to not go into corrections as a mission to completely destroy the original, instead to just focus on one or two mistakes because a lot of the time the corrections were actually not correct at all. My friend has found a different partner to work on corrections so hopefully next time will be better.


Things I find confusing so far is that I have so many wechat groups that keep getting created that no one talks in. I'm not really sure what group I’m in most of the time and the banzhang is always pissed to have to answer. I just found out from one of my classmates that I was supposedly in their group and I felt so bad because a week or so ago he added me into a group but i wasn't sure what that group was for and the banzhang just put me into an entirely different group. I also feel bad because (and not to sound mean) but I really find it difficult to remember who my classmates are. Nobody uses their picture on wechat and they don't even use their names so I don't really know anyone even though many people have added me. I'm making an effort now to put a face to the name.


I made some friends with some girls who roll in about the same time as me to class all the time, we laughed about how we always seems to be late when we're actually early (1-5 minutes before class). And slowly but surely my classmates have been talking with me. :)


Oh if you thought foreign students were the minority in this class, you could also say guys are. I think there are only 3-4 male students in the interpreting class of mine, and the translation section might have about the same amount.  They're a bit odd but I liked the guy who studied simultaneous translation into japanese and english. He's a bit strange but very sweet.


Last thing:

Complaint of the day:

My teacher had a last minute thing so she wants us all to do a makeup class and miss another professors class to go to a lecture. I'm going to the lecture but not class. I wish I could say "I hope the professor doesn't notice" but being the only three foreigners in class means the professor is always going to notice when any one of us is missing. I signed up for an event at the embassy two weeks ago and I don't raell ywanna miss it but I'm torn. To follow my western virtues or go Chinese.

Any thoughts? haha.



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First impressions...

Okay so I just decided to put up a blog because I saw someone else put up one for their studies. Small background information: I'm a master’s degree student studying Interpretation (Chinese-English English-Chinese) at Beijing international studies university. I first started learning Chinese in 2011 in the USA and have studied in china before, first in Harbin in 2014 for 5 months and then at BLCU from 2014-2015. I took a year language prep courses at my current university from 2016-2017.  There are a total of 3 non-Chinese students (including me) in the course. 


My first week was a pretty rough start. I flew back into Beijing on the 2nd of September and went to register for classes that following Monday only to find out that registration was on the 1st. Okaaaaay. I tried to find out my schedule but the department head was gone, office locked, and thus no one knew the schedule. The lady I spoke with (who turned out to be one of my teachers) was nice enough to put me into contact with a second year student, who later put me into my classes wechat group and gave me the schedule. It also turned out that I missed the first day of class (Monday) sigh. Lol.

(my schedule is under attachments)

The politics class isn’t necessary to take, and neither is the Wednesday morning class. Those classes are just for Chinese students to take.

The classes are a lot of fun. Many of my teachers seem to have more of a ‘western’ approach to teaching so I get the impression they’ve had experience living or studying abroad. They love to use English in class. Its really quite normal to hear a teacher switch from speaking Chinese one second then English the next. Then there are some teachers who speak exclusively in English. Which is fine by me as a native speaker, but my other foreign classmates find it a bit hard to keep up because English isn’t their mother tongue.

One of my favorite classes thus far has been the 视译 (sight translation) class. It’s a mix between simultaneous translation and written translation. One of our first classes the teacher had us translate a sentence that she would delete as time passed.

Wednesdays last class (口译理论与技巧) is quite a useless class for me. It’s about improving spoken English.  I’m trying to see if I can just take a Chinese language course in place of this class as it won’t benefit me at all. Even the teacher was confused why I was even in the class.

There was one class I went into (one minute late) that was completely filled. My vision is bad so I thought I saw a seat available up at the front of the room (toward the window), but that wasn’t a seat. I stood in the middle of the room struggling to find an available seat and the whole while the professor kept lecturing without a notice in the world at the strange foreign girl just standing in the middle of the class, even my classmates seemed unphased.

I have a few impressions so far based on my (almost) first two weeks of class.

1)      Chinese students are insanely gifted. They’re very talented and I was so amazed after todays class that many could memorize the short hand the teacher taught (same day) in less than ten minutes). I’m also impressed every day by their abilities in the classes. I don’t think I will ever be as good as any of them but I think I could learn a lot by the end of the program.

2)      I don’t think that foreigners were supposed to be in this major. Actually it seems at times that they aren’t really sure what to do with us. There are only 3 of us and yet none of us have been on the roster. When I spoke to the office about it I got a very sassy reply that went something like ‘OF COURSE you’re not on the list. You guys didn’t take the test that the Chinese students took’. The fact that we have essentially a spoken English course also notes that perhaps they weren’t prepared for foreign students. There was even one teacher that asked if we needed a grade for the class. It can be bit discouraging, but I’m not the type to get hung up on trivialities.

3)      The Chinese classmates think all 3 of us foreigners are stupid and can’t speak Chinese. Maybe we are stupid, but we’re all in this class because we CAN speak Chinese. It really baffles me when I have classmates ask me if I can speak Chinese, or worse, the one guy who turned around to face me and instead of just asking me if I understood, he decided to ask the girl NEXT to him ‘you think she understands?’  uh? What? Excuse me? That’s just rude AF. If you wanna ask something ask me to my face, don’t ask about me like I’m not even there, or do it when you’re not facing me. That’s just obnoxious. I was so cold to him you have no idea.

4)      Students get to class something like 15-30 minutes before class begins. I normally get to class just in time and end up in the last seat available or at the very back. One day I managed to get to class early by 15 minutes and most of the room was filled, I got a seat on the side which was okay by me.

That’s about it.

Oh and my classmates fear me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s my hair style? At first I thought I was imagining it. But then my friend also noticed the same. Noones ever feared me before. It’s kind of empowering but I wonder what I can do to fix that.   



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