I finished up the spring semester of my second year yesterday with my final of 7 exams. Next week we start a 4 week summer semester, which consists of a week of class, followed by some outings and then a final exam.
This semester has been great, and I feel like I have made a ton of progress. I still struggle with my tones, but thanks to lots of speaking practice I feel much more aware of the mistakes I am making, and am being much more conscious in my efforts to correct and avoid mistakes. I really enjoyed speaking class this semester, as we had a lot of opportunities to be up the front giving presentations and such. This was definitely the highlight for me. Of course I would do massive amounts of preparation beforehand, but the fact that our teacher won't let us take notes up to the front to read from meant that I was forced to go with the flow much more. This in turn has led me to feel much more comfortable speaking in front of others.
Final exams seemed to go ok. In general they were similar in structure to previous exams. I made a couple of silly mistakes here and there, but nothing major. I find myself losing interest somewhat in exams and results, as I want the focus to be actually being able to converse fluently in Chinese, read books, write articles etc, rather than comparing myself to others, or getting great marks on an exam.
I have already bought most of my books for third year, and have begun looking through them. My reading book is the same series as this year, and so the jump isn't too intimidating. However, for some reason we are now using a 高级 book for writing (I mentioned this to the teacher as I thought he had made a mistake, we are only 准高级 in third year, but he said this is the book). There is a marked increase in difficulty here, and aside from pinyin for a few words, there is no English whatsoever. This may not be a huge deal, but it's a cool little milestone for me hah!
I finished watching 男人帮 ages ago, and I'm now 20 episodes in to 一仆二主, and loving it! The first was set in Shanghai, but seemed to use very standard putonghua, and so I didn't find it too hard to understand. The latter is set in Beijing, and for some reason I am finding it far harder to understand! If it wasn't for the subtitles there are whole sections that would just sound like one, long, slurred 儿 sound! I am understanding enough to know what's going on for the most part though, and I am picking up lots of new vocabulary and characters, as well as working on my 听力！
I also bought a book. I foolishly bought a copy of 三国演义，being as it was at a great price. It took me half an hour to get through the first paragraph, at which point I realized this wasn't a productive undertaking. Still wanting to be able to have a crack at such a Chinese classic, I bought a 青少年版。 As expected, it is much more manageable, yet still far beyond my level. This is a challenge for me to accomplish over the course of the next two years. Until then, I will stick with my textbooks, and of course with my great friend 淘气包马小跳！
In August my family is heading out to China, and we will be traveling to Xian, Nanjing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. I'm really excited to finally get to visit some other Chinese cities, as so far I have only been to 3. Shanghai is mainly to get passports done for my sons (not to say I am not excited to visit, just that it wasn't at the top of my list of places to go). I can't wait to check out the terracotta army in Xian, especially after spending some time learning about it in my 文化 class this semester.
Finally, I have just applied for a scholarship for next year. This is from the university rather than CSC, and there are 4 grades, ranging from fully covered with 1000RMB a month for living expenses, to 20% off. My grades are probably good enough to get me something, but I have basically done no competitions or activities with the university, which is something they highly value. Getting any money off would be amazing, so here's hoping!