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GreyMatter

The BLCU Experience - A semi-regularly updated journal

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GreyMatter

Since there are so many people out there who are looking for info on BLCU and all the aspects of student life that surround it, I have decided to put together a small journal of my experiences at the school. I am currently one month into the beginner program, and this is my first experience learning Chinese or attending a foreign university. Due to a busy student and social life, I don't have time to cover all the aspects of studying and living in Beijing, but maybe those of you who are considering coming to Beijing to study will derive some insight from my inane ramblings.

A little background on me. I'm 25, American and have been living in Asia for nearly 3 years. I'm half-fluent in Thai and can speak a bit of Khmer. I've traveled to just about every country in North, East, and Southeast AsiaI have been wanting to try living in China for quite a while and figured the best way to go about doing that is to learn some language at the same time.

Through extensive readings on this board, I decided BLCU would be the best place for me to begin the long process of learning Mandarin. While I don't really have any legitimate pressing need to learn the language, I enjoy the process and also hate living in a place without the ability to communicate. I figure it could only help my future and surely won't hurt my ability to meet some beautiful Chinese girls. ;)

Enough background. Here is some general advice for those of you planning on studying at BLCU.

1. If you want to stay in a dorm, try your damnedest to book early, and whatever you do, don't stay at the $4 per room dormitories. That is, unless you like peeling paint, smelly public squat toilets, showers where water simply drips from a pipe, and broken lights in the hallways. Remember the house Tyler Durden lived in in Fight Club? There ya go. I've seen crackhouses with nicer interiors.

2. If you value your privacy, rent your own apartment. Unless you are already nearly fluent in Chinese, you will NEED a Chinese friend to help you do this. Don't expect contracts to be in English, or agents to speak it, or your landlord to understand a single word you say. You will be on your own. I would never have been able to find and close the deal for the apartment I have if it wasn't for a very generous Chinese friend putting hours and hours of her time into helping me. Some people have had some luck finding apartments online, and aparently there are some agents who specialize in helping foreigners find apartments, but I'd imagine that you'd wind up paying a lot more this way and the agent will take a hefty cut.

That being said, you can get a beautiful apartment around BLCU for about the same price as some of the nicer dorms on campus. Personally, I see absolutely no reason why anyone would want to stay at a dorm when they can have their own place nearby with privacy, good security and a more genuine Chinese experience. We pay 7000 yuan per month for a brand new, huge 3 bedroom apartment which I share with two classmates. It would have been cheaper but we are on a short-term contract. If you are also only plannin gon staying for 4-6 months, expect to pay more. Our apartment works out to around 2400 yuan per person per month. This is even expensive for this area and you can find smaller places for half (or less!) this price if you take the time to look.

3. The registration process is a bit of an unorganized mess. Perhaps I'm dense and in a minority, but it seemed that most of the new foreign students, myself included, felt pretty lost during the registration days. There's hardly any English anywhere, for starters. Upon going to the first registration office, you sign one paper here, take it somewhere else, pay something here, take the receipt somewhere else, stamp one thing, take it back to the first place, and then come up with a random Chinese name which you will henceforth be referred to - all on the spot. At this point, you get a student ID card. If you don't have a student VISA yet, you'll have to add a few more steps into this process. Whew.... Call me a bigot if you want, but from the first day, it was already becoming clear to me why western education systems are so superior to Asian ones. It was only the registration day and already I was lost in a sea of process-oriented red-tape.

4. If you arrive in Beijing before the sign-up period, do yourself a favor and don't stay in WuDauKou. When I arrived, 10 days before registration, the BLCU conference center hotel was completely booked and the cheap rooms in the nearby, popular Xi Jiao hotel were under renovation. I was forced to pay 450 yuan for the first few nights in a fancy Xi Jiao room before I found another nearby dive hotel that was even far overpriced at it's 260 yuan per night. There is a lack of good secure accommodation around WuDauKou. I was constantly affraid of my laptop getting stolen out of my room, even though I hid it under my matress. Find a hotel in another district and visit WuDauKou during the day to visit the campus if you are coming to Beijing early. Or perhaps you'll get lucky and there will be accomodation in the BLCU confrence center hotel (rare). I am not sure when the cheaper rooms will be finished at Xi Jiao hotel, or if they will remain cheap upon reopening.

5. If you're thinking of enrolling and want to have any sort of social life whatsoever, do not sign up for the intensive class. The "regular" class is 4 hours per day, and this is already a LOT of time to be spending sitting in class learning nothing but Chinese. I am in the normal class but I have talked to a few students who are in the intensive (6 hour per day) class and they all regret it. In order to keep up with the workload, they have to do an additional 3-4 hours of homework every night. While this may be typical for Japanese, Korean and Chinese students, I strongly believe that most Western students just aren't trained or 'designed' to study this much. Not for one subject anyway. Chances are you are going to be kept extremely busy already with the standard 4-hour classes and the extensive homework you'll need to do. Don't punish yourself or prevent yourself from having fun outside of class by signing on to an unreasonable workload. Perhaps my goals are different than most but I came to China not just to study, but to experience the culture and have some time to go out and see some signts and experience nightlife. Unless your some kind of robotic-super student with a photographic memory, you won't have much time to do this in the intensive class.

I don't want to sound too negative in my postings here. I'm a self-proclaimed nitpicker and I find it easier to bitch and complain than to give praise. The first 10 days of my time in Beijing was one big frustrating mess. My next entry will be slightly more, but not completely positive as I begin to touch on student life, Beijing culture, nightlife and my opinions on the teachers, classes and content at BLCU.

Grey

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woliveri

GreyMatter,

Thanks for this great post and keep it up. Personally, I would rather hear all the negative, nitpicky stuff rather than the glowing raves. I can learn a lot more from "don't take the 4 yuan a day rooms unless you want to smell the squat toilet, etc" as opposed to "BLCU is a wonderful place"!! Plus, you highlighted some concerned that I had anyway (like the laptop issue).

So I was given the impression that if you didn't stay at BLCU they wouldn't be your "Guarantor" and you couldn't get a student visa. Since no one has confirmed this for me then perhaps I was misled. How did you handle the student visa before entering the country?

Thanks, and keep up the good work. I, for one, am extremely grateful.

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redpixel

Hi!

I too am happy to read this journal, as I'm planning on going to BLCU to study this fall.

I have a few questions regarding the dorm rooms I would like to ask you, if you don't mind!

What do you mean by booking early? Booking from overseas or just booking early during

the registration period or perhaps a few days before the registration period begins?

Also, concering the $4 rooms... I don't care too much about the room itself, but a squat

toilet! Are there any double-rooms with decent shared toilets or is it a wiser idea to just

go for the $6 rooms? I guess an extra dollar or two a day is nothing to make a fuss about :wink:

regards,

Martin

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Craig

Great Journal! :clap

I look forward to your future updates. You don't by chance know where i could find the number to call the BLCU conference center do you? I'd like to book my room now if possilbe for when i study there in september

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roddy

Just a quick note to say thanks for taking the time to write that up, and I’m sure plenty of people will look forward to future installments. It’s great to see that information on the forums is helping people make decision on what / where / how to study, and that they are then coming back to give feedback on how that decision worked out for them.

Roddy

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artichoke

Hi Grey

This is an excellent post ... and I love that you're being honest about how you've found it so far.

I have enrolled in the intensive class, and have been wondering for some time (even before I enrolled) whether it would be too much. Do you know if it's possible for intensive students to change over to 'normal' classes? (I'm not worried about any refund, just if it's ok to 'drop out' of the extra 2hrs/day, if I find after a while it's all too much. I'm definitely not a robot-super-student, definitely want to have a social life & see some sights, but am going with a priority to learn the language rather than be a tourist.)

Btw, I too will be joining BLCU for the Sept start (12 weeks). And I called the Conference Hotel to pre-book for the 3 months, and they told me to call back after the summer classes finished in July!

Thanks.

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Spirochete

Hello all,

I studied there in 1988-1989. I wasn't very fluent when I arrived, so I don't remember alot of the details of what I ws enrolled in,etc. I guess I spent 4-5 hours a day in class. I think there were even saturday classes, if I remember correctly. The food in the caf was dirt cheap. It was only chinese in class so you pick it up really quickly. Keep us informed on what it's like these days after you arrive.

I am enrolled in the online version Eblcu and am loving it.

Sean

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