Over the past two weeks, as well as exploring the city of Dalian, I’ve been getting to know my new university – Dalian University of Technology (大连理工大学). DUT was established in 1949 so is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the same as the People’s Republic of China. It is renowned as one of the big four technology universities in China and there are about 31,000 students so it is only a little smaller than Edinburgh University.
In terms of international students, DUT has agreements with 128 institutions in 21 countries across the world. In the Chinese language programme, Joe and I are the only British students and one of only a handful of European students. The majority of the Chinese language students seem to be Japanese, South Korean and Russian, as I expected, but there is also a large Thai contingent and a big group from Turkmenistan.
From where I live it is only a 15 minute walk to get to the east side of campus but DUT covers almost 20 square kilometres! So if I want to go to class, it only takes 20 minutes but to get to the library, for example, which is on the other side of campus it would take me a full hour to walk there! (I can get a bus so this is only for comparison, trust me). Seeing as it’s so big I’m only just getting the hang of where everything is, or at least all the buildings I need to know. I still have no idea what a lot of the buildings are!
Walking around the campus is very nice, especially since it has so far mostly been sunny. There’s a lot of trees so it’s a very green campus but notably lacking a park or something like the Meadows in Edinburgh to hang out in. There’s basketball courts littered throughout which makes sense seeing as it’s China’s sport of choice. There’s shops dotted around too but out of the north gate there is a pretty main road with a plethora of food and drink options that I’m enjoying working my way through.
My favourite place that I’ve found on campus so far is 1949 Coffee. It’s where Joe and I studied for the placement test (more on that further down) and discovered our love for hazelnut iced lattes. It’s a bit on the pricey side but with all the rest of the food and drink I buy being so cheap and it being so delicious – it’s definitely worth it. And it’s still only the price of a coffee back in the UK which is how I’m justifying my nearly daily order. There’s also a string of little food places next door and a supermarket where I can grab some lunch or snacks if I can’t be bothered going off campus.
Another important discovery was the uni swimming pool! It’s part of a larger sports complex with a gym and various sporting rooms. I was waiting a while to try it because I had to get my student card but I finally got that this week! It’s a big pool, with 10 lanes and somewhere between 25m and 50m long. It was great getting back in the water, stretching out and doing some exercise. One weird thing is that there’s buckets hanging off the starting blocks that people spit into! Spitting is a weird and all too common habit in China…
No news yet on whether there’s a water polo team or not but I’m not holding my breath (pun intended)! I haven’t figured out what the deal is with other sports teams either. Basketball and football are both popular options and I’ve also spotted volleyball being played. Apparently the School of International Education have a football team (well, at least a men’s one…). I really want to get involved with some kind of team sport, both as something to do and also a way to make Chinese friends and keep practising my Chinese.
The first uni related thing I had to do was go through registration. This was a two day long process that felt like it lasted the whole year. It involved multiple steps and many, many hours of waiting. There were a few hiccups, like being asked to pay 16,000 yuan (about £2,000) in tuition fees which Edinburgh are supposed to do and not having enough photos for the visa office, but eventually it was all sorted!
Next up was the placement exam. After a long summer and probably not enough Chinese practise, I was keen to make sure I was able to get into a class that reflected my actual level not necessarily my current one. After several days of studying I was ready to accept however it went. There were two levels, elementary and advanced, and I took elementary. The day after the exam there was a short interview where I got asked a few questions about myself and then talked about my home town. I felt better about how the exam went than the interview but I did my best in both.
And so we finally started classes this week! I am in Elementary 3, Class A (初三A班) which seems to be exactly the right level for me. All but one of my classes are in the morning which suits me and there are four different kinds – comprehension (综合), speaking (口语), listening (听力) and reading and writing (读写). I’ve been enjoying getting back in the classroom, even if it’s been a bit disrupted this week with orientation talks, medical examinations and then today being Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节).
All in all a very positive start and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year!