After arriving here at the IES center at Beijing Foreign Languages University, I have the great pleasure of living in yet another new type of environment I have yet to experience: dorm life. As a transfer student into Penn State I have the luxury of not having to live in a dorm, and my previous university experience I had the luxury or living at home while attending classes. So when I arrived at IES, I was….to say the least not excited. Mostly about the size and the lack of privacy.
I will be living with a Chinese roommate that does not arrive until next week. But after sharing a room for several days with a homestay student, I am worried about how cramped it is. I have not shared a room with someone since I was about 6 years old and the lack of having my own private space is worrisome, but this is a problem that plagues the entire country of 1.4 billion people.
There’s WiFi (Sometimes.) and ethernet. There’s also a nice sized kitchen with 3 refrigerators and drinking water is provided since we obviously cannot drink the tap water. The downside to this is that people don’t remember they put food in there and it spoils very quickly leading to the refrigerator smelling quite funky. But hey! That’s negative! We don’t think about that for this part. There’s also a nice community room with ping-pong and some other types of small games which we can enjoy. Honestly I have never been to the dorms in Penn State so I have no idea how they compare to this, but I have seen many Chinese dorms and I know that I am living a life of luxury. Many Chinese dorms have 4 to 8 people in a room, have to hand wash everything, no hot water, have to pay for showers outside, no kitchen, and usually have to share a bathroom with more than 50 people, and sometimes there’s no bathroom at all and they have to use a community bathroom outside that’s shared with 2 buildings. Depends on the quality of the school. So keeping this in mind, i’m quite lucky to be living in a co-ed dorm building with only one roommate. My roommate will also be Chinese, so that gives me a great chance to practice my Chinese.
Honestly we are quite segregated and isolated from the other international students and students in general. This building is all international students, but on our floor there are signs everywhere telling people that the amenities on our floor are only for IES students (people in my program which is all American). The problem with this is it doesn’t allow us to branch out and meet people from other countries. Instead it keeps us isolated and segregated from the general Chinese and international population. There are many diverse countries represented in the building, but it’s a shame that only the American students have signs like this which if I were to see signs like this on another floor saying you are not welcome here, I would have nothing to do with them. Really hurts our immersion attempts.
Having to share a bathroom with a floor of strangers is also worrisome. There’s only 3 toilets and while we voted to not make it co-ed, the females bathroom and shower room had their shower curtains taken away for some reason and they have not appeared again for several days, so like it or not, I am now sharing a small bathroom (3 toilets, 4 showers) with 50 people. Obviously it could be worse, but this is not a situation i’m accustomed to dealing with, so the only culture shock i’m going to have is from living so close to people in situations where I feel I am being forced to make friends, which is not always the best tactic.
Well, there’s no too much ugly about living here. The building behind us has been under construction since we got here, which means loud hammering starting at 6am, but honestly it’s not too bad. I’m also getting yet another cold which is quite ugly, but aside from that, I think I will be able to make the most of living here for the next year and signs be damned, I look forward to branching out on my own to make friends with different people from different backgrounds.
Location: Beijing Foreign Languages University