If there’s just one thing that is vividly imprinted on my memory from the first week here at Fudan University, Shanghai, it’s that the administration, bureaucracy, moving into dorms, even at the local gargantuan Walmart, everything involves a lot of queuing. I mean, there’s queuing, and then there’s this kind of ‘snaking in looping circles for dizzying hours around a small space’-queuing.
Here’s the queuing break-down:
Registering with accommodation
Getting my room key-card (x2)
Paying for compulsory China PingAn insurance
Certifying my insurance,
Certifying my entrance letter,
Visa introduction letter,
Checking my application,
Date for physical examination
Walmart super queue…
Physical Exam (x2)
Placement online test,
Applying for IC/Bank card
Placement oral test
Campus Ecard photo
Boy am I glad when the days of relentless and restless ‘have-I-got-my-documents’ queuing grinds to a happy halt towards the end of the week! It’s certainly a stressful set of hours to encounter upon reaching a new country, and I’m only put at ease when I finally get to the introductory exchange student talks and get all these crazy lines explained to me: there are nearly 24 billion people in Shanghai, be prepared to wait where ever you go. Logical. It’s the most calming words I’ve heard since I queued past immigration, and does a lot to ease the semi-frightened frustration of the introductory process.
The first week blows past like freshers week in a U.K. university: in a blur of stressed applications, endlessly checking what other people have done (“You’ve done what form??”), awkward queuing introductions ( The line “…Sure is a long queue,” gets old real quick) and the evening rush to do everything with every new person you meet.
More on the socialising later.
WELCOME TO FUDAN UNIVERSITY
As expected in a city with a population of nearly 24 million, everything is done on a larger scale, from the enormous, tree-lined streets (I kid not) of the Handan campus where the foreign dormitories are situated, to the impressive, 35 floored, column-fronted Guanghua Twin Towers where the Chinese language classes take place, to the 15min bike journey from one side of campus to another – Fudan is mind-bogglingly large.
I’m given a taste of reality of what I’m embarking on when all the foreign students are invited to the Fudan 2013 Foreign Students Welcome Ceremony, in the plush, red-seated, cool of the Guanghua auditorium. Each of the heads of office and two past students give welcome talks, and I’m suddenly overcome with the realisation that I’m studying here for a year.
Their Chinese speeches suddenly forces a lump into my throat; slap me for the soppy cliché, but the words really do radiate sincerity, and at the very least, are spoken at a comfortable pace for my still-struggling ears. For those of us whose Chinese is up to the challenge, it’s a wonderful set of talks, which loose some of their clarity and sense of genuine kindness in translation, and I can only image how daunting it sounds to the beginners in the audience…
We go through the laborious task of listening to (understandably) serious-toned school rules and visa control in varying degrees of English fluency, but by the end of the hour and a half we’re released, bursting over the daring, thick cream carpet and though the heavy doors towards our released schedules like crazed animals – no queuing whatsoever.
I’ve been placed in F3, in bands of Chinese language ranging from A-I with five classes a week: Listening (听力), Writing（寫作), Speaking（口语) Intensive Reading（精读) and Extensive Reading（泛读).
I’ve got this cute little timetable starting the next week:
OH BOY! I am looking forward to four 8AM starts a week!
Wish me luck, folks. I’ll need it.