Still in China and Still Alive

Hey world, it’s been a while and I still have no idea what I’m doing! But hey, every day is a brand new day, or so they say… here’s my update, over a month after which I arrived in China!

Wait, does that sound choppy?

Which leads me to my first observation: my English is deteriorating. Proof? I had to google the “opposite of improve” to grab the word “deteriorating.” I’ve also been Google translating certain Chinese characters into English. I guess it’s really as they say, language is a skill that you either use or lose. I mean, I’ve been using English with my friends on a daily basis, but only to discuss basic matters, like food, classes, weather and how the smog seems to permeate our entire vicinity before magically disappearing a few days later.

All of my classes are taught in Mandarin, and the local language is, of course, Mandarin with a heavy Northern accent, which prompts me to think and speak in the same manner. While that’s great for my Chinese, it’s not so much for my English. But enough about my little conundrums, here’s a report on China:

“As the Chinese saying literally translates, ‘it’s people mountain, people sea.'”

Campus life

Students have it pretty good here, especially us international students. A while ago I read a post online about how Chinese college students were disgruntled with the housing conditions offered to the school’s international students compared to its Chinese students. I now understand their frustration, seeing the dorms we live in.

At Peking University, our rooms are hotel-style, with each student getting their own room, and only sharing a bathroom with one other person. Even our doors are opened via swiping our personal dorm cards, which, to be honest, makes it very inconvenient to get back in when you accidentally close your door from the outside.

Good thing the front desk is open 24/7 to give you an unlock card, bad thing certain people only realize they’ve been locked out after getting out of the shower and need to venture downstairs in their towels.

Anyhow, my building also has a study room, washing machines on every floor, as well as microwaves and a hot plate. A cleaning lady comes in every other day to mop the bathroom and take out the trash.

Now, for Chinese students, the typical dorm set-up is composed of anywhere from four to supposedly 10 (?) same-sex people per room. The layout pretty much always includes bunk beds, with each student either getting their own desk below the upper bunk, or no desk at all, but rather another person on the bottom bunk.

Today, I was told by my Chinese teacher that air conditioning a rare amenity in regular dorms, not to mention storage space. Although regular students pay a lot less for their accommodations, I still thank the stars I am as fortunate as I am. Disclaimer: I have yet to venture into a regular student dorm here at Peking, so these are generalizations gathered from personal anecdotes and the internet; it may not necessarily reflect Peking’s dorm conditions so …. please don’t be offended, @PekingUniversity.

Lemme tell ya a little bit about Chinese cafeteria food: It is the There are school cafeterias scattered across campus, many with their own culinary theme. I shall post all the pictures of the food once I have stashed enough inside my camera. But for now, enjoy this picture of my favorite canteen I found on dear Google, and try to imagine twice as many people crammed in there.

That is the reality we face every day upon getting out of class and rushing to any cafeteria, especially this popular one. And of course, they only operate during normal “meal hours” which makes it all the more crowded. As the Chinese saying literally translates, “it’s people mountain, people sea.” (人山人海)

I can drink milk again
Yep, my lactose intolerance has disappeared into thin air–>is what I want to say. What really happened, though, is that pretty much all milk is heat treated over here, maybe even the stuff they have sitting in the fridge-section. Milk can sit at normal room temperature for months on end, and still taste like its full-fat self, (none of that 2 percent cow water here), thanks to heat treatment that kills all the bacteria inside.

Now I’m assuming this is related to the disappearance of lactose, but as my boyfriend loves to say, “correlation does not equal causation.” Perhaps China also employs other methods to further reduce lactose content inside dairy products because of the population’s predisposition for lactose intolerance, and it’s not actually the Ultra High Temperature process, but I am unable to find out via Google as of now.

Either way, I’m absolutely ecstatic I need not avoid dairy like the plague.

Peach and black sesame flavored, heat-treated milk sitting out at the grocery store

Kat Dai is an International Security and Conflict Resolution major and Chinese minor. She is studying at the University of Peking for an academic year.


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