February 27, 2013, by Katie Angus
So this week I started my academic term at Ningbo. I take four modules here, pretty much the same as at Nottingham UK but without Analysing Performance and Old English, and with a different module: Approaches to Language and Literature. This module, taught by self-professed J.K Rowling cynic and feminist Derek Irwin, is a colourful mix of Investigating English Language and Invention and Tradition, looking at literary theory, namely the subject of gender, through philosophical and practical means. Our homework this week? To watch a children’s film – perhaps not Harry Potter!
We don’t tend to have lectures here, simply as the class sizes are so small, so each lesson takes place in seminar classrooms. With an average class of three students (including me) the seminars are basically informal debates and discussions of the readings we do in class or for homework. For the more literature centered modules, it is just Ningbo domestic student Lin Li and I, meaning personal attention is guaranteed but also homework is impossible to ignore! Seminars are longer here than in the UK, between one and two and a half hours, which means more can be covered and you build friendships with other students and tutors incredibly easily –even just being English means many domestic students are interested in just hearing your opinion. The library is obviously smaller than Hallward but you can always find a seat –or book- that you want, plus living on a small campus means carrying books around campus does not become an intense cardio workout like it does traipsing up and down Portland Hill.
This week was also the first meeting of those involved in the Vis-à-vis buddy system scheme. I was paired up with Wendy, a second year Ningbo student who has an absolute love for literature (we spent the whole time discussing To Kill a Mockingbird –her favourite novel, the works of Truman Capote and the not so literary Kurt, from Glee). Having a Chinese ‘buddy’ helps in many ways, they help you out if you’re unsure about anything on campus and help with learning a bit of Mandarin. Making and maintaining close friendships with Chinese students is incredibly easy as meeting up for lunch or just for a coffee in one of the restaurants or cafes on campus is fun, all the eateries are cheap, good quality and easy to find!
Studying aside, life in Ningbo can be as quiet or as frantic as you like. The clubs in Lao Waitan, are both Western orientated and Chinese and are frequented by Internationals like me as well as Ningbo residents –I would have to say dancing in a Chinese club is an extremely strange experience– but one that has to be tried! Shopping centres such as Wanda Plaza or around Tian Yi square are always bustling and shops stay open until the late evening. There is a lot to do in town, it’s worth trying the Italian or Indian restaurants just to try pasta or korma ‘chinese-style’, it will taste nothing like the original! On Sunday, Ningbo celebrated the Lantern Festival, officially ending the Chinese New Year celebrations and the International society (alongside vis-à-vis) organised a boat trip down the yong river. The Ningbo skyline looks fantastic at night, and with free drinks, snacks and traditional Ningbo Tangyuan (a sweet rice-dumpling which is served floating in a kind of syrupy water) sitting on the top deck watching the skyscrapers float past behind the intermittent shimmers of fireworks was a truly unforgettable experience. This weekend I am set to visit Shanghai, the largest city in the world, and only a three-hour bus ride from Ningbo, not sure what to expect other than its going to be very, very hectic!