Orientation Days

After a week of touring Beijing and meeting with various businesses in the city, the day had arrived to move in to Tsinghua!  We checked in without a problem and began to get acclimated to our home for the next three weeks.

Friday and Saturday (June 27 and 28) were orientation days. We learned more about how the camp worked, who is in charge of what and other responsibilities and expectations of volunteers. It’s a little challenging to explain how the camp is broken down until you experience it. I will do my best to explain.

How is the camp organized?

There are 2,200 students at the camp, and 300 volunteers/staff/teachers. The students are broken down into eight different provinces: T-S-I-N-G-H-U-A. Within the provinces, the students are further broken down into five different colors (red, yellow, green, blue and purple) based on English abilities with red being the highest and purple the lowest. A student is placed in this camp if they store a 567 or lower on the College English Test (CET4). This means that there are five cities within on province, each city with its own color. Each city is composed of two foreign volunteers (me and Bertie, he’s from England), one foreign teacher (Ashley, she’s a PhD student at WashU) and two Tsinghua volunteers (Chang and Yiran).

For the most part, each day runs the same. Classes begin at 9 a.m. with a lecture. The 50 minute lectures are given by teachers within the province and they rotate. For example, I am in City 3. Monday, we have Ashley (our City 3 foreign teacher) give a lecture. Tuesday, we have the City 4 foreign teacher give a lecture, etc.

After the lecture, there is a 10 minute break between classes. Half the students stay in the lecture hall and the other half move to another classroom. In both rooms, the students practice speaking and engaging in English through a variety of activities. For example, when Jason lectured on American college life, I had the students play pong and flip cup.

In pong, the students had to ask a question before throwing the ball. If they asked a question that couldn’t be answered with yes or no, the student got to throw the ball again. A person on the opposing team had to answer. In flip cup, the students had to say one word after flipping the cup. The teams of four had to make a sentence with the words previously said. If they all flipped the cup but the sentence didn’t make sense, they had to start over. I challenged them after the first round by increasing the sentence to eight words, and then making it a question in the third round.

The oral practice classes are shortened to 45 minutes with a five minute break in between. We break for lunch at 11:35 a.m. and classes resume at 2 p.m. My city does something different during the afternoons. Instead of splitting up into groups, we keep everyone together to work on movie dubbing, a singing competition and drama. The first week focuses on movie dubbing, where the students have to remove the audio to a movie and dub it with either the lines to the movie or lines they make up themselves. The second and third weeks focus on singing for the end of camp competition, and Shakespeare for an in class competition.

The day is technically over at 4 p.m. but students and volunteers have the option to stay for an extra hour and play games or dance with the students. I stayed this past week and had a blast! It’s a fun way to see how the students interact outside of class! I will be posting more about what activities we do and what the students are like once we find a rhythm. We all spent this week adjusting to the schedule and structure, so I’m hoping that during our second week, the students will be a little more open 🙂 I have formed relationships with a few of the students already and I hope that they don’t end when I leave Beijing. In just one week, they have impacted my life and each day, I can’t wait to see their excitement for what we have planned.

Brandi Applebaum

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