Friday, November 7, 2008

Living at Renmin (October Insights)

Renmin University has been a terrific place to call home. We live on the 17th floor of a graduate student dorm. The apartments on our floor have been modified for faculty, so we enjoy the benefits of a hot water heater in the bathroom (warm showers anytime!) and 3 bedrooms, a living room, and a galley kitchen. Our apartment (about 800 square feet) has good light and views of Beijing. From what we gather in our elevator conversations with the students in the building, the student apartments have anywhere from 6-8 students per apartment. The masters-level students in Torts report that they are in rooms with 4 students per room.

This tight living space for the students is probably the source of the creative use of outdoor space. (Our thanks to Eileen H. for providing this insight.) Every morning 30+ students can be found in the small park in front of our apartment reading English aloud. At first it looked like they were dovening, focusing so intently on their work. Rick has begun to go out and talk with them. Last week he took 7 students to breakfast at the Paradiso café and for a princely sum of $7 bought everyone breakfast.

In the evenings you can find several groups around campus engaged in dancing and other exercise. Music often flows up to our 17th floor. In early September we followed the sound and found a rock concert taking place in front of the Fine Arts building. Some nights it will be traditional Chinese music. But the campus settles down by midnight. Every dorm, including our own, has women who monitor the entrance. Doors are locked in the late evening. By 8 a.m. the next morning the park again fills up with students studying and practicing English.

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