Bamboo U: part 1

June 04

So, I keep hearing from the New York Times and such that we’re supposed to be threatened by the countless graduates being pumped out of the universities over here in China. Well, I figure I’d better get down there and check things out for myself.

But threat schmet. I was just darned interested in seeing what a college setting out here looked like. I had met a couple local gals who talked up their campus something special. So I agreed to pay them a visit and get a tour. It was great. I got to meet other students, a professor, and even sat in on a class. Perhaps most interesting, though, was that I met a bevy of young Minnesotans :) taking part in a teaching exchange program.

So I turned back the clock a few years, grabbed my book bag, and headed out to commingle with the young adult population known as college students. Come see what this looks like…in China!

A half-hour bus ride and I arrived at Beijing Normal University in Zhuhai. Sorry, I didn’t do my homework (ironic) to figure out why it’s called “Normal” but the Beijing part is because it was originally founded there.

I waited a moment at the bus stop and tada!, my guide cometh:

'And if you look to your left, you'll see a fraternity hazing a freshman by having him run blindfolded and naked into the Dean's office.'

I met Lei at the World Music Festival that I wrote about a few articles back. And off we went. Signs of campus life were unmistakable. Like bikers:

And with a Chinese twist. Can't see where they're going, but they'll be good and pale getting there.

And here were the jocks. (Do they still call them ‘jocks’?)

Dudes, this is our year to win the Wooden Gong from our rivals!

We made a right and entered the main campus area. There’s no large gate or entranceway, just a sidewalk nearing the buildings. The grounds aren’t as well-groomed as American campuses, but it was still nice and hills in the background made for nice setting.

Here's where all the books hide out

And for those who like to imitate life; or is it the other way around?

No, it's not shabby. It's on purpose. The art building.

We approached the library first. Apparently, the whole student body was studying today:

China: a nation that already loves bikes. College: a bunch of active young adults without cars. That explains it.

But besides bikes, nothing screams “college” like an organization’s table to recruit people or fill out some surveys:

College: a nucleus of young adults looking to make a difference.

It’s interesting what happens after graduation. This idea of “making a difference” dwindles. Whether it’s career and family responsibilities or just the reality setting in that making a difference can be really hard, it’s a wonder what happens to that fire in the belly.

Into the library we went:

Where's the books?

Oh well, horseplay’ll have to do:

Found ya! Actually, dude had the same idea as me.

But not too much horseplay; we were being watched:

Fathers of Chinese intellect, inspiring thought from beyond the grave.

I made my way into the book areas of the library and I wanted to see the old ones–not sure why. So we took the helpful library employee away from his computer card game and were guided to a few shelves. These books were worn:

brittle, discolored pages

I asked Lei (my guide) the print date. She studied the opening pages and agreed that it was an old book, alright. All the way back from 1980. Poor books here in China must have bad lifestyles. They age quickly. Of course, finding a real old book may be tough considering the revolutionary status of China throughout the 20th century. If you head to Wikipedia, there’s a great write-up of the recent history of China. How much it’s changed in 50 years! Heck, 30 years. I’d fill you in on the detentions and killings and book burnings, but college isn’t the place to be learning details like that:

'Hmm, Tale of Two Cities, To Kill a Mockingbird. Oh, here it is! Twilight'

Oh, I’m only kidding. There were myriad malleable minds meandering through the modes of mental exercise.


About Chinese education, it has been said by more than a couple people here–locals and foreigners–that China has its strength in numbers in terms of educated youth. But the Chinese system is rote. They teach for the tests, so results are impressive, yet the lack of leaders and creative thinkers is also evident.

After the library, it was time to enjoy some China college cafeteria chow. Lei and I picked up a friend along the way:

Oh, Brandon. You and that camera of yours.

It was what you’d expect, assuming you expected anything. Typical Chinese food–noodles or rice with meat and egg and veggies–done fast and greasy. The environment was like any cafeteria. I watched a table next to ours. Four college fellas. After we struck up small talk, one said he’s going to study abroad in Wisconsin this fall. Hey, ho! Marquette University, Milwaukee will be graced with the presence of the guy in green:

Better be careful, Marquette students, this guy'll be pushing up the grading curve.

Well, Readers, there’s more to say, but not today. Soon, I’ll write you about the class I sat in on and the Minnesotans I bumped into. One was from Grand Rapids, of all things!

Until then, here’s to another slice of life delivered to your plate.

to new plateaus,



Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Culture, Society, Technology


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3 responses to “Bamboo U: part 1

  1. Margaret Getz

    June 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Nice article!

  2. Lei

    June 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Nice photos

  3. Karina Santoso

    August 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Yes the way it’s called Normal University is because it is a school for training students to be teachers. Hope that answers :)