So, right now, I’m in China with my colleague at a university – specifically, North China Electric Power University in Beijing. I’m surprised at both the similarities and differences to an American university. It’s full of students and professors just going about their day – like they would in any university anywhere in the world. I feel like I’ve been very overwhelmed by the number of people, but then I have to remember that I do feel the same way at VT sometimes if I forget to plan my traveling at times when classes are not changing. Sadly, we aren’t able (or rather, wouldn’t want) to attend classes because they are all in Chinese. The classes are 2 hours long though, just the normal classes for undergrads, not special later ones like PFP. That’s an awfully long time, but I think that they are just expected to pay attention.
For graduate students, we are expected to be in the office from 9-5. In the US, lots of graduate students are required to do this, but for me, my advisor doesn’t really ever know where I am – nor does he care. We meet weekly and he can always tell if I’ve gotten enough work done for the week. The fear of letting him down also motivates me. The respect and admiration I have for my advisor seems somewhat more unique in the US. Many students feel more indifferent (or don’t like) to their adviser, but I actively enjoy seeing mine. I get the impression that the students here also revere their advisers more in the way that I do. That being said, I don’t think they work as interactively with them as I do. I have seen small groups of grad students get together and discuss research which seems interesting and productive – I think it would benefit us to do something similar. We have larger lab meetings, but I don’t know that it as beneficial as smaller groups.
What is slightly different is that all of the students must live in the dorms. There are 3-6 people per dorm room – which is incredibly cramped. I guess that’s just expected though. There are dining halls and sports fields just like in the US – though for the quantity of students, the athletic areas seem small. Also, it’s worth noting that there is a security guard if you are trying to drive onto the campus area. You must present a badge on your car to pass through.
These are just some observations for now…I’m sure as I continue here over the next week, there will be more.