Campus Life, Chinese Style

Arrived for a one-week visit at the Huazhong (Central China) University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan, the official partner for my research project. I am warmly welcomed by my host, Prof Chen Shaohua, and his students. Will spend the next days lining out my humble contribution to a research project that aims at analysing the social and cultural impact of news websites in China and abroad.

HUST is a big university with 56,000 students. The campus is huge and park-like, full of trees and green space. There is the story that during cultural revolution, when Red Guards attacked the country’s intellectuals and many of them were sent to the countryside for ‘re-education’, this university solved the problem by establishing some on-campus farmland to spare their respected professors the humiliation.

I live in the comfortable university conference center guest house. Even though there are supposed to be several hundred foreign students and two international conferences going on, I have the feeling that I am the only ‘lao wai’ on the campus.

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The new media department of HUST’s School of Journalism and Communication with its computer labs, video cameras and small TV studio feels very familiar. Prof Chen introduces me to all the staff, more friendly faces and chinese names than I can possibly remember. Two female students show me around, present the numerous campus facilities, sports playgrounds, a big food market, a cafe.

Today I venture out alone for lunch, to one of the several big student canteens. This one is a two-floor building with dozens of booths offering everything you might want to eat, pancakes, dumplings, all kinds of local dishes, soups, etc – provided you know the chinese names. I decide that it’s about time to learn more than the simple words, for pork, beef, chicken or fish. Fortunately some friendly student explains to me the easiest way to pick your lunch, a buffet for 7.5 yuan (around 80 cents).

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After yesterday’s beautiful autumn sunshine the weather has changed for the worse, it is raining today and cold. Still, even on saturday, there is considerable life on the streets, the small campus buses are packed, people under their umbrellas stroll along the alleys. I find my temporary home and office in a spacy café at the HUST School of Management, providing the obligatory wireless internet access and a quite decent capuccino.