Lauren Thornberg (August 2, 2019): Critical Language Scholarship — This is the Busiest I’ve Ever Been (Yes, In My Whole Life), But That’s Actually a Good Thing

(Quick disclaimer before I begin: this blog contains only the opinions of me, the author, and does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State, American Councils for International Education, the Critical Language Scholarship, Shaanxi Normal University, or Florida State University).

Wow. It’s August 2nd. Remember when I made a post on June 14 saying this blog was going to detail my time in the Critical Language Scholarship? I wasn’t lying! I haven’t forgotten about it. It’s just that today, 6 weeks into the program, has been the only time I have had a chance to sit down, take a breath, and devote an hour or so to a blog post.

Yes, I’ve been that busy. No, I am not exaggerating. Yes, half of it is my fault. No, I am not on the verge of dying, but I am very sleep deprived.

So due to the fact that I have not had a chance to blog in a consistent format (say, once a week), unfortunately I’ll probably be doing the most writing after I come home from Xi’an. I have so much to say about this experience! I want to talk about every single aspect, but I’ll do one post for each aspect.

This post is dedicated to what my schedule looks like and how rigorous this program is. I knew from the start that this was an intensive language program. 20 hours a week in the classroom, an average of 3 hours of homework per night, weekly tests, a midterm, and a final exam, along with several other unexpected assignments (for example, watching movies as homework, which adds another ~2 hours).

The classes themselves are not designed so that you’re drowning in homework, but you do have to put in effort to do well. I was placed in the 400 level class (We have 300, 301, 400, and 401. As for how these measure up to ACTFL standards I don’t really know but my textbook cover says “an advanced reader”. Take that as you will). I’ll talk more about the class content in another post, because actually, the classes are my favorite part of this whole experience!

So usually my schedule looks like this:

8:50 AM — Noon: core classes (2 based on the textbook and 1 discussion-based class).

Noon — 1:30 PM: lunch! This probably means I’m busy getting milk tea.

1:30 PM — 2:20 PM: elective class (newspaper reading is available to all students, the 400 and 401 students have the option of taking a Chinese movies course, I selected the Chinese movies course).

2:30 PM — 3:20 PM: one on one sessions with one of the graduate students who are studying to become teachers. It’s actually only half an hour but if you’re second, you have to wait half an hour to start.

3:30 PM — onwards: sometimes free time, but somehow usually not (lots of activities and other cool things!).

As for this really busy schedule, I have only one complaint- I’ve lost a lot of sleep. I am really tired. All the time. But to be honest, I kind of did it to myself. Oops.

I always get my homework done, of course! But after doing my homework, I have a habit of texting my friends, saying “who wants to get dinner?” or “who wants to go to (insert historic or iconic place here)?”. Then I stay out till 11 PM. Then I remember I had to watch a movie for my movie class. Then I realize I need to do laundry. Then I’m hungry and need a snack. Then it’s 2 AM. I have accidentally ruined my sleep schedule in the pursuit to balance schoolwork with exploring the amazing city I am currently living in. It’s a hard thing to balance!

This program has truly made me realize how laid-back my time in university has been — perhaps 3 classes a day, spaced out with time for a nap or some chores, plenty of time in the evening to do things with friends.

CLS is not like that at all. Every moment is precious. You cannot procrastinate if you want to do well in this program and you cannot expect to have much time to relax. In fact, this is the first Friday night where I have nothing planned — yet. Just let me text my friends once I finish this post.

In all, nobody is lying when they say this program is intense and rigorous. But it is SO worth it. I have learned so much, I’m amazed. I feel like the past 6 weeks have taught me an amazing amount of not only Mandarin but also Chinese culture. A lot of impressions I had of Chinese culture that formed on my gap year (when I lived in Beijing) are not actually universally Chinese. Western China, especially a second-tier city in Western China, is remarkably different than Beijing. You also get a very different view of culture when the people around you are your age, and not a 10 year old that you are taking care of. It’s truly amazing what I’ve learned in such a short amount of time.

Alright, it’s time for me to go text my friends and see who wants to go bike on the city wall, I still haven’t had a chance yet! I can’t promise to be back soon, but I WILL be back. I have so so so much to tell you all.

Best,

Lauren, 罗溪

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