Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Starting Madness

Classes started.

Pepperdine students hurriedly changed around their schedules. They did get to choose some at first, but without knowing when the classes would meet. They submitted these choices last March, I think, but it wasn't until mid-August that they knew which classes they actually would get, and when they would meet. And some of those times changed by the time the students arrived in Hong Kong. To make matters worse, they weren't allowed to make any changes to their schedule until the first day of classes, Monday.

It seems most students found a way to deal with this, but the range of courses that were actually available (and not already full) was limited, and not everyone was happy about the results.

Other problems:
1. The art classes are pretty far away. In fact, you need to take the subway (MTR) a few stops and then take a bus to get there. Some students struggled to investigate where it was today, and eventually they decided it was fine.
2. A student left her wallet on a bus. The bus eventually caught up with her and flagged her down! Another student left his wallet somewhere and a local student found it and returned it. I lost my octopus card (which I keep in my wallet), and I just bought another one. It seems that when you don't have a regular routine, it's easy to misplace things.
3. Students are supposed to get a stipend from Pepperdine for food using a "stored value card", which works like an ATM card. They are supposed to have received this before they left LA. That didn't happen. Then the cards were supposed to come into Pepperdine at some point last week. They didn't. I have no idea when they're supposed to come in. In the meantime I'm handing out cash, but I'm running into my maximum ATM withdrawal limits. This will hopefully be resolved using a Pepperdine credit card I have. We'll have to try tomorrow.
4. I can't print to the department printer. The printer that Pepperdine owns is fine, but at first it couldn't pick up the paper from the tray.
5. Not all the students in my classes have their books. Some didn't even receive the message that they were supposed to buy their books in LA until the day before they boarded the aircraft headed for Hong Kong. I'm xeroxing pages from the books in the meantime.
6. The AC in the seminar room is very efficient. In fact, maybe too efficient. With the AC on low, it gets very cold. If you turn it off, it gets warm and stuffy pretty quickly. When you turn it back on, it gets cold very quickly. The temperature knob on it is set to something pretty moderate, but clearly this is ignored.
7. Apparently there's no such thing as a "multiple entry visa" to mainland China anymore. Only single-entry and double-entry. We're not sure what happens if you want to go from Hong Kong to Tibet through mainland China, and return the same way. Maybe you use both of your entries on a single trip.

Still, there's a lot that's going well.
1. Everyone is adjusting very well. One student asked when he was supposed to be experiencing this "culture shock" thing. Another student felt that the sights he was wowed by when he first arrived now seem normal to him, and was kind of worried he would eventually take it all for granted. This is in contrast to a student from a different US university who felt overwhelmed by the change. At lunch, she said she was done with trying to "fit in" and just wanted to be American again. I think this difference is partly because our students are together, and had gotten to know each other in the previous Spring semester in the cultural awareness class. So if anything is overwhelming, they have a safe environment to return to. We had our group dinner and invited the student from the other university.
2. Our mishaps have ended happily. Yichieh got his student visa, finally, and we get to activate it in Macau this Saturday. Lost items got returned, as mentioned above. Once two people got separated from our group, and they were able to find their way home.
3. Many students (and I) are getting plugged into Kowloon International Baptist Church. The new college/youth pastor there (Maik, mentioned in an earlier post) is enthusiastic and gregarious, and has really reached out to us. So have several others in the KIBC staff: the music director Angie, and the Minister of Education Phil, and his wife Irene.
4. Students are connecting with each other, and with students from other universities. I think we have a pretty close-knit community, and yet everyone seems to have made friends outside Pepperdine as well, who we often include.
5. So far no major complaints about classes. We'll see how that holds up when midterms come, though.
6. So far no major issues with roommates. Again, maybe it's too early to tell.
7. The load has been fairly manageable so far for me. I've been having fun, and I have enough time to prepare for classes, even though the setup is very different from what I'm used to. The International Office at HKBU has been very helpful in meeting all of our needs.

I just auditioned for the college choir here. We'll be singing for the 50th anniversary of HKBU. We'll sing Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I'm really looking forward to that.

We're also going to Xi'an on 15-17 Sept. Some of us are going early, on the 14th. More on that later.


At 1:49 PM, Blogger Swartzendruber said...

Hola! Much of what you say about the students sounds a bit familiar, although we are bit behind you schedule-wise here in Buenos Aires. Our group seems to be a great crew - so far, so good!!

Take care, amigo



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