Nothing like American classes. Nothing like you would expect.

CollinsBy Allison Collins

Before arriving in China, Many people told me that classes abroad are so much easier than classes in America. Now that I am past the midterm point I can say that in some ways this is true and in some ways this is not true at all when it comes to classes at Peking University.

Classes here are quite different than in America. All of the exchange student classes are taught in English, which I am extremely grateful for because even though my Chinese language skills improve everyday they are not quite at the level of understanding the Solow Macroeconomic model yet. All classes are three hours long and take place once a week. In some ways this is quite convenient but it can also be a little tiring at times. Thankfully the professors give us a break or two for each class. The atmosphere in the classrooms are much more laid back than in any class I have had before.

Professor Michael Pettis teaching investment banking. (My only American professor)

Professor Michael Pettis teaching investment banking. (My only American professor)

Imagine a room full of people, some on their cell phones or computers surfing the internet or playing games, others sleeping, some people are eating, and yet others are actually paying attention. During the first week or so I couldn’t help but wonder how it was possible that all this was allowed to go on in the classroom without the professors saying anything. What I described sounds like real madness and while it can be distracting it is not as bad as one might think. Classes are still relatively quiet, they are just extremely laid back. All of this seemed a bit rude to me at first and yet students are still respectful and everyone claps for the professor at the end of class. Attending classes, listening, and learning is entirely up to you but is something that really should be done because the exams are a bit harder than what most exchange students are used to. So what I was told so many times about the easiness of classes abroad are in a way true and in a way not true. The class atmosphere is much more laid back but the exams are harder. The only class I have in which the classroom atmosphere is a little more uptight but exams are easier is of course taught by an American Professor.

All of this makes it a little easier to take a lot of classes. I am taking six classes this semester which consists of three Economic classes and three Chinese language and business culture classes. Even though I still have to work for good grades this semester has definitely been easier so far. However, I am looking forward to getting back to the familiar halls of Van Munching Hall.

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