Posted by: daradoodle | September 22, 2008

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

I have yet to use this blog as a “dish” mechanism to vent about the hardships I have endured since arriving in China, and now is as good as time as ever.

As I creep into week four of living in Shanghai, I only hope that tomorrow will bring joy and happiness regarding my academic situation. In week two, I learned that I am the first student (EVER) to be admitted to the School of Journalism who does not speak Chinese fluently. Mind you, I am a beginner language student. I’ve only taken one language class before coming to China and the Chinese characters that I learned were traditional characters. Traditional characters are commonly used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Chinese characters used on the Mainland are simplified characters. So, as far as reading and writing goes, not only did I have to brush up on what I learned a month prior to coming to China, but also flip-flop my knowledge of characters from traditional to simplified. Nonetheless, I am a beginner and a beginner cannot take a course completely taught by someone who’s speaking Chinese. As a result, I was basically told that my admittance to the School of Journalism was an administrative error. Having said that, I have managed to create my own course schedule from other programs and I had to learn the hard way that the registration process here is way more complicated than the system I’m accustomed to in the U.S.

This is the first year that Fudan has collaborated with the London School of Economics (LSE) to create a double master’s degree program in Global Media and Communications. The classes are English taught within the School of Journalism. Since I don’t need academic credit for any courses I take (because I’m not working toward a degree), my “special situation” has permitted me to attend some of these classes. I have chosen a course about the history of media and newspapers in China, and a beginner language course. I wanted to take additional language courses to speed up my Chinese speaking skills and after inquiring, I was told that this could be done through courses at the Language School. Bear with me as I walk you through the tedious registration process.

If you want to take a course within another school, you must first obtain a “Registration Form To Select Another Department’s Courses For Non-Degree Students.” You must then get three signatures and three stamps. If you fail to get a stamp, the signature means nothing. The first signature must come from your home department. In my case, this would be the School of Journalism. Each time I go to get a signature, I have to explain everything I have explained thus far to someone who does not speak English.

After a week of being told that there was a fee difference between the two schools (J-School and Language School) and that I would probably have to pay the fees if I wanted to enroll in a language course, I decided to just start going to these language classes to see if anyone would notice I was there.

Students from all over the world come to Fudan to study Chinese language. This intense program consists of nine classes a week and is broken up into listening and speaking, and reading and writing classes. I attempted to explain my “special situation” to the first teacher and she told me that I should make sure that the Language School was OK with me being in the class. The second teacher said the same. I decided to take a stab at retrieving all of these signatures because I didn’t want to keep showing up to these classes as the random chic sitting in the back of the room.

After having two good samaritans translate for me, I was able to get a signature and stamp from the School of Journalism. By the time I was able to set off for the Language School, the lunch hour had already begun.

OBSTACLE: All offices at Fudan shut down for at least an hour and a half during lunch.

While waiting for administrators to return from their break, I met a Chinese gal from California who said she would explain my situation to the office. She did and told me that I was only allowed to register for the listening and speaking language course. Fine! Sign and stamp the damn paper. Success!

The last stop on the signature train was the dreaded Foreign Students Office (FSO). Surprisingly, the people there took the form with no questions asked. I thought, surely this can’t be right. Well, I go to my first listening and speaking class on Thursday and during the mid-class break the professor brings the roster over to where I’m sitting and asks (in Chinese mind you) if I’m on the list. I didn’t see my (Chinese) name and I begin my lengthy explanation. He doesn’t understand, or seem to care about what I’m trying to tell him, and his only piece of advice is, “FSO.” I go to FSO the next day and learn that my form had not yet been processed. I told the lady not to worry about processing the form because I wasn’t particularly in love with the professor and that I had decided against taking the class all together.

Basically, I did all of that footwork for nothing. Actually no… I take that back, I learned how insane this massive institution of higher learning is for living in the Stone Age when it comes to students registering for classes. At CSUN, one click of a mouse will register you for a class, another click, out of the class. One click, in. Another click, out. Next semester I’ll have to start this process a month in advance if I want to officially register for a course within another school. For now, I’m going to continue attending the reading and writing language classes as the random chic sitting in the back. I’ll let you know if and when I get booted.

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