Apr.-June 09





Global Exchange Newsletter
January - March 2009

Welcome to our Global Exchange Newsletter 2009 Jan. -Mar. edition.

In This Edition:

- Chinese New Year in Beijing
- Cultural Lesson: Chinese Chess lessons

Interviews with students
with Anni Elisa Partanen from Finland
with Helga Weiss from Germany
with Nina Petrook, British

- Get to know Global Exchange: Teacher Interview:  Yalan Qu ¨C Jasmin

Chinese New Year in Beijing, China

We want to take the opportunity to belatedly wish everyone a happy year of the OX.

It has been an interesting time out here in Beijing. The firework ban was lifted for the week, causing fireworks stands to appear on every corner as the New Year approached.

Nothing can really prepare you for the size and scale of fireworks at the beginning of the New Year.

No matter where you are in Beijing, the experience is simply incredible. A combination of professional and amateur fire work artists all seemed determined to put on a show from every street corner of the city, lasting until around 2am

Some students went downtown to the Grand Hyatt to enjoy the site from Bar China, located on the 65th floor of the hotel. They shot a video of the skyline from one of the windowsĄ­it seemed almost as if every inch of Beijing was flashing with red, green, and blue explosions.

The rest of the week was spent visiting Temple Fairs throughout Beijing, where you can play games, watch performances, and enjoy all sorts of traditional snacks.

Cultural Lesson: Chinese chess lesson
After living in China for any period of time, it doesnĄŻt take long to realize that Chinese chess is a staple daily activity. At any time of day, itĄŻs easy to spot gatherings of people focused on the game in walkways, alleys, and even on footbridges overlooking busy streets. People patiently watch in silence as each opponent slowly decides his best move.

It should come as no surprise that Chinese chess is an important part of Chinese culture. Every day millions of people play this ancient game throughout the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and other Asian countries. It has remained in its present form for centuries, its mastery originally considered one of the essential qualities of the ancient Chinese literati, along with painting, writing, and musical talent.

To help our students connect with this aspect of Chinese culture, we offer chess lessons at our center. They will learn the rules, traditions, and tactics surrounding the game. After a little practice they can start spending pleasant afternoons and evenings playing outside, maybe even drawing their own crowd of Chinese chess enthusiasts.

Interviews with students
Name: Mrs. Anni Elisa Partanen
Nationality: Finnish
Time in Chinese Program: 34 weeks from Oct. 13, 2008
Educational Background: PhD candidate, Anthropology
Brief Work History: Assistant teaching at the Helsinki University
Anthropology Department, previously worked for several NGOs (e.g. Finnish Red Cross) in the field of immigrant support and integration
Languages Spoken: Finnish, English, Chinese
Hobbies: sports, reading

Could you tell us a little about your background and what you did before coming to China?
I am a post-graduate student in Helsinki University, Anthropology Department. My research focuses on the overseas migration of Chinese female students, and how it relates to the changes in Chinese family
during the past 3 decades.

What are main reasons for you to decide to come to Beijing to take Chinese course?
I came to China to conduct 12 months of fieldwork for my thesis. I enrolled on a language course at the Global Exchange Center, as I needed to continue improving my Chinese.

Do you have a special hobby or passion?
Besides anthropology, I love sports. In Beijing, I have continued my martial arts training and weight lifting, as well as tried out some new sports.

Tell us briefly what you are doing in China?
I spend most of my time doing research, which involves participating in the lives of respondents, asking lots of questions, and writing piles of notes. I have also taken some time off for sightseeing with my husband.

Tell us a few memorable experiences in Beijing? How do you compare life in Beijing to your home country?
One memorable experience was sitting with a group old men in our local vegetable market, listening to stories about Chinese history and jokes about foreigners, drinking beer and eating donkey meat.

What are your best memories of living here in Beijing?
For me, the best moments in China have always involved food and people. Also the interesting discussions with my language teachers make the time fly by during classes.

Has your experience here in China changed you?
I wouldn't say staying in China has changed me, but it is always interesting to get to know and to understand different ways of life.

Did your time in Chinese program in Beijing help you reach your professional and personal goals?
I still have 9 months of research left, but the start has been very promising.

Is there a particular experience you can tell us about that was personally important to you?
Relating to people, and finding common ground despite language problems or cultural differences is personally very satisfying to me.

What advice would you give for those thinking of coming here?
I think the key to settling in and making most of the experience, is
to make Chinese friends. This should be easy enough as people are very
friendly and open. I'm sure anyone with an open and enquiring mind
will enjoy living in Beijing.

Name: Helga Weiss
Country from: Germany
Time in Chinese Program: 21 weeks from Feb. 16 ( this is her third time in our center)

Could you tell us a little about your background and what you did before coming to China?
Throughout my life, languages have been my main interest. That's why I decided to become a translator and interpreter. First, I worked for the computer industry, in the course of the years with my seven children
to be brought up, as a freelance translator and language teacher. During the past few years I have also been involved with music teaching and have been working on projects based on 'language learning through music'.

What are the main reasons for you to decide to come to Beijing to take Chinese lessons?
In addition to English, French, German and a little bit of Greek I wanted to study and get to know a completely different language and culture. Before I came to Beijing I hadn't known much about China, the Chinese people
and the Chinese language. So, when I started to study Chinese over the internet I soon felt that I had to practice the different tones of the language directly in the country. Global Exchange has been offering flexible and individual teaching. That's why I have decided to study there.

Do you have a special hobby or passion?
Apart from languages I love painting and music. I play the accordion in an orchestra.

Tell us briefly what you are doing in China?
While staying in China my main focus is the language. When there is free time left I love to stroll through the streets and parks and chat with people. I do love Beijing's parks!

Tell us a few memorable experiences in Beijing? How do you compare life in Beijing to your home country?
When I first came to Beijing there were two things that struck me right away:
Life in Beijing didn't seem very different from life in Stuttgart, the German town I come from. But crossing Beijing's four-lane-streets as a pedestrian seemed to be a real challenge! During my first week in Beijing I only ventured to the other side under the protection of a group with me in the middle!

Traffic in Beijing is much more chaotic than traffic in a German city.
There are always masses of people everywhere. Shops are open long hours and people work long hours to sell their goods or services. I found that people in Beijing are extremely fond of eating, either in one of the numerous
restaurants or at home!

What are the best memories of living here in Beijing?
I have always experienced that people in Beijing are very open-minded, warm-hearted and have a good sense of humour. Despite my different looks I've never felt like a foreigner!

Has your experience here in China changed you?
It certainly has widened my horizon, made my life richer and increased my circle of friends!

Did your time in the Chinese program in Beijing help you reach your professional and personal goals?
It certainly helped me reach my personal goal of acquiring a good knowledge of the Chinese language and culture. I am sure I can also use that knowledge on a professional level some time.

Is there a particular experience you can tell us about that was personally important to you?
In 2007 I spent Christmas in Beijing. When I came to my host family's home for dinner they opened a bottle of red wine, which they had never done before, to celebrate Christmas Eve together with me!

Could you give us some comments and feedback of your home staying in Beijing?
The host family I stayed with are very friendly and easygoing people. I got their daughter's room and I felt at home from the very beginning. Chinese food was delicious. We usually laughed a lot over dinner when I had
to repeat the Chinese words and my hosts both practised the English and German expressions. I feel being integrated into a Chinese family is the best way to get to know and understand people and their culture - and not to forget, to make new friends.

What do you find most interesting in Beijing?
Beijing is a huge metropolitan area and as such resembles all the other metropolitan areas around the world. However, Beijing has still kept its traditional Chinese face, life-style and atmosphere. Modernity (hightech skyscrapers and big western-style department stores) and tradition (hutongs, ancient temples and old rusty bicycles) still live side by side. It's this contrast and the hustle and bustle in the streets and markets that I find interesting.

What advice would you give for those thinking of coming here?
You should be fit and healthy as you will do a lot of walking! Distances in Beijing are very long. You can look forward to all the other things like studying at Global Exchange, sightseeing, delicious Chinese food and meeting all kinds of people!

Name: Nina Petrook
Nationality: British
Time in Chinese Program: 36 weeks from Dec. 1 2008

Could you tell us a little about your background and what you did before coming to China?
I was born and raised in London, England. I went to a nice school and met good friends whom I still see and love to this day. In 2003 I graduated university with a psychology degree and began working with people with heavy drug and alcohol addictions. I continued to do this work until I came to China.

What were the main reasons for you to decide to come to Beijing to take Chinese course?
My main reason for coming to China is that my partner, who's studying Chinese at university in London, was sent by the university along with his whole class to do his full 2nd year in Beijing. I missed him lots and felt like a change from my work so took joining him in Beijing as a wonderful opportunity to do something completely different and learn a new and beautiful language.

Do you have a special hobby or passion?
I am passionate about music, film and people. I love to go and watch musicians perform live, and I love spending time with friends just hanging out. I also like sports. I think I can give the Chinese a run for their money in a good ping pong match too!!!

Tell us briefly what you are doing in China?
I am enrolled on a 9 month Mandarin language course at the Global Exchange Centre. It is a practical course that is really helping me to communicate to local people on a day-to-day basis, which is what i am aiming for having never studied the language before.

Tell us a few memorable experiences in Beijing? How do you compare life in Beijing to your home country?
New Years Eve in Beijing was definitely memorable. I went to a massive club event (Acupuncture.) There were thousands of people and it was amazing. It was my first New Years away from home, but the atmosphere was so great that i didn't miss home at all. I have had some memorable food experiences too...some very good and some not so good. I ate a pig's head once without realizing. At least I can say I'm experiencing new things, and that's how I would sum up my life here in Beijing. I am living within a very different culture, which is expressed in everything from the language, the politics, the food and the fashion. It is difficult to say how life compares to my home country as I am living here temporarily as a foreigner. I'll say this though, Beijing is an amazing place with friendly people and many interesting things to offer.

6-Going to see the Great Wall was an experience I'll never forget. But some of my best memories are actually some of the simplest. A giant restaurant in front of the Lama Temple that is open 24 hours. I think in English the name translates to Dim Sum Palace. 5 big floors with lovely traditional interior with large menus and great food. Also eating in places that are up side streets and alleyways. They are not pleasing to the eye, but the food is cheap and it is a true experience of the real China. The markets are also great. Clothes markets are fun. You can find good quality stuff and haggle for it. Also the food markets where you can see fresh live fish and seafood still swimming around. The bigger markets can really be a sight!

Has your experience here in China changed you?
My experience in China hasn't really changed me greatly. The time that I'm here will be the longest IĄŻll ever have been away from my home, so I guessed it's taught that if the timing and the opportunity was right I could live in a different place away from my friends and family. It's changed me in the sense that hopefully when I leave China I will speak a new (and challenging) language.

Did your time in our Chinese program in Beijing help you reach your professional and personal goals?
I didn't come to the school with any professional goals in mind, but my time in the Mandarin program at Global Exchange is definitely helping me to reach my personal goals of being able to speak practical Chinese. Everyday I study, it is helping me to get around in Beijing and the rest of China more and more. I still have so much to learn, but in the few months that IĄŻve been at the school I have improved more I believe, than I would have studying at home with internet/audio lessons for at least a year.

What do you find most interesting in Beijing?
I find many things interesting about Beijing. The old architecture, the people and the way that life and traditions seem to be changing so fast.. Again, the food! Of the animals that Chinese people eat here, they seem to eat every part of the animal, which can sometimes leave you shocked if you didn't know what you ordered.

Get to know Global Exchange
Teacher Interview:  Yalan Qu ¨C Jasmin

* What impresses you most during your teaching?
It is hard to say . Maybe one of my beginner students who know nothing about chinese, and after a couple of months learning here could speak extremely well and handle lots of things in Chinese.

* What are the most interesting activities you have organized?
For me the trip to Qing dao in August and Karaoke with students was lots of fun.

* What are the most touching things your students do?
Lots of things, the most touching thing has been a student sending me a gift to thank me after they are return home

* What do you like to do when you are very tired?
When I am very tired I enjoy relaxing and hanging out with friends.