madpen's journal

First Impressions: Southwest University, Beibei

Beibei (pop. ~750,000), a suburb of Chongqing, is home to Southwest University (pop. ~70,000). The campus is large and long – a bit bigger than UBC’s – but nowhere near as expansive as Stanford’s. At 600 hectares, it can be crossed lengthwise on foot in maybe forty minutes. Here’s a map:

Most Chinese students live on campus in dormitories that have no AC (one ceiling fan), no showers, and no cooking facilities. Four students fit in a space about 4x5meters large (each student gets a bunk bed – the bottom is used as a desk and the top as a bed). Many resort to sleeping on the floor during the warmer months (~40 degrees C). Above the entrance to each male dorm reads a large sign that reads: ‘Girls Forbidden’, and above female dorms one that reads: ‘Boys Forbidden’. Curfew is at 11pm. Smoking in the poorly ventilated rooms is allowed, and is often done.

The Foreign Student Dormitory is another story. It was once a hotel, maybe in the 1980s, but has since been turned into a dorm. Not too much has been renovated since the 80s. Luckily, new AC units have been installed, and the mini fridge appears to be less than 10 years old. All the old AC units and their tubing were thrown into a room on the first floor that was once a gymnasium, rendering it completely unusable. They said it might be cleared and usable within a month. Internet is still delivered by wire and is limited by how much money you’re willing to pay at the internet registration building. I opted for the unlimited (but slow) option for $8 a month. Other people pay per hour or per MB and have a slightly faster connection. Hot water runs from 6-8:30am and from 6-11pm.

We live in pairs, totaling about 100 on 6 floors – all the floors are coed and each room has its own bathroom/shower and there are laundry/kitchen facilities on every other floor. We also have curfews and other rules, but they are largely disregarded by both students and supervisors.

The large majority of foreign students here are from Thailand and Vietnam. Most of them are doing their undergraduate degrees here. Chinese language learners form another large group – maybe a quarter of us are from Western countries. There is a relatively large group of African students, mostly from West Africa, many of whom are planning to do their undergraduate/graduate degrees here after gaining some proficiency in the Chinese language.

There are several cafeterias on campus offering good meals for around $.75-$1.25. If they’ve got one thing right for students, it is affordable food.

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