Ann Arbor Orientation: Days 1+2
So yesterday we all arrived throughout the day at Oxford Housing. There was dinner waiting for us there which we munched on. When the vast majority of us were there we went over names and introductions and then proceeded on a tour of UM’s central campus. Us local UM students led the tour informally and showed everyone the major stuff to see on campus. I was surprised to hear people proclaiming how big our campus is and how pretty it is because I always compare to MSU (so I think of our campus as small–not sprawling over many miles), and as more or less ugly (since it’s in the middle of a city and our pretty green spaces are fairly limited besides the arb, and many of our buildings have (occasionally stylish) brick and cement exteriors). The evening led to partying and bar-going by some and walking through the arboretum at dusk followed by cards and pizza-getting for others. It was altogether very pleasant.
After having a difficult time falling asleep I woke up earlier than I intended to and went for a run. We all hung around eating breakfast at Oxford until we were led to the chem building as a gaggle by our intrepid (student) leader, Han Li. She is a student who went to China last summer on this program and will this year be helping keep us in line… I think? Mainly she’s there to know what’s going on and who to contact in case of issues. She’ll be doing research as well. Our scheduled events included hearing that 8 people have yet to receive their Visas due to stupid arguments by the D.C. consulate, but hopes are high that they will get in on time (as in, they will almost certainly be in on time) and hearing about the political and social situation in China. We also talked to 3 students who went last year and asked all our questions about what it’s like ranging from the practical to the absurd. It was nice and somewhat reassuring. They really had nothing but praise for the program. We got pictures taken that will be used for our IDs at PKU in China after that. We were the free to meander around Ann Arbor getting some UM swag to gift to our lab-folk as well as allow some people to buy pharmaceuticals and the like. We stopped by a computer lab and the UM kids logged people in since it’s somewhat difficult for non-UM people to get internet at Oxford, or so I hear.
THEN… a game of Euchre for me, naps for others followed by our dinner+documentary (which we will do tomorrow and Saturday as well). We watched a documentary about the “great leap forward” that I thought was very interesting. The great leap forward was Mao Zedong’s plan to make China totally awesome instantaneously. He set absurdly ambitious goals like doubling steel production in a year, doubling (or more?) food production in a year, collectivizing all farms, eliminating the nuclear family in favor of collective operations. I was absolutely amazed to see shots of massive numbers of people going about tasks that the party had deemed to be priorities. One clip showed a village of people out on the streets killing as many sparrows as possible as they had been declared one of the 4 big pests the Chinese people must defeat for a good society (they were blamed for eating grain (the massive eradication of sparrows actually led to more crop damage as greater numbers of insects survived to eat the crops)).
Evening festivities included watching the basketball game for one group of us. I walked around the arb again (this time in daylight) with a group, then played some games in someone’s room while a few others went to ballroom dance practice. After that broke up I read for a little while, chatting with people online, and wrote this post.
It’s been a busy busy day. It’s been absolutely amazing so far, though, just talking with and getting to know people. Finding common interests, comparing stories about college, family, research interests, and everything else.
Now it’s off to bed to prepare for another full day tomorrow!