Before coming to Harbin, I had never been outside of the US so I was in for quite the culture shock upon arrival. However, the first few days were surprisingly easy as we were shown around campus and a little bit around the city. We didn’t start the language pledge until four days after everyone arrived so we had the opportunity to get to know everyone in the cohort, which was nice considering the first few weeks after the language pledge are filled with awkward, short sentences. Even being a more advanced program there was a lot of variety in skill level but I never felt like anyone was excluded because their language ability was a little behind.
The workload is no joke. I had two or three classes a day and each class required anywhere between 2 and 4 hours of homework. It’s especially difficult in the beginning, but over time I noticed the workload became easier. There isn’t a heavy emphasis placed on grading but more so on your ability to use what you’ve learned. The one-on-one course can easily be the best or worst part of your classes. If you choose a topic and then realize you don’t quite like it, tell the academic advisor immediately so you can change the topic accordingly. It ended up being most people’s favorite class despite being the most difficult. The one-on-two really helps you realize your tone or pronunciation mistakes, especially because you go four times a week. The other two classes are your choice and are pretty standard.
Having a native roommate is kind of advertised as a big deal and I honestly didn’t believe it before arriving, mostly because I’m a naturally shy person and never really bond super quickly with people. However, I have to say that my roommate has become one of my favorite people and probably to person I’m going to miss the most. In the beginning, when I could barely say a few sentences, she was so incredibly patient helped me with basic survival. Over time, we started talking about cultural difference, politics, life problems, and just anything. I would not improved so much if I had her helping me. As far as I know, all of the roommates were patient and very excited to help everyone in our program.