My fellow three bunkies were classmates, Emily (Wu Enmin), Rebecca (Mai Beijia, CET Harbin RA) and An Zhuo (I don’t remember his English name!). We slept in what is called a “soft sleeper,” meaning that there are only four beds and each bed is cushioned with a mattress and pillow. There are four different kinds of train tickets in China:
- Hard Seat: a hard, often wooden seat
- Soft Seat: a cushioned seat with a table
- Hard Sleeper: a compartment with 6 beds and table (I often choose this option)
- Soft Sleeper: a compartment with 4 beds and table
I personally enjoy the “Hard Sleeper.” I like to converse with the other Chinese passengers and hear about their lives. I believe riding an overnight train (or any train, really) is a great way to better understand Chinese culture and people. A lot of my classmates think I’m crazy though…but I can see why. Buying train tickets, getting through all the lines, and handling luggage through a Chinese train station may be one of the most stressful aspects of living in China. Actually, I agree. But, sitting down and relaxing, while also conversing with your bunk mates becomes worth it, especially when your destination is a new, exciting place!
We woke up around 6:45am to prepare for our arrival in Harbin. While steadily gliding into the city, Emily and I ate a pomelo (youzi) for breakfast and observed the scenery. Outside the train window was primarily flat plains with many acres of corn stalks–sounds a lot like Nebraska!
We finally stopped at the Harbin Train Station and headed for the bus. Leaving the train station was like being a fish in a strong river current. It was impossible to go against the current or even move side to side. We finally were pushed out of the main entrance and found our CET liaison and bus to campus.
After breakfast and putting luggage into our rooms, we took a tour of Harbin Institute of Technology, our new campus.
This is where all my classes will be this semester. It’s the College International Student Building. The campus is surprisingly really nice! There is a lot of foliage and wide streets for pedestrians only. We have a large market that has everything that I would ever need. It seems like I’m living in a city within a mega-city. Campus food is also really tasty, and we also have dozens of restaurants just a short walk away. I’ll have to force myself to explore the city this semester!