Arriving @Tsingua by Håvard Farestveit

Arriving at Tsingua

Going to China can be an extremely fun, exiting and interesting experience. However, it comes with some frustrating and tedious moments as well. Everything from getting a bank account to doing the physical examination for foreigners in China, can be difficult if you don ́t speak Mandarin. Be prepared to use a lot of Google translate and wait in line. Or even better – make friends with someone who speaks Chinese on your way.

Registering for courses – problems and lessons learned

For a lot of students, setting up and finding the best courses can be the most challenging in the beginning. When getting admitted to Tsinghua, you will receive a lot of information, including a list of courses taught in English at the university. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I planned my semester from this list. When arriving in Beijing and starting the course registration, you may find that some courses have been added or discontinued. In my case, I would estimate that the list we received were about 90% corresponding with the courses we actually could choose. Course registration is easily done online.

On the first day of registration you can only choose courses in your own department, for me the Computer Science department. From the second day you can choose courses from all the departments. If you want to apply for courses outside your department, they may get filled up the first day. Luckily, you can ask the professor if you may attend the course even though it is full, and most of the time they don’t mind. Another thing to have in mind when choosing courses, is to find courses that don ́t collide since many courses have class attendance as a part of the grade evaluation.

I initially applied for the following courses:

  • – Distributed database systems
  • – Project Software Management
  • – Future Internet Architecture
  • – Software Testing and Quality Assurance. A problem I encountered was that Software Testing and Quality Assurance got cancelled and I had to find a new course. I wanted to take Machine Learning instead, but it was already full. I then contacted the professor by filling out an online application form to attend the course, and a couple of days later I was admitted.These are the courses I ended up taking:
  • – Distributed database systems
  • – Project Software Management
  • – Future Internet Architecture
  • – Machine LearningMain differences in the academic life between NTNU and Tsinghua Smaller classes

Most graduate courses at Tsinghua have smaller classes than those at NTNU. In the courses I’m taking we are about 15-20 students. This means that the lectures are given in smaller classrooms, rather than in big auditoriums. By size of the classroom and amount of students per class, I would say it ́s similar to the system at Norwegian high schools. I find that the smaller classes gives you a closer connection to the professor and the rest of the class, and it often leads to interesting discussions in class. The academical level of the lectures is on par and in some cases better than the ones at NTNU, though the English level is often lower (but understandable).

Most courses don ́t have an on the spot exam as grade evaluation. Instead there is a combination of groupwork with presentation, in class and/or projects and homework. Usually each group consists of 2-3 students, and presentations can vary in length. Some are just small updates on the project (around 5 minutes), while other can be a 30-minute presentation on the latest scientific papers. The homework is similar in workload to the assignments (øvinger) at NTNU.

A big difference in the everyday life on campus is the food. Say goodbye to the soggy ham and cheese sandwich from home, and say hello to cheap and delicious Chinese food! You can enjoy a wide variety of food, and get a really good lunch from 10-20 NOK on campus.

Main building at Campus

Best way to get around on campus is by bike

Typical class at Tsinghua