A Discussion in Chinese Class


It is the Monday after Spring Break, and I am sitting in Chinese class. The jetlag is slowly creeping up my eyelids, and I am not prepared for Q4. I am not ready to speak Chinese for 80 minutes because not even 48 hours ago, I was in Pyongyang, North Korea. All I can think about is how surreal the trip was because already, our friendly tour guides and trusty bus driver seemed as if from another lifetime.

Typically we start Chinese class with Dr. Jen, Director of the Chinese Program, by discussing current events. But today, Dr. Jen asks us to share the highlights of our Spring Break. One person stayed in Philly for some much-needed R&R while another traveled to the Dominican Republic seeking the exact same thing. A third member of the Bu (Chinese track) went to Cuba. Given that Jason and I went to two of the handful of remaining Communist countries in the world, I am curious to compare notes.

Jason talks about the discussions his group had with Cuban journalists and politicians, and the types of resources people had access to, including the Internet (see Roberto Blum’s post). Similarly, I share my learnings about North Korea’s domestic intranet and our trek’s visit to the Concrete Wall, a barrier allegedly built along the DMZ by South Korea.

And as our 2-minute impromptu reports turn into a wider discussion of Internet freedom in China and other countries, I realize that this too, is surreal. Here I am, trying to clearly express my thoughts on the North Korean intranet in Chinese so that I can properly compare it to Cuba’s. When else will I have this opportunity? Now that’s something that would only happen at Lauder!

By Chanda Wong (Lauder/Wharton ’15, Chinese track)

Classroom in North Korea (not Lauder!)
Classroom in North Korea (not Lauder!)