Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Student Life at Nanjing University (Gulou)

Well, to be honest, I don't have a very good idea yet of what it means to be a student here—I've not been inside a dormitory, haven't eaten at the student canteen, etc.  So my vision of student life in Nanjing is still very much an outsider's view.  Nevertheless, I thought you might find it interesting to see through our camera's eye some parts of student life here.

In an earlier post I noted that the main campus (Gulou) is basically divided into two: the north campus houses most academic and administrative buildings, whereas the south serves as headquarters for most student dormitories, student dining, the student store, and many similar functions.  This means, among other things, that when morning classes adjourn at noon, almost all the human traffic is south, heading toward the dorms and lunch!

Although some students may stop off at their rooms, it is clear that dining is the main order of business, so all the bicycles gather around the canteen building. The "First Student Canteen" convenes downstairs, whereas other eating facilities are open upstairs.
Student Canteens

Building Housing Student Dining
Immediately across the street is the student center, and all along that street stand dormitories. A few dorms look to be quite new, but others wear their age a bit too obviously.
Nanjing University Student Center

Dormitory Row
A Newer Dormitory
An Older Dormitory
I do not know how many students typically share a room, but it is a safe bet that most student rooms fall short of the expectations of American undergraduates.  Two pieces of evidence persuade me that this is true.  For one thing, every day we see streams of students walking from their dormitories, shower "caddies" in hand, heading toward the campus showers.  A few minutes later they emerge with their possessions, their heads wet (no matter the temperature), heading back to their dormitories. This tells me that showers are not common in the dormitories themselves.
Fresh from the showers
Heading Toward the Showers

The other evidence comes from the thermos jugs that students leave each day to be filled with hot water, and which they carry daily back to their rooms. I have not yet been witness to the process by which someone actually fills these jugs—there are many hundreds of them—but they appear there every day, lining the spaces around one of the buildings adjacent to the dormitories. These are, I suspect, mainly for drinking water (or for tea, instant noodles, etc.); evidently hot water is not readily available either.
Although a couple of tennis courts and some basketball courts line the southernmost edge of the Gulou campus (near our residence), most of the athletic facilities are located on north campus. The track surrounds soccer fields, and basketball courts, badminton courts, parallel bars and other facilities are situated alongside. Although in late afternoon and early evening one will see spirited games of soccer on the field and the basketball courts alive with activity, I took these photos at lunchtime when most students were otherwise occupied.
Track with Badminton Building and Gymnasium in Background

At the northernmost end of the track one can see in the background two additional athletic facilities—the indoor badminton building and, adjacent to it, the gymnasium, where one can work out on weights, etc.
Badminton Building at Night

Gymnasium at Night
During daylight hours, access to all these facilities is limited to students.  But early in the morning and at dusk, the university open the gates to the track, which then becomes a community resource, with groups of adults chatting with friends while doing their laps, even after darkness has arrived.

Of course, one need not play basketball or jog the track in order to take a break from academics or get some time away from roommates.  North campus also includes several lovely parks where, in good weather, one can sit for a while, read a book, or just enjoy the quiet.

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