Saturday, June 6, 2009

Staking a Claim

We were a little slow getting started with our Chinese lesson. Generally before we delve into Chinese, we begin with a little small talk. Lily, our tutor from the Chinese department, usually has some interesting stories to share. This week she was talking about the studying she did over last weekend’s holiday and suddenly we stumbled upon an interesting topic: the study rooms at the library.

Apparently there are four large study rooms in the library. Overall, they possibly accommodate a thousand students…and there are over 15,000 students at our university. The library officials try to discourage students from “claiming” seats in the study rooms, but that’s what happens anyway.

The first day of each semester, students will get up early and head to the library at 6am. It doesn’t open that early, so a crowd will wait outside. Once the doors open, the students will run up the stairs to the fourth and fifth floor study rooms, racing for a good seat.

On this first day, the students need to stay at their claimed desk for at least several hours to affirm their rightful ownership. They will leave a few books behind to mark their space, “useless” books, so there is no big loss if they are taken. Then throughout the rest of the semester, they can use their claimed space. Lily said some students will really treat it like home, leaving food or bags there, even bringing in flowers!

The freshmen students don’t know about this “seat claiming” ritual, so they always lose out. Of course, there are plenty of empty classrooms to study in. They are usually not as crowded, but Lily said they are sometimes noisier. She prefers the good study atmosphere of being surrounded by 200 diligent students.

Occasionally there will be fights if another student tries to occupy a claimed seat. Several times students have gotten really upset about it, hitting and yelling and causing a scene. This sort of behavior is one of the reasons the library doesn’t want students to save seats. So every month or so, the library workers will come through at night and move everyone’s books and items off the desks. It doesn’t work. The next day, the students come back in and reclaim their same territory, unchallenged again until next month’s sweep.

Lily has a claimed seat, but she said she doesn’t get mad when someone uses it. “Usually it is just a freshman who comes and stays for a few hours. After they leave, I will go back to my seat.”


Nate and Molly said...

so is it not a Chinese thing to study in the dorms? I mean, I know even in the U.S. dorm studying wasn't always the most productive, hence some people I know who had to take to desperate measures and WALK the dorm halls while studying..

but I am curious...dorm studying in China?

Ruvin said...

Well, sometimes people will study in their dorms but mostly they are encouraged or even required to study in the library or classroom. At some schools they won't allow the students to be in their dormitories during the day. There is still a lot of control over what they can and can't do.