Network. Generally net is “different”…
- Skype/encrypted tunnels are dropped after 20 minutes in the hotel
- Latency to Leeds is huge – using Leeds hosted sites will be frustrating
- VPNs are widespread…
- …but technically illegal.
- Students use them to access resources (google etc…) regularly
- install one before you head out
- Leeds’ VPN doesn’t offer access to much (e.g. BBC, guardian etc… won’t work.)
- Set up a SOCKS proxy, (Windows: use putty and the remote-access.leeds.ac.uk server, in settings go connection -> SSH ->Tunnels and write “D9090” in the Forwarded Ports field.)
- Google is blocked.
- You can download offline maps before you fly. Something that uses openstreetmap data like maps.me. Don’t forget to download the maps too.
- There is no internet on campus. Or, rather, during work hours the bandwidth is so limited that you have to go back to the hotel to use Skype. Consider this when planning lessons.
- Students will use phones on campus to retrieve content from Minerva etc… for labs. Getting this information to the lab machines is a challenge.
- Phones. Mine didn’t work. Apparently you can buy a SIM card at the airport and have Leeds reimburse. Someone was telling me there is a card that gives good access you can buy in Europe…?
- Whatsapp text messages worked, but it wouldn’t show images or make calls
- There was some effort to coordinate between lecturers on WeChat.
- On android you should install WeChat before you fly.
Getting to campus.
- I prefer the metro – buy a travel card from the station. Less that 2RMB for the 3 stops (Baicao Rd to Xipu) to campus. Bilingual signage. About 45 mins door-to-door if you walk fast. There’s a Starbucks on the walk from the metro to the campus. Otherwise coffee is pretty terrible.
- Taxi can be organised from the from the front desk for ~50RMB: good for 8am lectures.
- Bus 311 goes from nearer the hotel (less walking), uses the same travel card as the metro, and is detailed in the handbook. Bus stop is far side of Xixin Blvd from hotel. But it’s prone to showing up late and detouring around all the building work.
Generally the standard of English is below Continental-European-English-as-a-second-language levels. Speaking and listening can be as bad as about a 10-year old native.
- it takes about a week of lecturing before students are comfortable enough to talk with you – at this point you will figure out what the retention is.
- after this week, many lecturers have reported that oral retention from lectures is poor – they prefer to spend hours in self-study from written materials
- provide copious written study material.
- talk slowly and clearly. repeat key points with alternative vocabulary.
- crowd participation is considered unusual at Chinese unis, but they get used to it after a few Leeds lecturers have passed through. Don’t say “put your hand up if X”, but “everyone put your hand up. <wait> Put it down if X”.
- there’s no video recording (I have no idea where the video cameras in the lecture theaters go…)
- they will find a Mandarin version of any textbook you suggest and study that. Much of the material when Leeds staff is not around is taught (i.e. Co-Lecturer interactions) in Mandarin or a bad-english-echo-chamber.
Co-Lecturer. The module co-lecturer is responsible for grading assignments and exams and running additional labs etc… once you’ve left. You should check 10% of the grades for both coursework and exams before releasing the grades to students. Check that the co-lecturer understands the UK marking conventions (i.e. grades usually distributed in 40-80%).
WeChat group. The year has a WeChat group and exchange copious materials. (Similar to Leeds’ student’s WhatsApp groups, but with everyone (except you)). Mandarin. Resources, clarifications and rumor spread through this. Co-lecturer is usually in the group too. This is the student’s preferred source of information (over Minerva, oral material in lectures, and what you write on the whiteboard in lab). Can be problematic when, e.g. material from last year is posted. a
Minerva. Has terrible latency issues. IT takes it down during Leeds’ nights (Chengdu’s days) for routine maintenance. Yet to see if the “fixes” over Christmas 19 will help out there. One more reason for the students to lean on WeChat.
Office. An office on the SWJTU corridor is shared with up to 6 other Leeds lecturers. Generally you’ll want to use a meeting room to talk to groups of students.
Labs. The students don’t like using the (Computing) lab computers. Installing a particular tool chain was challenging. To install software in the lab, the TA goes to each machine in turn. There are no login accounts – so people can see the previous user’s (course)work.
…Expect them to work on their own laptops. These are mainly Windows, ~20% OSX and the occasional Linux install. Remember their laptops (and all the software) will be in Mandarin so helping over their shoulders takes some getting used to. Take hand sanitizer.
Calendar. See who is out there by searching for “SWJTU-Leeds” in Leeds’ Outlook calendar. Easier than trying to play spot-the-lecturer over hotel breakfast.
Shops. Opposite the hotel there’s a street with lots of restaurants. Further down is “little America” with a wallmart, mcdonalds, and starbucks.
- Nice rooms, big TV, room service is mostly expensible.
- Ask for a room at the back of the building – you get a balcony (with a door so you can cool the room), no street noise (construction traffic is scheduled for about 2am), and a view of the mountains (on a the one smog-free day).
- Buffet breakfast is included and a reasonable approximation of most western breakfasts can be found.
- Even if the room is paid for by Leeds, expect to leave a 1000RMB deposit on your own credit card when checking in, then they will request addition deposits as your bill crosses this limit.
- Glasgow are in the Crowne next door.
- Leeds does rent apartments in town for longer term staff.
- Crowne and Holiday Inn share a gym and restaurant – there is shorter route to the bus/metro through the Crowne lobby.
Flight. Tends to be KLM from Leeds, changing at Amsterdam. Uni will pay for “Comfort Economy” upgrade. Leeds will also book the posh transfers with the Holiday Inn if you ask.
Timetable. Some dates here. I have no idea how to find SWJTU’s teaching timetable except by emailing their staff?
Air pollution. Some staff have reported the pollution in the city affecting their health. Summer is better than Winter. Particulate have been advised and will be reimbursed – I didn’t feel it was any worse that cycling through London. They leave the windows open in the university teaching space, so you will lecture through polluted air in the Summer.
SWJTU stands for Southwest Jiaotong University. Jiaotong means transport – they do a lot of trains.
Air conditioning. Chengdu is generally warmer than Leeds. There is air conditioning, but not super/”American” grade (it won’t run in the winter in the hotel or campus; in Summer hotel is nice and cool, on campus they run AC but leave the windows open). I was sweating the whole time in Summer; then I was chased around the hotel by a guy with a laser thermometer after I got a bit sweaty in the gym…
The students there do a foundation year, so there is a convention of saying that year 1 (Leeds) is level 2 (SWJTU) etc…