One of the best ways to get to become acquainted with Chinese people and the culture is to visit a university classroom. My 12 plus years of teaching in China has been a rich cultural experience. Most international visitors to China never take advantage of this opportunity. But, those few who have visited classrooms have walked away with a deeper impression of the culture than all the tourist sites in the country could provide.
As a university teacher of cross cultural studies and English, I know my Chinese students are eager to meet and converse with more international people. In response to this need, I'm constantly on the lookout for tourists and business people from other countries. Almost every year I have succeeded in finding groups or individuals willing to visit my classes.
On several occasions I've found groups of North American and European students touring or studying in Beijing and invited them to join my classes. (See picture on right) Without exception, it's always a rich cultural experience for both my students and the foreign visitors.
If you're an overseas student on one of Beijing's many campuses, I recommend you find one of your university's "foreign teachers" and ask if they would like a visitor. If possible, attend a session that includes lots of student interaction, not one where the teacher spends two hours just lecturing. Unless the teacher otherwise appoints a topic, you can ask Chinese students about their lives on campus, and you'll surely receive lots of questions about campus life in your country. Whatever the topic, this will be an unforgettable cultural experience.
Last year a group of American business people (pictured on left) joined one of my classes for an hour or so. They chatted with my students about business culture in the USA and China, everyday life and a host of other topics. Although these American entrepreneurs have traveled all over the world, met thousands of people and experienced almost everything life has to offer, they later told me this classroom visit was one of their most precious memories. Some even started long-term email friendships with students.
There are all sorts of ways you can make a classroom visit. If you don't know any "foreign" teachers, ask the school's English department if you can visit a class. Chinese English teachers would also welcome your visit. If you really want to feel appreciated, try a smaller less popular school that rarely has opportunities to enjoy international guests. If you have no idea where to find a school, search the internet for a list of Beijing colleges and universities. Whichever school or class you choose to visit, this will be a Beijing experience you'll remember the rest of your life!