Day two in Beijing started out better than I was expecting actually, since I was able to get almost ten hours of solid sleep and I wasn’t even sore after the climb the day before. So, looking dapper in our business casual outfits, the group set off for the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE for short). Upon arrival, we were greeted with a fairly familiar sight. The campus looked pretty much identical to any school in the United States with academic buildings all around and students hustling past us to their next class. We were led into one building (which I would like to note had very slippery marble stairs that I almost fell down several times) for our first activity of the day: a lecture from one of the university’s professors on a variety of topics relating to China—like big data, e-commerce, and some unique characteristics of Chinese markets. It was interesting to learn just how deeply integrated into society both e-commerce and mobile payments are here due mostly to the high population density and availability of cheap technology. The part about mobile payments explained a trend everyone had been observing while trying to make purchases around the city where we would try to pay with a hundred yuan bill (about $16) for small purchases and the cashier wouldn’t have enough change. I personally found the lecture interesting since it touched on a bunch of business-related topics that I was able to understand well, though some of the engineers may have been a bit bored. After the classroom portion of the day, we broke for lunch, which featured a few of the stranger dishes we’ve had, like pig blood soup (not bad but I didn’t go back for more) and “thousand-year” fermented eggs (quite good). After chowing down, a few students gave us a tour of the school’s library, which was impressive to say the least. It featured an automated seat-reserving system that Pitt could definitely use in our study areas and even an art gallery in the basement, which was my favorite part of the day. The university displays works from students and faculty, swapping collections each month. We were able to see some beautiful photography mostly consisting of landscapes and other nature shots from Mongolia and Tibet.
After the library tour, we ended our visit to CUFE with some games. We made our way out to the athletic facilities of the campus where we passed students playing volleyball, soccer and basketball in high-school-gym-class-like format. The games organized for us, though, were jump rope and the thing where you have to pass a hula hoop around a ring of people while holding hands. The theme of both of these games for me, apparently, was getting hit in the face as it happened several times when attempting to jump rope (I don’t think I’ve done it since elementary school) and I even managed to cut my lip a bit after taking a hula hoop to the mouth while trying to shimmy through it. And with that we concluded our visit to the university and returned to the hotel. Later in the evening for dinner, myself, Jake, Frankie and Matt were able to meet up with Matt’s stat TA, Xijuan, from this past year and a few of his friends for dinner and a night on the town. It was definitely and interesting night, starting with Matt constantly trying to distract our taxi driver on the way to dinner while in crazy Beijing traffic. Later in the night we explored a Hutong, which basically looks like a dark alley, but instead of rats and muggers, there were luxury cars and nice restaurants. Xijuan explained that the small houses in these alleys are some of the most expensive in Beijing since they’re in the center of the city and are pretty much the only alternative to apartments. The most difficult part of the night came at the end when all fifteen of us who had ended up coming together by the end of the night had to find enough taxis to take us back to the hotel after midnight. It took a good forty minutes of effort before the last group was finally able to catch a ride. All in all it was a great night of exploration and group bonding.