Freshman Orientation


Every morning by 5:30 am we hear army-type grunts and group yells through our open windows that face the university campus.

Last year I guess we were too busy treading water to survive to pay much attention.

But since in my newfound personal discipline of early morning running I and a friend are pounding the street by 6 am, we have encountered these uniformed folks for the past 10 days.

I asked some of my Chinese friends about this phenomenon of military training on college campuses, as well as my own informal google search on the topic (which includes this stranger’s blog with much better pictures than I have

All freshman have a mandatory one month training before assuming college coursework, in basic military skills, which include marching, running, and discipline.

I am told that weapons are not used in the training, and that this is more for disciplinary and political patriotic training purposes.

What you see is large groups of men and women in uniform, at all hours of the day, milling about the campus.

During drills, they are in formations, standing at attention or doing various drills on sports fields and plazas.

What I have noticed, as my friend and I huff and puff during our own self imposed disciplinary training, are some girls who look less than thrilled.

Maybe they don’t like running at 6 am.

Today we saw a girl at ease for a moment with her 30 or 40 group-mates, with a black-and-white polka dotted hoodie sticking out from her collar.

I think she was a nonconformist.

As my tutor told me, and as I can relate from residency or medical school, when you look back it’s “not so bad,” but when you’re in the middle of it it’s pretty hard.

Whatever the motivations for this mandatory national policy on military training of students, I must admit it makes me wake up and realize how many people live here in China, and how many students are affected by this policy.


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