The international students’ dorm rooms at Southwest University for Nationalities (西南民族大学) are located in the same building that classes are held in. To get to class, all I did was hop on the elevator and go down 7 floors. The rooms are HUGE, considering that we all had our own private rooms. Later I would find out that 4 or more native students stay in dorm rooms of the same size. The building was located directly next to the east gate of campus, which was very convenient in that the street directly outside the gate had a little convenience store, a market, and lots of options for prepared food.
My air conditioning unit was not working when I arrived, so the first night there was a cold one. Eventually it would be fixed, but I seldom used it because we would pay for our utilities at the end of the semester. It ended up equating to something like $100 USD FOR THE ENTIRE SEMESTER, so use yours if you need it!
My second day in China, I went to Carrefour (a French multi-national retailer comparable to BJs, Costco, or Sam’s Club) to buy everything I needed:
Sheets, bath towels, the fluffiest, most comfortable comforter I’ve ever had (so much so, I brought it back to the U.S with me and still use it today), slippers, a water boiler (everyone had on in their room), a space heater, lots of hangers, chopsticks and spoons, a bowl, coffee mug, thermos (it was VERY cold on the 4th floor where classes were held so I always had some tea with me), snacks, volatge converter, shower sandals, shower mat, shower curtain, towels, bottled water (there is a water delivery service that I later utilized), toilet paper (you will need to bring this with you everywhere), and various toiletries.
Confession: Due to some rather colorful horror stories, I did not use a Chinese-style toilet the entire time I was in China, and the only place I could be sure I had a western-style toilet was in my room. I went as far as timing my liquid intake so as not to be caught about town with no options. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I was so close-minded in this sense.
Overall, my room as very comfortable, and I was able to make it my own. The wi-fi connection isn’t the best, but that’s what my router was for. You will have a private bathroom (with a western toilet), lots of space, and as much privacy as sharing a wall with 2 other people will provide. I miss this room, at times. We were on the 11th floor, so I had a fabulous view of campus and of the city, which was especially spectacular at night.
Tip: Since the shower is not partitioned off from he rest of the floor, I bought an extra long shower curtain to help keep the water from spreading throughout the bathroom. Also, the hot water for the shower only lasted about 7 minutes, so if I was showering before bed, what I would do to stay warm afterwards is set my space heater for 1 hour, face it toward my bed, shower, and then flee the bathroom to wrap myself in my towel. The bed would be toasty warm by the time I went to sit there to dry off.
Because I was a commuter during my entire college career, I never knew how nice it was to live so close to your friends in a dorm room. Sometimes it would prove an annoyance, I must admit, but most of the time it was great to be able to walk down the hall and spend time with friends. The yearlong students had area rugs and sound systems and decorations and clothes lines hung in their rooms, which I was a bit envious of.
The building was pretty safe; there was a security guard posted in the lobby at all times, though if we happened to return late at night we would find him curled up on the couch with a space heater and a blanket, so we would have to knock to wake him up so he could come unlock the door. We would inch through the door quiet using “xie xie” as our apologies, but he barely seemed to notice and went right back to sleep. That guy was the coolest. There was also an earthquake once while I was just sitting around in my room, and the building stood afterwards, so that’s also good.
For this particular program, there was also an off-campus option available. If you choose this one, you and 2 other students will rent a fully furnished apartment within walking distance to campus. I saw a few of these apartments, and they were all fairly nice. One was on the 8th floor of its building, and there was no elevator, but it was a good leg and glute workout getting up there. However, I was aware of some disputes over who should get the master bedroom, and a particular group of roommates in which 2 of them were each other’s worst enemies. So, if you prefer privacy and being able to slink away when you’re sick of your classmates, definitely choose the dorm option.