Two weeks ago, I've started studying Chinese language here in Chengdu at the Southwest Jiaotong University. The guys there straightly sent me to the second term, claiming that I already knew Pinyin (the Chinese romanisation which is taught in the first 10 lessons of a term) anyway and I might catch up easily with my classmates.
The real reason probably was that my uni wanted another student who pays, as there is no first term class starting in February anyway...
Nevertheless, I was quite stunned when I went to my first class and the teacher, Ms. Wang, started to introduce some new vocabulary in a spate of words, all in Chinese. As I've indeed studied some Chinese before, I managed to follow the lesson, but it demanded an extraordinary effort and I had to pay attention all the way, 'cause I was asked questions rather often, as my class that day merely consisted of me and three other students.
The second class that morning,extensive reading, was taught by another teacher, who was also called Ms. Wang. We were reading a rather boring story about some students studying Chinese in Beijing. Their teacher's name, by the way, was Ms. Wang as well.
Anyway, her lesson was the first success I experienced that morning, as I could recognize most of the characters.
My class is rather small, we're only 7 students. What surprised (not to say disappointed) me was, that 6 out of them were guys - I've actually thought girls are more likely to study languages...
Now 5 of them are African, sent to China by Microsoft to study the language and some computer science. Whilst 3 of them really study hard, the other two are usually not attending class. Then there's a girl from Canada whose parents are Vietnamese and who wants to get to know Asia. She's just started studying Chinese two weeks ago and therefore doesn't really manage to understand the teacher, which is why she usually doesn't come along either.
I myself try to not miss any class, but this is rather hard, as I had to experience. On one hand, there's my gf who doesn't like to sleep before 1 am (and I gotta get up at 6:30), and, what's much more important, there's an over-eager exchange students agent who calls me up nearly every morning, so that I find myself spending the morning in his office, discussing some visa issues instead of learning Chinese, more often than not. Anyway, I feel I am getting settled and will be able to study seriously soon. Hopefully.
As Chinese natives like to mistranslate Mao's famous statement: Good good study, day day up.