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I've stopped updating this website, though it's pages will remain for a while. See "current update" for details.

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Northwestern Polytechnical University, Xi'an, China

("Up" takes you to the Kunming page; click here for the Photo Album index)

Sister-pages:   Home Up NPU Da Qin Monastery

(▲ Links to the pages at the same level as this page. If you can't see the label, put your mouse over a button and look at the bottom of your browser.)

Some links: Photos of our Xi'an students; NPU's website (English version); our Student Connection page;

students essays about the campus; student essays about campus-area establishments

Michael taught at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) from 2002 to 2005; Vivian taught at the university or linked programs most of that time too. We created these pages back when "digital photography" was still pretty primitive, but you can get a feel for our life there. All in all, it was a GREAT place to work, though "respiratory problems" eventually forced us to look for cleaner air.

NPU is the only Chinese university featuring education and scientific research on aeronautics, astronautics and marine engineering. As of 2004, 1400 faculty members were training some 37,000 students (including 1500 Ph.D. and 7600 Master's Degree candidates) on NPU's three Xi'an campuses.

(Left) The centerpiece of campus is the library, with its beautiful fountain out front. Looming behind it is a new state-of-the-art multi-purpose building, completed just in time for the school's 65th anniversary (Oct. 2003)

(Right) This is the largest student cafeteria. I believe there are five main halls for students to choose from, plus a more expensive restaurant in the campus hotel. We ate with our students once or twice a week, usually in the hotel or in one of many small restaurants off campus (mainly because student cafeterias are too noisy to hold an English conversation!).

A lot changed while were were there. Here is the "old front gate." Cars, bikes, people and various other modes of transportation competed for space outside the busy main entrance. Yes, these cars and people were all moving in different directions at once! (One of the biggest transportation challenges here is that many pedestrians and cyclists ignore traffic signals.)

 Three special lanes for busses and bikes appeared in 2003, followed by a new gate (seen here). A year later a pedestrian overpass was added nearby, along with a fence down the middle of the road so that the bikes and pedestrians seen here can no longer slow down the traffic as it passes the gate. These changes greatly improved the traffic conditions. Vivian said that the busy bridge during rush hour was quite a sight!


A few weeks after arriving at NPU, Michael's classes moved into a new building with nice seats and some great high-tech computer equipment! Many of his lectures involve Power Point presentations projected on a big screen. Click here to read about the West Building (pictured below) where Michael taught most of his classes.

Here are the "Officials" who participated in NPU's 2002 "Model United Nations (MUN)" program, including Michael who served as a judge. NPU was the first Chinese campus to send delegates to New York for the International MUN, and it is a national leader in promoting Chinese participation in the program. There were two MUN conferences in 2002, and students representing different nations did an excellent job of presenting positions on several important issues in English for over eight hours! (In 2003, Michael was too sick to participate in this conference, but he was a judge again in 2004.)

Michael and other MUN-2002 participants on the front page of Xi'an's daily newspaper!

Below is the student dorm complex built while we were there. These dorms were the first to have heat in the winter, but I was told that there are long lines at the elevators. The newer dorms were set up for six roommates, and the rooms have running water (old dorms have seven roommates, and students have to use showers in another building).  


During the 2003 SARS scare, no one was allowed in or out of the main gate (above) without special permission--and everyone entering had to have his/her temperature taken electronically! Once the crisis passed, the campus community could come and go at will, but visitors still needed permission to enter. (We were among the few foreigners in the area who stayed in China "during SARS.")

The West Building is seen here. Students study between and after classes, both in empty classrooms and outside, and my students frequently complained that they had a hard time finding a place to study. For an unknown reason, these continuously-used outdoor work spaces were replaced in 2003 with some big plants with far fewer places for students to sit.


Student life is not easy. Many students study outside (yes, even in the snow!) at all hours. Many classes require a lot of memorization so students "recite" to themselves wherever they find space. The older student dorm rooms have no heat, and with six or seven roommates, students don't have privacy either. This seems "terrible" to Americans who all-but idolize privacy, but it is no big deal in the Chinese way of thinking.




We regularly dine with students and invite them to our home to see a movie in English. These are some of Vivian's 2002-03 students.

Click to see more student photos


Beautiful trees line the major streets on campus. Click here to read student essays about the trees (and campus). The campus is completely enclosed by walls, as are most Chinese campuses. When we arrived in 2002, there were at least four gates, then there were only two (during SARS), and after that one more opened. I think only one is open for traffic (the others are for people and bikes only). One of the most amazing sights you can imagine is watching thousands of people (plus bikes, trucks and cars) coming in or out of the gates during "rush hours."

Here, some students take a break and build a snowman. Since many of the dorms don't have heat, you might as well enjoy what the outdoors has to offer!

more photos & resources:

More Photos: Click here for photos of former students in Xi'an, Kunming, or Shanghai

Student Essays: Click here to see student essays from former students about NPU, Chinese holidays, and more.

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