HSK is the standardized test of Mandarin that comes in 6 different levels. At the beginning of this Summer I decided it was time to attempt my first HSK exam. Having to do a test is still the easiest way for me to make sure that I make some time available in my schedule, and I really didn’t want to forget all the characters that I learned in the past months. I decided to go for level 2 because it would require me to extend my vocabulary. Level 2 has the following goals: being able to understand easy, short conversations and manage a vocabulary of about 300 words. I contacted the Confucius institute and it appeared that their new test center in Antwerp held HSK exams on September 17th… Today! Let me tell you my story…
My trip to the HSK exam today was fun. Comfortable trains at 6:55 AM on a Sunday morning!
6:15 AM – wake up – 起床
6:55 AM – take the train – 去火车站
The test officially has to take place at 9:00 AM sharp, so this morning I took the train at 6:55 AM. Not so early for me actually, because when I go to work I often have to wake up at 5:20! I arrived in Antwerp a little bit before 8. Hence I could spare a few minutes for a coffee, a band-aid for my way too empty stomach. “Why so early?” you might ask. Well, my admission ticket indicated that we have to be seated in the classroom half an hour before the start of the test.
8:10 AM – arrive at the test center – 到了学校
When I got to the test center the lights where lit but the entrance was locked. 20 minutes later there was still no one to open the door for us. It was just me and two other people waiting. For all of us it was the first time. One of them told us a story of an HSK exam that got cancelled and they forgot to inform the test takers beforehand. By then we were all fiercely hoping this was not the case!
8:35 AM – prepare – 准备
Finally the two people from the Confucius Institute Bruges arrived to prepare the examination rooms. One of them was the director, Philip Vanhaelemeersch. We still had to wait about 20 minutes in the hallway until we could enter the room. Honestly, I was pretty nervous about the test but at the same time really looking forward to hear and read some Chinese.
All the waiting made me think about last night. Yesterday evening I got into a crazy panicky mode because I realized pretty late that we needed a 2B pencil for the exam. A 2B pencil!! Not a HB pencil like I initially thought, you know the kind of pencil that everyone ALWAYS uses. I found plenty of HB pencils, a 4B pencil, a 3H pencil… but no 2B pencil. Of course all the stores were already closed and I didn’t have that specific pencil. Can you already imagine?! I was convinced that all my efforts had been for nothing because I didn’t have the right pencil (silly me). However, I still have the best friend in the world, because he put up a facebook post and was able to borrow a 2B pencil from a very friendly lady in our neighbourhood. 谢谢你们！
9:05 AM – start! – 开始
We got some explanation in Dutch, but I was well prepared. The exam itself went OK, there were some questions that I was not so confident about. What I like about the exam is that, in the beginning, they let you listen to this very calm Chinese melody which really has a relaxing effect in exam room. This is something we should consider in Belgium.
9:50 AM – end – 结束
The book tells the story about Chinese workers in France and Belgium during World War I. I discovered the exhibition in Poperinge a few weeks ago and finished the book within two days. The book is a translation (by Vanhaelemeersch) of a manuscript from Sun Gan, one of the workers in the Chinese Labour Corps, together with authentic photographic material of the World War. Vanhalemeersch showed me pictures of the original manuscript and explained me with a lot of enthusiasm how to read it. Even if I don’t pass the HSK, this was all very much worth it!
10:40 – back at the train station – 在火车站
I was on the right platform, about to take the train back to Leuven when it hit me: MY PENCIL!!! I checked all of my pockets and oh no, I had forgotten it in the classroom when I wanted to get my book signed. I almost freaked out again about the 2B pencil which had caused such a fuss for me yesterday. I really couldn’t go home without it.
Luckily the examiners were still in the building (I called them on my cellphone) so I ran all the way back. Yes, running as fast as I could.
对不起！不好意思！那个铅笔不是我的！They understood 😉
Me and my (borrowed) pencil made it back home <3
* Since I’m only HSK level 2 please don’t be harsh on me and kindly show me any mistakes in my Chinese vocabulary and grammar 🙂