According to Kate Sommers-Dawes, studying in China is a a great career move as well as a cultural adventure.
Recession or not, the race to learn Chinese is still on all across the Western hemisphere as the Chinese economy continues to surge, sporting twelve percent growth for the first quarter of 2010. Entrepreneurs and savvy graduates looking for an edge in the tough job market are learning Chinese whatever way they can. Of course, books, CDs, interactive programs and all sorts of classes are great ways to start to get to grips with the language, but for those on a deadline, nothing can beat the study abroad immersion experience for fast language results and a crash course in Chinese culture.
Language travelers to China will have no shortage of impressive monuments and cultural hotspots to explore as they sharpen their Mandarin skills. From Beijing to Shanghai to Hong Kong and back, guests in the region can practice their newfound knowledge of quotidian Chinese while plumbing the historical depths of the world’s oldest continuous civilization.
The adventurous can hike along the Great Wall, which snakes for thousands of miles along China’s northern border with Mongolia. One tour of this ancient defense against invaders from the north allows tourists the chance to camp overnight in a watchtower and then explore the Wall in early morning silence before the throngs arrive.
History enthusiasts in Xi’an will be in paradise delving into its many sights, including the pre-common era Terracotta Warriors, the 141 B.C.E. mausoleum of Han Emperor Jingdi, and the eight miles of defensive city walls fortified in the Ming dynasty with parapets and a formidable moat.
The metropolis of Beijing, in all its grandeur, has no shortage of temples, galleries, monuments, parks, and palaces to discover. The capital city’s White Cloud Temple, one of China’s oldest Taoist temples, hosts a lively fair during its Spring Festival complete with artisans and street performers. Another popular tourist attraction among many is the Summer Palace, which was called “a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design” by UNESCO when it was dedicated as a world heritage site.
Chinese history, spanning thousands of years, is on display throughout its striking cities. While learning the language spoken by hundreds of millions, students who also choose to acquaint themselves with the country’s vibrant culture will bring to life the old Chinese saying, “the journey is the reward.”
China Your Way provides American high school and college students with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the language and culture of Beijing, learning Putonghua (standard Mandarin) and living with a registered homestay family. In addition to traditional classroom learning, participants in China Your Way select from among seven individualized cultural activity programs to enhance their educational experience. These include volunteering, traditional Chinese culture, athletics, modern dance, Chinese cooking, visual art, and an option to customize your own program. Students choose up to four activities per four-week session.
Located in the heart of Beijing’s University District, Global Exchange Center provides its students with an ideal stepping stone into modern China. Students from all corners of the world come to hone their Mandarin skills and build their relationship with China through cultural excursions, home stays, and business internships. Teachers tailor programs to professionals, students and travelers alike. It is not uncommon to find beginners learning Chinese over a game of mahjong next door to more seasoned speakers reciting poetry and preparing for professional situations. The Center’s personalized, highly focused style of instruction provides a fresh alternative to large University classes. However, for most, the greatest rewards are found outside of the classroom. Homestays set up with partner families provide an opportunity for participants to see China from the inside and immerse themselves in Mandarin. Business internships allow students to work in Chinese companies, so they can improve their language skills on the job. Most of all, students enjoy a sense of camaraderie with their international classmates, building friendships that span the globe while exploring all the opportunities and adventure Beijing has to offer.
New Concept Mandarin has immersion centers across China. The academy offers its highly effective ten-day immersion course to help students get immersed in Chinese language and culture in a relaxed, enjoyable and highly-effective way. In the morning, students learn different topics and vocabulary through various methods including classroom learning, seminars, workshops and presentations. In the afternoons, trainers take students out of the classroom to participate in real world activities that require them to utilize and develop their Mandarin communication skills. Students also get an interactive CD-ROM (Mandarin Tutor) developed by New Concept Mandarin to enhance vocabulary recognition and pronunciation. Additionally, online courses and study tools developed by the school can be used by students between and after their classes to review and reinforce their learning. Courses are offered for complete beginners to professional level students in Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen.
LanguBridge’s China program is based in Beijing in the Haidian District, on a university campus with easy access to the subway. Summer immersion programs are open to high school and university students with the choice of campus living or homestay. Each session lasts for four weeks: intensive language classes are in the morning, cultural activities and language exchanges are in the afternoon, and weekend trips take students to explore the major attractions in the city and surroundings. The program also includes an optional trip to Shanghai. Students can live on campus in premium dormitories with clean rooms, linen service, security entrance and 24 hour on-site staff. A 6:1 student to staff ratio and caring school personnel ensure a close relationship within the group.
Get in2 China, a Beijing-based, service-oriented company offers a wide range of services for people who want to come to China or already live in the country. It provides information, accommodation, internship placement, Chinese language courses, visa support, travel arrangements and many other services for people of different ages and from different countries. Get in2 China has developed and introduced a range of programs to facilitate any type of visit. To see the world-famous sights like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, or the Terracotta Warriors, the Traveling and Sightseeing program is ideal. The duration of this program is normally one or two weeks and a two-week program includes traveling to different cities of China, such as Xi’an, Guilin, and Shanghai. For those wishing to pick up the basics of the Chinese language or improve their current level, there are specially-designed Chinese language programs. General (ten hours per week), intensive (twenty hours per week) and private language courses are available and all study materials are provided by the company’s language school and are included in the program fee. The Business Internship program is specifically recommended for recent graduates seeking to get some working experience before entering the global labor market. It includes internship placement, accommodation, visa support, language courses and other concomitant services. Get in2 China carefully studies the resumes of its clients and finds the right Chinese or foreign Beijing-based company for internship placement, all of which are paid. The business program is an opportunity to get valuable experience working in the world’s third largest economy.
Northwest University, founded in 1902, is the oldest institution of higher learning in Northwest China and one of the leading comprehensive universities in the country. The university is located in Xi’an, a famous ancient capital and the heart of ancient Chinese culture.
The University pays special attention to international exchange and cooperation and has established relations with over 90 institutions of higher learning worldwide. Since 1965, the University has trained more than 6000 international students, and in 1992, it established the College of International Cultural Exchanges (CICE) to recruit international students. In addition, the college offers both degree and non-degree courses in the Chinese language. The Service Center at the college provides accommodation, board and services to international students. Currently, the college has about 400 students from 20 countries.
Konall Culture Exchange, located only two hours south of Beijing, offers Mandarin language and Chinese culture courses to students of all ages and learning backgrounds. The school specializes in intensive one-to-one language programs and each student receives an individually tailored course that focuses on their specific needs. It strives to be different by keeping locations small and academics intense to ensure a true immersion environment each student is encouraged to push themselves to learn as much as possible. The city of Shijiazhuang, where Konall is based, Standard Mandarin is spoken on the street and there are very few foreigners. While quite modern, the city is thoroughly Chinese and has had very little western influence. Apart from fellow students, visitors will rarely see more than one other foreigner each month.
The Hutong School is located in a beautifully renovated courtyard on the north side of Beijing’s city center. This summer, a second branch will open in the bustling Sanlitun district. The academy offers two main programs: The Internship Program and the Intensive Chinese Program. The Internship Program consists of an internship at a partner company, two hours per day of Chinese classes, accommodation in an apartment in the center of the city, and the organization of weekly cultural activities and business lectures. The Intensive Chinese Program is similar, but instead of an internship and two hours of classes, students will be given four hours per day of Chinese classes.
EMW Cultural Immersions offers two intensive summer Mandarin camps in Dalian, Liaoning and Shenzhen, Guangdong. There is also a single Cantonese camp in Guangzhou, Guangdong, and a winter camp in each city. The month-long programs emphasize experiencing China outside of the classroom. Frequent field trips and excursions coupled with customized class options give students many opportunities to interact with locals. At the end of the programs, students have the option of traveling with their teacher to some of the major, and some hidden, destinations in China. Camps all include classroom materials, use of a cell phone, meals, home stays and basic admissions to all tour destinations. The program prides itself in the importance it places on teaching students useful and practical Chinese and then presenting them with real situations to use what they have learned.
For nearly a decade, Confucius Programs has been providing effective Mandarin Instruction Programs for thousands of students from over 30 countries. The goal is to provide life changing experiences and language skills that students need to succeed in China. The academy offers three integrated Chinese Educational Programs: Mandarin Chinese University Program, Mandarin Language and Culture University Program and Chinese University Degree Program at top universities and institutes in Beijing. Programs vary from three weeks for short term Mandarin crash courses to four year university bachelor programs. Besides taking care of enrollment and all the administration procedures for studying in China, Confucius Programs organizes cultural language trips to various areas of interest around Beijing and China.
Kate Sommers-Dawes is assistant editor at Language Magazine.