Bright Learners, Big Country

Kristal Bivona returns from China full of its promise

China is the future.

After a short time in one of its gargantuan metropolises, it becomes clear that China is banking on the future by investing in education, bullet trains, reforestation, and massive construction projects. Students in the U.S. are banking on China’s future by studying Mandarin and pursuing studies on the mainland. Studying abroad in China is a fantastic and often overlooked opportunity: the Chinese people are friendly and welcoming to foreigners; Chinese cities have very little street crime and are much safer than many American cities; the Chinese culture takes studying quite seriously, and students can expect an excellent level of education.

While China is the future, it takes seriously the duty to preserve and remember the past. Old structures such as the famous Great Wall and the smaller Ming Dynasty Wall in Beijing are currently and regularly reinforced and repaired, as are old Buddhist temples and other ruins from past dynasties. Incredible museums tell the narrative of China’s history. Students can go from cosmopolitan urban centers replete with Starbucks stores and fast food chains to secluded and quiet pagodas tucked into a lush green landscape.

The down side to China? American students might miss their Google, their Facebook, their Youtube. However, a university or private party VPN can get around internet censorship. It’s a small price to pay for the unforgettable experience of spending time in China with friends, learning the language and the culture.

Chinese Connections

EF Beijing
EF Beijing offers not just a great setting for studying Mandarin, but for experiencing the rich culture of the city and country through using the language in real world situations, from basic conversation, to shopping in a Chinese marketplace, to exploring the amazing architecture of the city. EF was named Beijing 2008 Olympic Games official Language Training Service Supplier, training 5,000 Chinese citizens, including members of the Olympic Committee, judges and volunteers. The school is a bridge, allowing students to get to know the people behind the language.

The school welcomes students of all ages from every corner of the world and the curriculum uses an intensively structured academic program along with an array of educational and social activities, creating a fast and interesting methodology. All teachers are highly qualified and are certified with professional designations and high academic achievement. Their new school offers modern facilities with the latest in language learning technology combined with fun activities arranged by the school.

With ten years of experience and more than 20 campuses across the country, iMandarin is one of the leading Chinese language providers in China. iMandarin is an affiliate of Neworld Education and is publishing its own learning manuals to match their students’ expectations. They offer a full range of services, group classes, one-to-one classes, cultural classes, Skype lessons, and summer camps for all ages, levels and backgrounds. They offer lessons in Chinese languages, English, Japanese, Korean, Thai, German, and French. Free placement tests and demo classes are available.

Intercultural Student Experiences (ISE)
Teachers of Mandarin bring language to life when they travel to China with their students. ISE’s educational travel program to China immerses students in the language and culture while providing opportunities for them to engage with Chinese people and speak Mandarin. A local bilingual guide accompanies the group full-time, providing valuable insights into culture and language. Visiting the Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square, the Bund, and the Terracotta Army provide classic experiences. On top of that, students are inspired by the personal encounters they have. Students live with host families in Beijing, where they can enjoy a cooking lesson and play ping-pong with neighbors in the courtyard. In a rural village, a lesson in traditional farmers’ painting by the artist himself evolves into a visit to his home. The canals of Suzhou are beautiful while lasting memories are made in an afternoon at a local school. Students stretch their language skills and catch a glimpse of real life in China’s most populous city when they dine with families at home in Shanghai.

Sino Language Gateway
SLG is a reputable, privately-run, Chinese summer camp provider. SLG has been dedicated to promoting two-way language & cultural exchange between the students of China and the U.S. since 2003.

Building on a long-term presence in both countries, SLG has close connections with local communities, and a deep understanding of the intercultural, health, and safety issues inherent to study in another country. Programs are designed to provide excellence in language study with ample opportunity to interact with local children and to reflect on intercultural encounters in structured settings. The idea is to make sure what students have learned is not just a theory, but a practical ability to communicate in the language, to understand, and to make themselves understood.

The following programs are available:

• For students: summer camp in China: Chinese language and culture Immersion, Leadership & Service; one on one online live Chinese lesson; gap year exchange program in Shanghai.

• For educators: K–12 Superintendent delegation to China; Chinese teacher or program leader professional development program.

• For U.S. K–12 schools: Customized school trip to China; Exchange program/sister school setup with a Chinese school; Joint-diploma program with a Chinese school.

Where There Be Dragons
From programs that focus on China’s economic development, to programs that inspect China’s ethnic diversity, to courses designed around intensive language instruction, Dragons has a 21-year history of mapping out and delivering programs of exceptional quality and intimacy. No other organization has been in China as long as Dragons, with as many programs, and with such a sustained presence.

Each Dragons China program is limited to twelve students and is staffed with three primary instructors as well as appropriate language staff. Dragons instructors are much more than chaperones: they are informed educators who teach — academically and experientially — about the history, culture, economy, arts, politics, and development issues of modern China. On language-intensive programs, professionally trained language instructors often provide one-on-one instruction for as many as four to six hours of teaching each day.

Program components include: homestay, trekking, leadership, independent study project, language study, service learning, survey of development Issues, comparative religion, and rugged travel.

Kristal Bivona (pictured here with one of her English students) is assistant editor at Language Magazine. Photos with this story are by Vinicius Praxedes and Marco Mitrovici.