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Hutong School: Study Chinese in Beijing & Shanghai
Why did you decide to study abroad with the Hutong School in China?
Ryan: I really wanted to improve my Chinese skills because I didn't think they were getting anywhere by learning in Australia. So decided that I needed to actually go over to China to improve them.
What made this study abroad experience unique and special?
Ryan: I was learning with like minded people who wanted to improve their Chinese and were in the same head-space as I was. In addition, I felt like I was really living in China, since I stayed in shared accommodation with other students and had to get the bus and find my way around.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Ryan: It has definitely given me more confidence and experience. I feel like I have seen another part of the world and better understand how it works. I feel that I have more work experience now and would be able to get job more easily due to this internship abroad.
What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering studying abroad in China?
Ryan: If you really want to learn the language you need at least three months over in the country. I had two weeks, which was awesome, but if you really want to learn the language you need to be there for a longer period of time.
Nico is 24 years old Italian with a master's degree in industrial engineering from University of Bologna He attended HS' classes both in Shanghai and Beijing. HS also provided for him a 5-month internship in Beijing.
Why did you decide to study abroad with the Hutong School?
Nicolo: During my time at university I always wanted to go somewhere outside my country for a short period to study. I could benefit from the ERASMUS project in Europe, of course, but listening to my friends' experiences I realized that what I really wanted was something completely different from a normal university in some EU capital. So I considered possible alternatives and I started to look for it in the best way the modern age can offer us: Googleing.
Surfing the Internet I found HS in China. I struggled a lot to finish my last exams to be ready to leave by summer, but I coped and I spent about 6 months in China, working in a great company. My only aim was to report everything I had done in my final thesis to get my master degree, I had never thought about studying and learning Chinese! The classes were pleasant and I truly enjoyed the fact that I could be understood in lots of daily situations.
What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city
Nicolo: I have been to both Shanghai and Beijing and couple of nights in Tianjing. Those cities are full of attractions and you don't need to go further to find something nice! But, especially around Beijing, there are lots of amazing places to spend a day! I would say that, personally speaking, the Great Wall is the most terrific! I went there on a trip with HS, I remember the site was on a lake, it was at the beginning of the autumn and the warm colors really moved me. Then I went there twice again but in different parts of the wall, with a friend and even alone--that time was December, the wind was blowing crazily and it was terribly cold. Nobody was there and I felt a feeling I'll never forget.
What is one piece of advice you'd give future HS-Bejiing students
Nicolo: Beijing is so easy, you don't lack anything, everything is at your fingertips. Future students don't need any advice or maybe just say: "get a bike!" Yes, with a bicycle Beijing becomes more beautiful than it already is! I loved going to work by bike in the morning, passing through the queueing cars stuck in the traffic jam or going back with the lights of the night. And every Sunday I used to take my bicycle and go snooping around for good sightseeing.
Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country.
Nicolo: Wow! I tried almost anything! Fried, boiled, roasted, steamed, raw! Meat or fish, rice or noodles, chopsticks or fork, everything was scrumptious! But what I preferred were, undoubtedly, dumplings! Jiaozi! Chinese dishes, are a bit "complicated" at the first approach because you don't know what to order or what they taste like. But once you get used to, you will love them! Delicious meals, even vegetarians can be easily satisfied! Just be careful if they're spicy!
Inneke is a 20-year-old student from Belgium. She went on an exchange program for about 6 months in China. She studies Interior Design at the Thomas More University in Mechelen and decided it was time for a new experience. During the final year of the bachelor's degree she took advantage of the opportunity to go abroad for one semester. Inneke immediately decided to go abroad to China!
Why did you decide to study abroad with Hutong School?
Inneke: At first I had to get along with the language, so the international coordinator from my University recommended taking a language course in advance to make it easier to go to University afterwards. The school gave me the website of Hutong School and left the choice to me if I wanted to go there or somewhere else.
While searching on the website, I immediately knew this was 'the place to be' to start language classes. Everything looked well organized and it made me feel comfortable to pick Hutong School to learn Chinese in Shanghai, a sparkling metropolis. Also the wide offer of activities gives you the opportunity to get along with the Chinese culture.
Chinese painting, calligraphy, weekend trips, cooking classes, ... everything was looking great. Most of the activities are for free, only the weekend trips and activities where they need to buy some materials are paying.
What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?
Inneke: That will definitely be Beijing! It's a beautiful historical city with loads of culture. There are many places you should visit for sure like the Summer palace, the Temple of Heaven, Tian'an Men and of course the amazing Great Wall! You can walk on it for hours while having such a stunning view.
Also don't forget to visit the big shopping street where you can buy whatever western brand you want. A recommendation from me (if you like to do something special) is the small side street of Wangfujing (the shopping street). It's the best place to try some fried insects like spiders, centipedes, scorpions and many more. You'll also see starfish, sea horses and snake on a stick ready to be eaten. A little weird in the beginning, but worth the visit. Beijing is great to visit, because it's so different from Shanghai. There's less big towers over here and more the low and small 'hutongs'. To discover the long history of China, visit Beijing!
What is one piece of advice you'd give to future Hutong School - Shanghai students?
Inneke: I'd say: ENJOY! You should meet as many people as possible to get to know Shanghai and discover the places where you'd otherwise never come. There's a great group spirit at school that motivates you even more to learn the language. People will try to speak with you all the time which is great to practice. Don't hesitate to choose for Hutong School Shanghai, it's a great language school with a lot of opportunities. There wasn't anything bad during my stay and classes at HS. Also a small tip to understand Chinese more quickly: put on the TV! :)
Favorite food you tried?
Inneke: I don't have to think a second about that: DUMPLINGS! It's amazingly delicious. It's a little bag of dough which is filled with vegetables, meat and soup. They're boiled for a few minutes and then it's a little bomb of tastes in your mouth :) You can have them stuffed with whatever you like.
Another one I liked to eat is 'hotpot'. While sitting at a round table, each person has its own pot with boiling (sometimes spicy) water. You have to order raw food as much as you want from the menu and boil it. It's nice thing to do with a group.
Malte is 24 years old and attended Hutong School from April to September 2012. He is originally from Germany but since the age of 16 he lived abroad regularly for longer periods of time. He loves traveling and discovering new cultures. Therefore he decided to live in China after graduating from university with a Bachelors degree in International Management & Corporate Finance.
Why did you decide to study abroad with Hutong School?
Malte: Because they have very friendly, encouraging and committed staff. It was always fun to come to the school and take Mandarin lessons there. You are always welcomed with a smile and they really care about how you are doing in China. Before classes you are already making some small talk to practice your newly learned Mandarin or just to catch up in English what is currently going on. And we also laughed a lot during classes. Their teachers are really friendly and flexible in their teaching so you can ask a lot of questions and really learn what you are interested in. I also think that their Sanlitun location is great. It is really close to the business district so you have a short way if you come straight from the office. And you can grab a drink with friends in one of the many bars around Sanlitun after class.
I decided to study abroad at Hutong School because I was looking for an adventure in an international environment and a professional school where I could learn Mandarin. I graduated from university and wanted to get out and see something new of the world. At the same time I wanted to gain job experience and have some time to plan what I would like to do in the future. Therefore I decided to work in China because it had already been my dream to live in an Asian culture for several years. Hutong School had excellent references from their former students so I knew in advance that they offer high quality courses and I don't need to be worried about being scammed somehow.
Favorite food you tried abroad?
Malte: That is a tough question! I still don't know all the things I ate or the names of all the dishes. Therefore it is hard to name my favorite. If you go to China you just have to be extremely open minded and try everything you come across. Chinese food is completely different from the dishes you know from your Chinese restaurant back home. Just have always dinner in a group so you can order many different dishes and have a try of everything. For me it was also part of the China experience to try more extreme dishes like scorpion kebab, 1000 year old eggs or pig intestines. Many dishes I tried were delicious so I have lots of favorites like Kung Pao chicken, Szechuan stir-fried green beans or Beijing duck.
What advice would you give to future CIEE-China teachers?
Malte: Don't be afraid! China can be intimidating sometimes. When I arrived I didn't speak a word of Mandarin. I didn't know anyone in Beijing. And I often got lost in the first days. And everything was just so different from what I was used to. But you meet new people so quickly - your roommates, your classmates, all the other HS students from around the world - that you make new friends instantly. Together you will have an amazing time in a great city. I just fell in love with Beijing! The mix between the traditional China with the Great Wall, temples and the street life in the hutongs and the modern China with skyscrapers, shopping malls and nightclubs is an intriguing mix. So my advice would be: don't be afraid, don't have prejudice & be open minded, and just enjoy a great time!
What was the highlight of your trip?
Malte: I think there is not just one highlight. The true highlight is that living in China gives you the chance to truly immerse yourself in a completely different world. As a tourist you are always rushed and you only see the top attractions. Living in China gives you the chance to see the places off the beaten track, use your newly learned Mandarin to interact with locals and experience the culture every single day. So the true highlight is that you wake up in the morning and you can discover the Chinese culture over and over again. I would also recommend students to travel a lot. I was amazed by the diversity across different parts of China. So discovering these cultural differences during my trips throughout China was a highlight as well.
About Hutong School
Hutong School provides study, volunteer, and internship options in Beijing and Shanghai, China. Students from all around the world join Hutong School for personalized Chinese lessons. Classes begin at the beginning of every month, and students have the chance to learn Chinese at their own pace!
Hutong School's professional internships are geared towards students looking for an international internship experience in Beijing. Hutong has partnered with national and multi-national companies to provide students with hands-on experience during their time abroad. Check out the options below to see which one is right for you!