Alumni Spotlight: Michael Danahy


Michael is a graduate student with international experience both working and traveling. He is constantly broadening his horizons and looking for opportunities to pursue his interests.

Why did you choose this program?

I was looking to improve upon my Chinese (Mandarin) language ability and I came across the Hutong School website. I reached out to see if I would be a good fit for them and if they would be a good for me. I reasoned that, if I would go to China, my Chinese would infinitely improve and I would be able to experience the competitiveness and emerging Chinese market, the country's culture and its history; all of which was highlighted in the Hutong School's Intensive Language program.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

What didn't they help me with? My consultant was well versed in what was required in regards to documents, travel visa applications, and the proper procedure that was needed to make my trip possible. I only had to get my personal affairs in order (money, flights, communication, etc.) and maintain accountability to meet deadlines.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My advice would to be open-minded and don't let fear or comfort prevent you from taking opportunities such as this. International traveling requires that you be open to new challenges and be able to meet them with understanding and compassion. Physically going to a different country and experiencing a culture distinctly different from your own provides you with a new perspective and improves your adaptability to things unfamiliar, which allows you to grow in ways you would never have thought of before.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The Hutong School staff will offer an initial assessment of your learning goals, strengths and weaknesses in the Chinese language - this will tell them what information they need to determine what is the best program for you. You may opt for a 1-on-1 personalized instructor if you prefer or you would be placed in a small classroom with students that are comparable to your current level. Your classes will include all language basics (speech, writing, reading).

Before or after classes, depending on your availability, you have free rein to explore the city and visit any number of attractions or simply hangout with friends or study. Depending on your instructor, you can expect exams and casual conversations to determine your progression.

Every week the school will have cultural activities that range from cooking and eating exotic Chinese cuisines, traveling to famous markets or landmarks, or welcome parties for the new students.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was initially hesitant to make such a dramatic move as this would be the farthest I have ever traveled, going to a place vastly different from where I am from and for the longest time away from everything that was familiar to me, and I was doing all of this by myself. After the weeks of correspondence, I had enough confidence in myself and trusted the school implicitly that this was going to be an opportunity I would not want to pass up.

Being active with the school and making the qualitative friendships I did while I was there helped deal with homesickness or feelings of insecurity.

Do you have any last words for any future Hutong School participants?

The effort you put into this experience is what you will get out of it. There is an obvious impact China has on today's markets and will continue to have in the future, be it business or technology or other sectors, and having the experience of living in China and learning Chinese is a great advantage to anyone even remotely interested. By investing in this experience, you are investing in yourself and your future, so it would be in your best interest to work hard and take advantage of this opportunity as best as you can.

Hutong School provided me with the highest quality education and gave me a chance to be with people from around the world who shared the same interests and passions I had. The classmates and staff members I was with on a daily basis were the most impressive, talented, and kindest people I have ever met and I still regularly keep in touch with. The school works incredibly hard to help your experience work as best as possible so you owe it to yourself to make that same commitment.