What position do you hold at Bridging the Gap China? What has been your career path so far?
Mark: I’m the Course Director based in Kunming, China. I graduated from Bristol University in 2007 and went straight into working at Morgan Stanley, where I remained for 3 years.
After that, I decided to move to China to learn Mandarin and chose Kunming due to its favorable climate and the fact that very few people speak English there. I spent 3 years learning Mandarin in Kunming, while at the same time establishing Bridging the Gap China.
The idea for Bridging the Gap China came about through personal experience of spending too much time in the classroom learning
Mandarin, which I found to be counterproductive. I quickly realized that the best way to learn was to travel with a teacher, thereby allowing plenty of time to practice in everyday situations.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Mark: The most enjoyable and rewarding part about my role is seeing the students enjoy learning Mandarin like I did and still do! Mandarin Chinese is one of my passions and being able to create a course that others find useful as well as enjoyable is hugely rewarding.
What are you most excited about as far as Bridging the Gap China?
Mark: I’m particularly excited about our 2-month course and introducing more longer-term courses and more intensive courses, which will be great for the more dedicated Mandarin learners. Our 1-month course provides a great taster in the Chinese language, but to make real progress, 2 or 3 months are required. This way you get the chance to further explore the intricacies of the language and especially the unique character writing system.
What makes the Bridging the Gap China program so unique and special?
Mark: The most unique aspect about Bridging the Gap China courses, and which sets us apart from others, is the fact that a teacher accompanies students absolutely everywhere, providing non-stop tuition. In this respect, it is really down to each individual how much they get out of the program – the more you put in, the more you get out. I think this aspect is fantastic, as the more dedicated students will be rewarded by getting more for their money!
What tips do you have for someone considering a gap year experience?
Mark: When I went on my gap year it was all about traveling around and experiencing as many parts of the world as possible. Nowadays, it is far more important to incorporate something constructive into ones gap year plans. If I had had the opportunity to travel and learn Mandarin I would’ve jumped at it! I would say the most important part of a gap year is to have fun exploring other cultures, especially cultures that are so far removed from Western cultures. China isn’t for everyone, but being such a vast country with such a rich cultural history, there is so much to offer!