Bridging the Gap China

Bridging the Gap China

About

We provide specially designed courses which combine Mandarin learning with traveling around China, predominantly the Yunnan province.

Our teachers travel with students throughout the course providing the ultimate environment for Mandarin learning. Within the course there is a mixture of formal classroom lessons and informal tuition outside the classroom.

In order to get a grasp of the language and culture, we feel it is of paramount importance that students experience 'Real China', hence the reason we have chosen Yunnan province as the main spot for traveling. Yunnan provides the greatest ethnic diversity of all China's provinces, it has the best climate, most spectacular scenic spots and also has great food!

Founded
2011

Reviews

Default avatar
George
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great programme. Before coming out i was fairly nervous about how i would cope; however, from both an organisational and teaching perspective, i needn't have feared!

I spent two months in china: one in kunming, and the other travelling around yunnan. During this time, i was housed in excellent hostels; had a personal tutor who was exceptional and clearly found teaching mandarin to be his vocation; got to your around the most beautiful province of china; and generally had a really great time.

If I was ever in any difficulties, either my tutor, callan, or the english ex-pats who ran the shop, mark and john, would be immediately on the phone to sort it out.

Don't be fooled by the online pessimists: learning mandarin is possible, especially if you go about by living the language and culture. For this reason, bridging the gap china is a fantastic choice. In just under two months, i have learnt mandarin to a far-better-than-just-the-basics level: that is to say, I can hold a conversation and am in a genuine position to express my opinions in complex sentences. The reason for this is without a doubt my tutor, who gave me a fantastic insight into the Chinese language and the Chinese culture.

Many thanks to mark, john and callan for the experience with which they provided me!

What would you improve about this program?
One thing: scrap Beijing! To any of you who go out to china expecting Beijing to be the archetype of Chinese culture: it isn't! Yunnan is an incredible place; if you are going just as a small group, I should suggest that you miss out Beijing and spend more time there.
Default avatar
Tom
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

We travelled round Yunnan, one of the most beautiful provinces in China, with tutoring in the mornings and visiting sites in the afternoons. I was up to a pretty good standard of Mandarin by the end of just a month, and have come away with some really fantastic memories. The tutors/guides Cellan and Jimmy were great fun, and had some pretty good chat as well. If you're going to visit China and want to learn Chinese from scratch, I cannot recommend this highly enough. The most stunning scenery, lovely people and really productive lessons.

What would you improve about this program?
Spend longer out there, to really get good at the Mandarin. 1 month only gives you a basis.
Default avatar
Fergus
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible time with BtGC. I found the staff to be excellent and the teaching standard very high. The price was actually cheaper than a lot of other company's. Furthermore, after running in too trouble loosing my phone our guide/teacher went beyond what I would have expected of him to help me. We traveled to several lovely locations and saw things that I will remember for my entire life. I heartily recommend a trip to china and found BtGC and excellent company to do it with.

What would you improve about this program?
The program is what you make of it. I personally have no complaints and had a great time. You need to be able to do some work for a relatively stress free teaching experience for you and the teacher. Choose your traveling companions wisely.

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Tom Scrope

Tom Scrope is a student at Oxford University, who spent one month with BTGC in April/May 2013, as part of his Gap Year. Before this, he was at school at Ampleforth College, in Yorkshire, UK. He is interested in politics, and reads Theology and Philosophy at university.
Tom Scrope, 1-month gap year Bridging the Gap China participant

Why did you decide to do a 1-month gap year program in China with Bridging the Gap China?

I really wanted to do something productive with my gap year, and have something to show for it at the end, rather than just slouch around, spending money on travelling (which I did do for a bit as well).

Also, because the course combines both tutoring and travelling, it didn’t just feel like going back to school. Having the tutor as your guide essentially means you are practicing your Chinese all the time – whether ordering lunch, or in a bar – without even really realising it.

Coming back and starting to apply for internships and jobs, it has been so useful as something to make me stand out from the crowd. Everyone has pretty generic exam results, but organising off your own back to go and learn such a useful skill in your year off, really does look fantastic to any prospective employer.

It also gives you something interesting to talk about in your interviews – I think that was one of the reasons my Oxford interviews went well: I had something other than just work or sports teams to talk about.

What was the most memorable moment of the experience?

My favourite place was definitely Shaxi, a most amazing Silk Road town, in the middle of nowhere. It was the one time where I really felt I was seeing the old China – without all the reconstructed history from after the Cultural Revolution.

Other highlights probably included the snaking road up the side of the Jade Dragon Mountain, just about Li Jiang I think. It really matched any of the roads one sees on Top Gear, and to cycle down it was incredible.

Then riding wild horses on the top of the mountain – no saddle, just some rugs – was pretty special too.

Another great moment was in our Chinese cookery course. Having still not quite got to grips with chopsticks (another useful skill we learned), we decided to have a competition to try and flick up food with the chopstick into our mouths. Cue much hilarity as Fergus and I failed again and again, before Jimmy, one of our guides, went and did it in one!

If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?

Maybe go with more people. While having just a few meant we essentially got private tutoring, it would have been great to be with a good bunch of people.

Also, if I had time, I would have liked to do 2 months, as 1 month is not really enough to get more than an introduction into Chinese.

Tell us about one person you met.

Cellan, our erstwhile guide and tutor, was probably the main reason for the success of the trip. In terms of the actual teaching he was brilliant, taking us from scratch to a reasonably high standard in just a month.

However, we never felt really like we were working at school: on non-travel days we would probably only spend 3 hours in a classroom, and most of the rest of the teaching would occur out-and-about.

This was so much more useful, as it meant the first Chinese we learnt was not just learning declensions but how to actually order food and drink, or how to introduce oneself.

However, it was not all work. Cellan was a great lad, and we went out to a bar with him and Jimmy most evenings. He introduced us to some of the hidden gems of Chinese food, which we definitely would not have gone for without his encouragement.

Even better was that he was totally flexible to what we wanted to do. For example, at the top of the snow mountain, when we asked if we could go horse riding, he found some locals who were willing to give us a ride on their horses.

Both Jimmy and Mark were seriously good fun as well – Jimmy teaching us some of the more ‘practical’ Chinese, for example, and Mark getting us along to play with him in the local expat football team.

There was never a dull moment throughout my trip!

Any tips for students considering this program?

Don’t be worried about the locals: they are all absolutely lovely and really want to help. Compared to some others (eg. In Vietnam) you also don’t feel they are always trying to rip you off as well.

Don’t pack too much stuff as there is quite a lot of moving between places. Sturdy trainers would probably be a good idea as well!

Any Chinese you can learn before will be a help, as the they can really work around your ability: I had done a course in London for about a month and this made it all much easier.

Main advice is definitely do it.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

What position do you hold at Bridging the Gap China? What has been your career path so far?

Mark Cottenham

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!