Overall I had a blast at Hutong School in Shanghai, and the fact that I only stayed for 2 months was regrettable.
For starters, whatever the teachers do, they do so in the interests of their students. They are professional and they try their best to cater to our needs and preferences. My laoshi kept me interested and engaged in every class, and she gave me more than I requested. She helped me to reconnect with my Chinese heritage that I went home with a newfound appreciation for the culture and the elegance of the language.
What the city has to offer, from a variety of Chinese cuisine to innumerable scenic and historical spots, is also a reason why this programme is highly recommended. Although Shanghai may not be as formal as Beijing, the culture is still very much alive there. One of my personal favourites was the palpable solidarity among the elderly during Guangchang Wu! In addition, the public transportation is superb, so it’s extremely easy to get around in Shanghai as well as to explore out of Shanghai.
Participating in school activities is a must! Some can be overpriced, but there are plenty of them to pick and choose from. If I hadn’t gone to any, I wouldn’t have been able to further experience the true lifestyle and culture of Chinese society, and I wouldn’t have met some of the most interesting people coming from all corners of the world.
Certainly, not everything went smooth and perfect. In my case, the application process took longer than necessary. Should the same thing happen to you, I recommend calling the office directly to get immediate and clearer response to your queries. Another tip is to contact the programme director or your consultant in private in case of any urgent matters since not all staff are readily available to assist 24/7.
For me, the trouble at the beginning was totally worth the fun and learning I experienced in Shanghai.
What would you improve about this program?
1. Better and more thorough explanation of the selected programme (early notice would be greatly appreciated)
Talking from my personal experience, I felt indignant when I was told that my class would have to be cut short from 4 to 3 hours, as the status of my class had changed from group to private with my classmate's departure. I understand that school policy dictates so, however, I was told at the start that I was entitled to a 4-hour class, and I was not made aware of the different permitted class hours for private and group.
If only this detail had been highlighted to me on the first day, I would have been happier to abide by the change.
2. Better information concerning housing
When I came, the bedding was not clean and the AC was broken. It would be great if a room check is done before the new student's arrival, and perhaps they can be notified about things they may have to buy for themselves (e.g. new set of bedding, towels, etc.). If this is too much work, existing occupants of the apartment can help with giving this kind of information to their new roommate.
3. Make textbooks cheaper
I think having to pay 180 kuai for a beginner textbook is unreasonable. I know there are textbooks that are much cheaper, selling at 30 kuai each, and those are textbooks for higher levels, and they seem to have much more content in comparison with those for beginners. It would be nice if the disparity can be minimised.
In conclusion, I think applicants have the right to be fully informed with regards to what they should be expecting when they come to Shanghai. If this is done well, students will surely have a better experience of studying at Hutong.