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Konall Culture Exchange

About

Here at Konall Culture Exchange (KCE) we are an organization dedicated to open cultural and language exchange between students and China. KCE offers unique and personal 1-to-1 programs in China for students from all over the globe. We are founded on three core principles: Quality of Service, Educational Merit, and fulfilling each students Personal Goals. Because of these principles and the hardworking staff at KCE, every student who attends a program here at KCE comes away with a rewarding cultural experience.

There are many organizations that offer language study programs in China, but here at KCE, each student is treated as an individual, whose needs matter. We offer individualized intensive study programs, business programs, cultural exchanges, and travel tours at the right price and we're located only 1 hour from Beijing.

Founded
2006
Headquarters

No.88 Huai An Xi Lu Zhuo Da Mei Gui Yuan, 44-2-501
Shijiazhuang Shi
Hebei Sheng, 050091
China

Reviews

Default avatar
Steven
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent five weeks there and was really impressed. I had been self taught and really needed a push to get out of my comfort zone. My teacher certainly did that! After a 20 minute Skype evaluation before my arrival they had my level nailed. That's the beauty of one on one teaching, your instructor adjusts to your ability level - and you can't hide in the back of the class either! The only thing I would do differently is stay with a host family rather than have my own apartment to intensify the immersion experience. Speaking of which, the entire time I in Shijiazhuang the only foreigners I saw were my fellow students, so this school is a terrific way to really focus on learning Mandarin. Highly recommended, and if my wife will let me I plan to go again next year.

What was your funniest moment?
One day I was on a bus to school, a girl came to me and started talking to me in English. Later I said Nihao to her. She said wow, your Chinese is so good. Then she started to speak Chinese very fast and I could not understand at all. It was really funny.
Default avatar
Lisa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I came to KCE with no understanding of the Chinese language at all. The teachers are quick to pick up on your level and the most appropriate learning style for each student. I had 1-on-1 lessons with Mandy for two months, and I cannot fault her teaching style at all. She kept the lessons engaging and never hesitated to help if it seemed like I needed extra support.
I have really enjoyed my stay at KCE, and have grown to love the city of Shijiazhuang. I fully recommend KCE to anyone who is interested in a full immersion into the Chinese culture .The benefit of Shijiazhuang is that there are very few tourists, so you are forced to use Chinese in the streets, as well as during class hours.
I will miss this school and city very much. I am already making plans to return!

Default avatar
Byran
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I’m now studying Chinese in KCE and I truly loved every minute! Everyone from the teachers, to the staff were fantastic! Everyone was very accommodating, warm, friendly and supportive of me learning Mandarin.
The 1-on-1 intensive lessons were a new experience to me, but I quickly discovered how efficient this learning method is for learning Mandarin, probably even any language.This type of program is intense and the student will be pushed to learn as much as possible in the time that they are here.
The atmosphere at KCE is just very informal and relaxed, it feels a bit like high school where you just go to class and have some fun afterwards. The students and teachers at KCE are also very kind and they organize a lot of activities during the week and excursion trips during the weekends.
I highly recommend going to KCE if you are interested in intensive (but fun) Chinese learning at a school with flexibility, great teachers and staff, and international students. Shijiazhuang is also a very beautiful city with great landscapes and opportunities to explore.

Default avatar
Rebecca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I just got back 2 months ago from studying advanced Chinese abroad here for four months. KCE is an immersion school offering one-to-one classes from beginner to advanced as well as cultural study and HSK prep. It is a small school with more students in summer but fewer in spring/fall. If you want to make friends and do lots of cultural activities, go in summer. If you want to focus on studying go in fall/spring.
Classes are one-to-one so the teacher's attention is focused on you and personally tailored to your needs. You can study at whatever level, at any pace and on any topic you like from grammar and speaking, to poems or reading the newspaper. The teachers will speak mostly Chinese, but if you are a beginner, they can speak good English too. I used the school's intermediate to advanced textbooks and they were great, if a bit outdated, with many interesting topics. I added hundreds of useful words to my vocabulary, improved my speaking and listening from HSK 2 to HSK 4/5 and improved my reading and writing from HSK 3/4 to HSK 5. I'd rate classes a 10/10.
I lived with a host family a twenty-minute bike ride from the school. When living with a host family you will eat many different amazing Chinese foods, be immersed in the Chinese culture and practice Chinese outside class, while teaching the host family son/daughter some English in exchange. I loved teaching my host family's daughter many basic words and seeing her English improve. My host family was really nice always helping me out and keeping me well fed. They even took me traveling during National Holiday Week to the host mother's hometown deep in the beautiful Chinese countryside. I had an amazing experience and would rate living with a host family a 10/10.
There are also dorms which I stayed in during my first week. They are decent but spartan. You will have 2 beds, 1-2 desks, and 1-2 closets and in summer you may have a roommate. There is also a bathroom with a shower and western toilet, a washing machine and a small kitchen. If you are only staying for a month the dorms are okay, but otherwise I would go with a host family. I'd rate dorms a 7.5/10.
Now Shijiazhuang is real China, meaning there are few English speakers, less western stores, and almost no foreigners. You will be completely immersed in Chinese culture rather than western influenced China like Shanghai. This means plenty of chances to use your Chinese outside of class and learn about real Chinese lives. It will be slightly less crowded as the city has several million people not 23 million and everything (save western stuff) will be really cheap. There are also still plenty of modern accommodations (buses, subway lines, shopping malls, parks, etc.) The weather is also pretty decent, not too hot in summer with only some rain and cold in the fall. As for pollution while summer, fall and spring are usually pretty good, between mid November and March the pollution is much higher but gradually this is getting better. For the time I was there (August-early December) I'd rate Shijiazhaung an 8.5/10
To sum up this is an amazing school, that provides you with a great immersive Chinese language experience. If you are prepared to live in real China and embrace Chinese culture while greatly improving your language skills then this is the place for you.

Default avatar
Gleb
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I've spent two months in late 2016 studying Chinese in KCE while living with a host family. In short, I've found it to be a very cost-efficient way of improving one's (especially spoken) Mandarin Chinese. Accordingly, I believe it would be useful to mention several general points about the program:

First of all, as to why I chose this school in the first place, there are several notable reasons (in no particular order):
1. Comparatively low costs - both in terms of tuition fee and in terms of other expenses, it would be rather difficult to find a more cost-efficient option.
2. Flexibility - while despite the mentioned costs being rather low, they are naturally higher than what one would pay for a similar period in an average Chinese university. However, as I only had a very specific time period during which I could study, the fact that one can begin to study whenever one wants, and to study for as long as one finds suitable, is a most valuable thing. Hence, if you aren't very flexible in terms of time, KCE is a very good option.
3. Private one-on-one lessons - which is the reason to said flexibility, as you do not need to wait for others, with a similar level of Chinese to enroll for the program. Yet, more importantly, that means that you get to choose what and how to study, not having to depend on other students, as the teacher's attention doesn't need to be divided among several students. Thus, the progress is much more significant compared to studying in groups, let alone in university classes.
4. The option to live with a host family (almost for free) - as I have been interested in Chinese culture for quite a while, I found this to be a rare opportunity to experience it at first-hand, away from the history books, university classes, (pseudo-)historical films, and the things one sees as a tourist. What's more, this option could save one quite a lot of money, as it is provided for a rather small one-time fee, in addition to teaching the family some English. Of course, it's also a good way to practice your Chinese.
5. Shijiazhuang is one of the (few) places where standard Mandarin is spoken. While it is safe to assume that teachers in other schools do also speak standard Mandarin, yet in case you wish to practice it on the street, you may not find it quite as easy, given the local accent and/or dialect. Hence it is easier to actually start using your Chinese in such an environment (the standard tones and pronunciation are difficult enough as it is). Yet I must note, that it is true mostly for Shijiazhuang city, and less for the adjacent towns and cities (which are also considered to be part of greater Shijiazhuang), it might also not be true for people of the older generation and to migrants from other places.
6. There are very few foreigners in Shijiazhuang, hence it contributes to one's immersion in Chinese language and culture, and locals are more curious about foreigners, thus it is easier to enter into conversations with them, unlike Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou.

Secondly, the application process (if one is to call it so) went rather smoothly, and the school staff was always ready to answer my numerous questions, and help me (to the extent that they could) with the visa application process. Upon arrival, they also dealt with the different bureaucratic formalities. Generally speaking, the staff was very friendly and helpful, and to the best of my knowledge they can also help with daily things, such as shopping, getting a SIM card, going to the bank etc., but I didn't require their help with that.

As for the program itself, it included four hours a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The curriculum, by and large, depends on the student - accordingly, apart from spoken Chinese, I also asked to study some classical Chinese and Chinese literature. Quite frankly, I was surprised that they agreed to that, since it is not their field of expertise, and yet they did what they could to help me with that as well. The program, as its name suggests, is indeed rather intensive, and yet each student can balance it according to his or her abilities. Basically, it seems to me that one's progress depends to a great extent on one's willingness to learn and be proactive, hence I do believe that the intensity is not a bad thing, as it encourages one to try harder. I believe that I've made good progress during my stay there (although maintaining it is not easy once one leaves China), perhaps most importantly it allowed me to really start speaking (albeit with various mistakes), thanks to the immersive environment - both in school and at home, something that I was not able to achieve after more than four years of studying Chinese on my own and in the university (although, truth be told, these years made it much easier to achieve said progress).

Regarding the homestay, I lived with a pair in their 30s and their small child, not far from the school. I had my own room and ate with the host family (except lunch on weekdays - it's served in school). Occasionally, I helped them a bit with English, but I still had to speak Chinese all the time, which helped to further advance my Chinese. The host family was very nice and helpful, and I had quite a few fascinating conversations with them, getting to know the realities of life in China. It was truly a remarkable experience, and I recommend it to anyone willing to learn about "real" China.

Finally, as for the city itself, I've found it to be a very nice city and life there is both cheap and convenient. Prices are low compared to the major Chinese cities, and definitely compared to "the West", and public transportation is both cheap and efficient (well, except rush hour). I didn't care much about entertainment, but I know that it is rather abundant, but it is indeed, very "Chinese" in nature - KTVs, restaurants, bars, film theaters, shopping malls etc. For those interested in shopping, apart from the (rather pricey) malls, there are a few markets and even a retail market, where one can buy just about everything (just don't forget to bargain).
However, there is an unfortunate factor one should consider - the pollution in the city is one of the worst in China (and in the world), but in most cases, appropriate respirators can help.

And some general tips for conclusion:
1. Figure out what your study goals are before going to China, it will help you to progress much faster and much more efficiently.
2. Be proactive, it will make the lessons much more interesting and productive than just studying from the textbook. Find materials you would like to study - be it internet videos, stories, articles, poems, songs or any other thing.
3. Come open minded, especially if you decide to live with a host family. Don't insist on judging things based on "Western" principles and standards, just accept things as they are and try to treat it as an anthropological experience. It's not that you shouldn't express your opinion, just do it with tact, avoiding preaching and excessive criticism - this way you can both avoid unpleasant situations and talk about interesting, even controversial, topics (I was actually surprised by it to an extent).
4. Get appropriate respirators ("masks") before coming to China (especially if you plan on going in Winter), although you can get them in pharmacies - they do tend to sell out. Make sure that the respirator matches the N95 or FFP3 standards. If you have respiratory problems, I would also suggest consulting your physician before going.
5. Get a VPN (preferably, before actually coming to China) - although it won't help your immersion, it will potentially save you a lot of trouble.
6. If possible, study some Chinese before coming to China, I think that the environment might be a bit too immersive for absolute beginners, but there is no harm in trying.
7. Try to avoid using English unless absolutely necessary.

tl;dr -
A most recommended program. It's cost-efficient, flexible, immersive and offers the option of staying with a host family. The staff is helpful and friendly, the program is intensive but helps achieve significant progress in a short time. The homestay is a great way to practice Chinese, to learn about "real" China and to save money. The prices in the city are low and life there is convenient, but it's very polluted. If you decide to go, figure out your study goals in advance, be proactive during the lessons, be open minded about things, get respirators in advance, get a VPN in advance, try to study some Chinese before going and avoid using English while in China.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

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

Lawrence Jayatilaka

I'm a student studying Arabic and Mandarin in the UK. I love travelling and exploring new cultures and places, and genuinely really enjoy learning Chinese.

Why did you pick this program?

I had a look around online to see what kind of programs were available, and KCE stood out as the best option for me. Others were far more expensive, less flexible and involved far larger class sizes.

KCE is great because you can come and stay for as long as you like, and because the classes are all 1-to-1, you can be flexible with the time and topics of your classes. For instance, if you need to take a day off for whatever reason, you can talk to your teacher and reschedule, and they are very understanding and helpful with such requests. I remember doing this on a few occasions so that I could watch the football world cup!

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions or future path?

Shijiazhuang, where KCE is based, is a truly Chinese city, with very little Western influence. This means that very few people speak English to a high standard, which forces you to use the Chinese you learn in class in everyday life.

This really helps accelerate your learning. I have studied abroad elsewhere and one of the main problems is stepping outside your comfort zone and not relying on your native language too much. KCE is perfect in this respect.

Staff Interviews

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

Sophie Zhang

Job Title
Head teacher at Konall Culture Exchange
Sophie Zhang is the head teacher at Konall Culture Exchange. She has been teaching at KCE for the last seven years and strives to keep her class fun, flexible and professional.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the Konall Culture Exchange team.

My most proud memory involves a female student who came from Singapore. When she first arrived she could only speak very basic Chinese. After several months study at KCE, she said she had to go back to her own country and told us that she would be taking the HSK exam in Singapore.

After a few months, I got an email from her expressing thanks to KCE. What's more, she had attached her scores from HSK exams 4-6. She appreciated KCE team’s encouragement and help, which helped her pass all the exams smoothly, and also appreciated that the KCE team made her feel at home.

That moment made me feel honored to be a teacher at KCE. Students and the KCE team trust each other and are friends with one other. Our students are amazing, we are proud of them, and at the same time I am very proud to be part of the Konall Culture Exchange team.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

My favorite trip was in the winter of 2011, all of the teachers and students of KCE went to Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang province. Harbin is known as “The Ice City” in winter and is covered with white snow. The temperatures can reach -20 to -30 degrees celcius. It's a good place to see the snow and the ice lanterns.

The students and the teachers played “hide and seek” in the ice castle, threw snowballs in the white world, slid down from the high hill, drank beer around the stove, and sat together for warmth in the temperatures as low as -30 celcius. Every scene and every moment is still so fresh in my mind that it seems like it happened yesterday. Most importantly, all of the teachers and the students had a lot of fun. The white snow witnessed our friendship, but also witnessed our youth and dreams, so this trip to the “The Ice City” is a good memory in my life.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Location: The city of Shijiazhuang where we are based is an excellent location for immersion study. There is very little western influence and even fewer foreign residents. Pure Mandarin is spoken on the street and very few locals speak English.

This means you really will be forced to use the language you learn in class on a daily basis when out and about. This kind of practical, daily, 24/7 immersion is the perfect environment for motivated students that want to make fast progress.

Flexibility: One of the many benefits of our program is the flexibility of the schedule. Students are free to choose their own start and end dates and can start at any date and stay for as long as they like.

Our intensive program is private 1-to-1 classes. This type of program is intense and the student will be pushed to learn as much as possible in the time that they are here. They will receive an individually tailored curriculum that addresses their own specific goals.

Atmosphere: The atmosphere here at Konall is very active and relaxed. In class, teachers teach in a professional way and students work very hard. After class, teachers and students are like friends. We often gather together speaking Chinese, traveling, cooking and going to KTV.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

For the seven years since I graduated from university, I have been working at Konall. During this period I’ve changed and improved a lot. Firstly, my teaching ability has improved greatly. We have our own range of teaching models and methods for different students at Konall, and are willing to develop new teaching methods and plans accordingly. This pushes me to keep learning and improving my abilities as a teacher

Secondly, my English has improved a lot. At Konall, although we advocate a Chinese environment and atmosphere, sometimes you’ll also need to communicate in English. So my English is continually improving. What’s more I have gained a lot of knowledge about other countries. The students here come from all over the world.

Every country and every nation has its own unique culture and customs, many of which I have witnessed firsthand, among them I have experienced the open American, romantic French and passionate Brazilian cultures. These are just a number of reasons why I love working at KCE.