Jan 2015 in Shijiazhuang

Academics: 10
Support: 10
Fun: 7
Housing: 8
Safety: 10

I'm writing this review because it wasn't so easy to find up to date reviews of KCE, and I want to let anyone considering coming here to absolutely do it. I visted from Singapore and had a few requirements: (i) I work and needed a flexible program instead of the usuall 3 month summer fare, (ii) I was somewhere around HSK 5 and needed to know how to bridge the gap to 6, (iii) I had little interest in touristy stuff in BJ, my interest was purely in the language. The school more than matched expectations. Teachers were excellent - I had Helly and Dan Dan for 2-3 hours a day each, one for conversation and grammar and the other purely for HSK. In the end both taught me a bunch of grammar - I studied Mandarin (poorly) in school as a teenager but English is my first language and I needed help with basic sentence structure/rules. As for HSK 5, I loosely knew most words but it was helpful to run through and be sure I could pronounce, write and use each word. Most painfully I had to memorize passages but I finally understand why it is necessary to do this - it reinforces language patterns and makes you pay attention to individual words. If I had any questions about the language or China or anything at all I could simply raise them. The 1-1 is great in this respect. I'd say you have to be willing to chit chat and give away a bit of yourself though, but that's how you make friends. Food was fine, relatively little meat is served in China so be prepared for that. The cityscape is somewhat drab and the pollution is serious, I'd advise obtaining masks before arriving because they are not that widely available, but the people are great. A fellow student hooked us up with a bike group and we went cycling a few times in the nearby hills. Fellow students were fantastic too - a good diversity of folks, feels cosy cos there are usually less than ten of you, and tend to self select for interesting conversation. Made a few friends I very much hope to stay in touch with. Finally I stayed in an apartment with a helper to cook and clean, it was fine but think the helper is not necessary as food outside is very cheap even if you eat in restaurants. In conclusion, this program is totally legit and I would come back in a shot!

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would