Hutong School claim to assist you with the Visa process, however I found this to be false. After 3 attempts applying to the London Embassy with the documents Hutong School provided, I was ‘advised’ to make false bookings on booking.com and tell the embassy that I was staying there, in hindsight I should have just booked a hotel rather than staying in accommodation that the school provided.
Upon arrival at Shanghai I was left at the airport for 20 minutes on my own with no contact from Hutong, after a few attempts I finally got through to the school and was told they were on their way.
The school describes the accommodation as ‘modern, clean and very comfortable’, and ‘in every apartment we house 3 to 4 students’. It can be argued that not one aspect of this is true. Throughout my month stay I was housed with only 1 other student, who was twice my age and was doing an internship whereas I was doing the Mandarin lessons. Due to the nature of the internships I rarely saw him as he left very early and returned very late. So in essence I lived on my own which is not something I would have signed up for had I known beforehand. To call the accommodation modern and clean is an overstatement, upon arrival the flat was filthy, especially in the kitchen. The only cooking facilities were a half-broken microwave and a hob. The photos online are of one select flat in Shanghai, my flat was nothing like this. I made the school aware of my concerns, however I was told that my flat was ‘normal’ for Shanghai, and there was nothing they could do to move me to a different flat. I went to a friend’s flat from Hutong a couple of times and theirs was like the photos, so I suppose it’s potluck whether you live in the accommodation described. Had I known the actual living conditions and who I was (or wasn’t) living with, I would have definitely just booked a hotel, considering the school accommodation is actually more expensive than a hotel in Shanghai.
The 4 hour Mandarin lessons however, were actually very good. I only had 2 other students in my class throughout the month along with 2 different teachers meaning that the four hours didn’t seem as long as I thought. In my lessons it was a variety of learning from the textbook you buy from Hutong along with everyday words and phrases used in China. For example by the end of the month I could easily order food from a restaurant and direct a taxi. I was lucky enough to meet some people doing internships in Shanghai around my age so I spent most weekends and evenings with them, however there wasn’t really a great emphasis to integrate new students as a lot of people had already been there for a considerable amount of time.