Study China Programme

20 March 2019

Over the summer of 2018, Berta joined the Study China Programme and spent three weeks in Hangzhou experiencing Chinese life, culture, language and business.

lake hangzhou
Berta Mizsei and Liam Rose-Moran

Study China is a 3-week programme for studying Chinese and exploring a small bit of China. We spent our 3 weeks in Hangzhou, which apparently counts as a ‘smaller city’ since it only has about 9,5 million people in it. 

We had 3-4 hours worth of language lessons on most of the weekdays, excluding a few day trips. Guided cultural programmes typically followed the lessons. Our days were pretty packed, and there were only a few afternoons and a weekend that we had to ourselves. You can view our full programme schedule here.

Lessons are in groups according to language levels, with the vast majority being complete beginners to Mandarin. The classes were quite information-dense (we went through an entire textbook in the 3 weeks), BUT there was little to no pressure or stress. A large part of why the classes were enjoyable was thanks to our teachers, who were extremely supportive and whom we were quite fond of. They not only helped us in classes, but also in preparing a performance for the closing ceremony (our group sang and danced to this song, which was admittedly cringey but also pretty fun). 

study china group photo

There were cultural programs most every day as well: most of these were extremely interesting, like the visit to a Venice-like water city full of canals, or going to a theme park to watch a performance that combined elements of both circus and theatre (hopefully an itineary will be included with this text). 

We also had the impeccable timing to visit Hangzhou during typhoon season, so while the weather wasn’t as hot as it could’ve been, it was definitely very humid- and some of our programs got blown away by the storm, like a light show projected onto skyscrapers. 

The real interesting bits, though, were what we experienced while we were out and about on our own. Hangzhou doesn’t get many non-Asian visitors, so if you go there, be prepared for staring. Lots of staring. So much staring. And getting your photo taken with (admittedly very friendly) locals. There are also motorcycles everywhere (and Asians, who would’ve guessed). 

We lived on Zhejiang University’s campus and got canteen cards (which meant we could eat in the campus cafeterias) and student IDs (which could get us a discount in several shops). A lot of people preferred to go out to eat, and found that both restaurants and convenience stores are very, veeeeery cheap compared to European standards (even Eastern European). Also, clubs offer free entry and discounted drinks for foreigners on a night out. 

little venice in china

Of course there were a few hiccups, like how we didn’t have any SIM cards (and thus no internet) for the first few days, or navigating our way through the city. Thankfully there were some friendly student volunteers (volunteers from Zhejiang Uni), who helped us with directions and translations so we wouldn’t get horribly, horribly lost. Even so, make sure to get a VPN to save yourself from headaches.

The least enjoyable bit of the programme were probably the so-called “business lectures”, which were worse than boring - but hey, there were only three of them. 

If you’re undecided on whether to apply to the Study China Programme, we’d urge you to definitely do so! Especially if Hangzhou is an option: both the campus and the city are green, clean, and modern. There are a lot of hiking opportunities and the views are amazing. It personally helped us deconstruct some negative stereotypes about China being an underdeveloped country. 

Good luck with applying!

hangzhou light show