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seraph

Which university to choose? Beijing VS Shanghai VS Nanjing VS Hangzhou

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seraph

Hi all,

After studying Mandarin 2 years back home, I want to go to China this fall semester to study Chinese for one semester. Since I have a pretty cool "Free Mover" scholarship I'm pretty much free to choose where to go. Since I'm already graduated in computer science my first and foremost goal would be to study as much Chinese as possible. Also making business contacts for finding employment opportunities would be nice to have.

I already browsed a lot the web and this cool forum to find the best university for a Chinese program but up to now I have still no clue where to go. So I thought I just post here the list of interesting universities (with my personal pros and cons) I have come up with so far, and maybe the China experts on this forum can help me narrow it down a little bit? :help

Beijing:

+Capital of China (Culture, Language,..)

-Pollution, Cold Winter

  • Tsinghua University
  • Beijing Normal University

Nanjing

+ Supposedly "greener" city, more pleasant to live

- Not as famous as Beijing or Shanghai, Nanjing Dialect

  • Nanjing University

Shanghai

+ Financial center of China, good for finding a job

- Strong Shanghainese dialect and many Chinese speaking English makes Mandarin harder to learn

  • Shanghai Foreign Studies University
  • East China Normal University

Hangzhou

+ Pleasant to live in

- Comparatively small and less companies

  • Zhejiang University

One more question: My Chinese professor recommended to study at a "prestigous" university (eg Tsinghua) since she deems this will be more valued by employers in China. Can somebody confirm this?

Thanks a lot for any tips and comments!! :mrgreen:

cheers george

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ChineseSpeaker

I don't agree with what you said about Shanghai, I am living in Shanghai for 10 years. Actually, almost everyone can speak Mandarin here, especially young people

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adrianlondon
almost everyone can speak Mandarin here

They can but are they willing to?

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gato

Sure, most locals are very willing to speak Mandarin. There are also many non-locals living in Shanghai, as you can imagine. For example, many service people in restaurants, etc., are from outside of Shanghai, cannot speak the local dialect and need to use Mandarin with customers.

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seraph

@ChineseSpeaker: I didn't say that Shanghainese people can't speak Mandarin, I know they can. I just heard from friends in Shanghai that as a foreigner many Chinese there only try to talk to you in English in order to practice the language. And of course that and a strong local dialect wouldn't be optimal for learning Chinese I fear....

Does somebody know more about this?

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skylee

Free mover? Come to HK. It is not great for learning Mandarin (we mainly speak Cantonese and English here), but it is a good place to live. :)

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youpii

I heard that a lot too, but my own experience is that they usually are very shy with English. If they feel your Chinese is better than their English then they will speak Mandarin to you, with a few English word in their sentences.

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rezaf

I study at shanghai university of traditional chinese medicine and to my surprise I seldom see someone with Shanghainese accent. Most of the students that I speak to speak the standard putonghua.:mrgreen: well not that standard but good enough

and about english they don't seem to be able to speak english that often.

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seraph

@Raye Zhang: I heard a lots of good things about BNU. Do you now by chance whats the difference to language instruction at Tsingua?

thx

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beijingbabe

If you havent already applied for this fall I would pick one and call them asap as I think the dealine for tsinghua at least was a while ago.

Liz

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native chinese

First and foremost, I think you'd better follow your chinese professor's suggestion. I, a native chinese, can confirm it. I graduated from East China Normal University in 2006. At that time, it's very difficult for me to find a good job mainly because I was not a graduate from a prestigous university. More often than not, "Prestigous" equals privilege in china, which is a typical phenomenon in my motherland.

Now, let's look at the universities and cities you listed. These universities are really prestigous universities whose graduates are welcomed by all kinds of companies except East China Normal University.

As for your personal pros and cons, I strongly recommend shanghai. Beijing is totally unpleasant to live in because of its notorious air pollution and traffic congestion. Nanjing is very hot in summer, besides, it's by no means a prosperous metropolis. Hangzhou is very beautiful where it's for pleasant for you to live, not work. Shanghai is a modern cosmopolitan, providing you good job opportunities. Don't worry about Shanghai dialect, for mandarin is popular here now. It's really the case that many people here can speak english, but it doesn't matter. Just try to speak to ordinary citizens to practise your oral chinese, not to chinese students, otherwise they will practise their oral english.

That's my personal suggestion, if you want more details, just contact me by msn.

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shanghaikai

I ABSOLUTELY disagree with "native chinese" on his/her recommendation.

1. You are studying for one semester.

2. One semester at any institution will not yield you a degree.

3. Hence, what institution you go to will not afford you any prestige whatsoever.

4. Employers won't give a damn which university you studied one semester at. Yes, the Chinese are big on credentials and prestige but they're not complete idiots either. I wager "native chinese's" personal anecdote is irrelevant to your situation.

5. Employers will determine more about your Chinese skills from talking to you, not from what university you studied one semester at.

6. Employers will be far more interested in what university you graduated from abroad, with what degree, and whether or not you can demonstrate aptitude in your field of interest.

7. The benefit of attending a university Chinese language program has more to do with the possible disadvantages of attending a privately run Chinese languge "school" or "center."

8. The former, unlike the latter, typically have longer histories, more resources, more teaching experience, more developed/standardized programs, and are more easily held accountable. It is a far safer to recommend any well-known university.

9. The likelihood of you getting the most Chinese education out of your one semester in China will hinge more on your personal learning ability and whether or not you get a good teacher rather than which university you choose. Most university programs are more similar than they are different.

10. As such, ECNU would be no worse than the other options listed. In fact, a plausible argument can be made that as a school with a history and specialty in training teachers, it might have better personnel for its Chinese language program. The idea is that these teachers would be more in tune with teaching methodology, something that is much more critical to your success as a student than whether or not the teacher is published in a peer review journal or possesses some other prestigious accolade in any of the many possible academic fields that have nothing to do with the job of helping you learn Chinese.

11. Many Chinese will see you as an opportunity to help them with their English in any of the cities you listed, not just Shanghai. As cosmopolitan as Shanghai is, it is not Hong Kong and Mandarin is still a necessary skill. Yes, people looking to speak English with you will hinder you. However, many more Chinese will be far too shy and reticent about their English to actually engage you in English. As you sound comfortable with speaking Chinese, I reckon you'll be able to control which language is primarily used in your conversations. You have a far greater chance of sabotaging your Chinese speaking opportunities by hanging out with foreigners than you do with the local Chinese.

12. You will certainly run into Shanghainese in Shanghai but it will not be as pervasive as Cantonese in Hong Kong or Guangzhou (neither of which are your listed options for good reason). Will it substantially affect your immersion in Chinese? No. Again, the moment you pro-actively speak Mandarin, the vast majority of people will respond in kind. I would argue that the benefits of being in Shanghai definitely outweigh the minor effect of encountering Shanghainese.

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adrianlondon

native_chinese would have been 100% correct if you were studying for your only degree in China. His observations on the way the Universities are perceived, and how you get into them, match my impression of it all, too.

However ... you're not studying for a degree and you're not from mainland China, so none of it really applies in your situation! Shanghaikai is spot in.

My quick summary : Beijing for studying, Shanghai for working, Hangzhou for sightseeing. Dunno about Nanjing ;) Take what I say with a pinch of msg; I've only been to Beijing out of that list!

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outcast

Nanjing University is one of the top 5 in the country.........

Plus Nanjing is a nice place to live. It's not too big, not too small, although it admittedly gets really hot in the summer, what place in China doesn't?

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kdavid
I just heard from friends in Shanghai that as a foreigner many Chinese there only try to talk to you in English in order to practice the language

This will be a problem everywhere you go. The Chinese assume that foreigners can't speak Chinese, and so when they see you they'll immediately start out with English (if they can speak English at all). Some will even refuse to respond to you in Chinese if you yourself begin the conversation using it.

This is a problem that the big cities you've mentioned have. These are metropolitan centers, not only with a large concentration of foreigners, but people who can speak English.

A good way around this obstacle is to move somewhere where no one speaks English. Or, just tell them you're from some obscure European country and can't speak English.

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seraph

Thanks guys for your loads of useful comments, I finally managed to narrow the list down to two. Actually beijingbabe`s warnings have been very true, the deadlines for most of the universities were already long gone. Nevertheless I still managed to get a positive reply to most of my applications. This actually might interest others, so here is what I did:

1) E-mail the complete applications, disregarding any deadlines

2) Call the responsible admissions office

3) Be very friendly but decisive (Mostly I had to ask a few times to get through to the REAL person in charge not some secretary which mostly only managed to say "Application deadline over")

4) Receive Admission note

So I guess the combination of friendliness + persistence always works :wink:

@kdavid:

"Or, just tell them you're from some obscure European country and can't speak English."

I like this recommendation a lot, since I am actually from some small obscure European country I might get through with this :mrgreen:

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reisen

it depends on what you want.

All the Universities above are really Prestigous.

Rank is maybe like this, Tsinghua University- Nanjing University- Zhejiang University- Beijing Normal University- Shanghai Foreign Studies University- East China Normal University

Beijing is really not comfortable, really bad for traffic and full polutions

Shanghai is famous for nightlife and shopping, huge city.

Nanjing and Hangzhou are really better for living.

Nanjing is bigger and nearer Shanghai, more histories and cultures.

Hangzhou is smaller but with beautiful scenery.

Don't cares about dialect.....

For the people in the four cities are all very open-minded.Not so much difference at dialect speaking and english speaking.....

shanghainese maybe more vain especially girls.

Anyway Shanghai nanjing hangzhou, each one is good

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tongjistudy

You should check the size of classes at each of the universities you are considering. Have heard that university programs have large classes with mainly the teacher covering material and less time for students to practise.

Beijing has the prestige factor, but for short term Mandarin study, it might not be a huge difference on your resume. However, for your industry, it makes sense to consider where the top companies are located if you plan to do some networking.

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