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Liaoning Normal University via HYCC

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Here's my detailed review of my experience at Liaoning Normal University and Mr. Toga's company HYCC.

I got into Dalian's airport where I was greeted by a local student named Peter. He was really polite and enthusiastic, telling me about himself and Dalian while offerering me some fresh fruit and water. Peter got me settled into my dorm at Liaoning Normal where I had booked the cheaper single. But it looks like the admin at the dorm messed something up and so I got a double (but with no roommate since there were no singles left). About a day later, thanks to a lot of wrangling by HYCC's Mr. Wang and Adam, I was given the more expensive single for the price of the cheaper single (HYCC covered the difference).

Peter then took myself and another American client (Koreth) around Dalian, taking us to the big squares, helping us by a public transport card, familiarizing us with Dalian's bus lines etc. In addition he gave us a map to use came in quite handy.

A few days later Adam took us out for a bite and drinks (certainly not the last time he would do so), and gave us some more tips about living in Dalian while introducing us to his friends. It was a great and easy way to meet new people (Chinese and foreign) who were living in Dalian.

On to the university. I have to say I wasn't the happiest with the school. There were three levels (usually there are something like 9, but since it was summer there were obviously less students). I was placed in intermediate, which started with something like 27 students. The university decided that this was simply too much (right on) and gave us an impossible placement test. Somehow I placed into the faster paced class, which quite honestly I found to be way too easy (having already studied a year at BNU). The advantage was that they used different books from BNU so I learned a fair number of new characters and some new grammar but that most of the stuff was review. Then I looked into the advanced level class and skimmed a book. I could read most of it but the pace looked simply too fast, something that would have required at least 4-6 hours of study a day, I would say. Not something I wanted to do in the summer at Dalian (this ended up being a good move).

There were three classes, Reading comprehension, Speaking and reading/writing. I found Reading comprehension to be worthless, Speaking had a great book, but we pretty much just read and didn't speak (though I'd say the teacher was effective somehow), while reading and writing, well it just wasn't good.

Dorms. Another major minus point. I was in a room that was 70 RMB a night. It was a single room with a full bed, two pillows, tv, dresser, desk, chair, table, bathroom etc. The TV also had BBC and CNN World (something I discovered later on). The bed can only be described as a box spring with a thin mat over it. The pillows were literally bags of rice. The maids were supposed to clean once a week and they cleaned my bathroom once the whole time. Oh and hot water? We had it for six hours a day. Now I wouldn't moan about all of this if the price of housing was cheap (40 RMB or less). Considering I stayed in a spotless double that was just as large (with bathroom with 24 hr hot water), better lit, with comfortable beds and pillows and had daily maid service at BNU for 65 RMB a night, I simply found that the cost of the dorm was unjustified for what I got. Or maybe BNU just spoiled me (though I was in Xinsong, a mid priced dorm).

I didn't have internet, but cafes are everywhere (one next to the bar/restaurant "START", as well as the more upscale "Aladin" which is near Malan Square). A tip, don't buy a frequent user card because you have to give out your passport number and then a bunch of websites will be magically blocked when you try to access them (like my bank's web page).

There were other native Chinese students I befriended my first week there but since it was summer, they decided to be normal students and go home. But I have to admit though that the classmates and friends I had did not speak a lick of English. This is what made the program totally worth every penny. I made some great non-English speaking friends who I met at the university with whom I hung out with everyday. So my spoken Chinese improved incredibly.

The neighborhood. Absolutely fantastic. It's a very "Chinese" area in every sense of the word. The shops, noises, smells etc. Old people play mah-johngg (sp) and cards on a daily basis and are more than happy if you take an interest in what they are doing. They're engaging and will invite you to sit down with them and watch. My friends and I also found a restaurant with good food and a great owner and his wife who were friendly and would always speak with us, in addition to teaching us Mah-johngg (sp) as well as the hilarious chuan'r guys who spoke worse Mandarin than we did. The pace of life is slow and there is a seemingly daily routine to it that one not only gets used to but cherishes.

In short: HYCC is awesome. They're friendly and help with everything. Use them. Adam and Mr. Wang were apologetic in not meeting me personally at the airport, but they had Peter who was extremely friendly, enthusiastic and helpful.

Liaoning Normal University: It was summer (which means relaxed classes, not many students and less selection of courses), not many English speakers which was a huge plus. I was not happy at all with the dorms, given their cost and would recommend anyone to get a flat or alternate accomodation for a similar price.

If anyone has any questions about Dalian, HYCC or Lianoning Normal, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

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Yup, dorms are poor value at most univs, and not just in Dalian. However if you are only here on a short summer course there are few alternatives. Maybe a guest house, but that would be further from the campus and 70RMB does not stretch to a hotel.

As for classes in the summer, most universities struggle for a critical mass of students that allows them to cater for all levels. This is especially a problem in the winter courses actually. I think the way you did it was great - get out there, enjoy the summer and talk to everyone in Chinese while using the classes for building up your knowledge bank of characters and sentence patterns.

Enjoy the Autumn back in BJ, and come back to see us sometime!

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