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Year in Shanghai - Want to maximize (Chinese/Job/Homestay)


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Hope you all are well! I am looking into going to live in Shanghai for a year starting around June, I have had some past study abroad experience in Shanghai before and am taking a mini "gap year" so to speak. My Chinese is lower intermediate (upper beginner) at present. If anyone could answer any of these questions, I'd be much obliged!

1. So my goal of the year is to bump my Chinese up to HSK 5/6 level. Would you recommend a full time Chinese University Language programme (I know East China Normal has an intensive one), or a private school, or combination of both? The University level offers more structure, wheras with a private school I may be able to really excel.

2. For those of you who tutor part time on the side, how much is a realistic rate to charge, and do you find it difficult to find clients? I've heard around 150-250RMB average per hour.

3. I'm also looking into finding a nice homestay to really "immerse" myself for the year. I've heard stories of people living rent-free in exchange for someone to talk to their children in English for an hour or two a day. Any advice on where to find a good family for this? My experience in China is word of mouth tends to be the best route.

Also, as an aside. I love Shanghai, but am worried about falling into an expat bubble. Would anyone recommend Suzhou/Hangzhou/Wuxi to live? How is the mandarin in these places?

Sorry for the question overload, like I said if you can answer any of them I'd be very happy.

Thanks very much!



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I love Shanghai, but am worried about falling into an expat bubble.

I always laugh when people worry about "falling" into an expat bubble, as though it's some kind of inescapable quagmire. You will only fall into an expat bubble if you let yourself fall in. I have lived in Shanghai for several years, and apart from unavoidable contact with other expats (for example colleagues), I rarely associate with other foreigners. The fact of the matter is that if you are learning Chinese in any kind of institution, you will inevitably be surrounded by other foreigners. Maybe avoiding that would be an advantage of private lessons. If you enjoy Western-style night-life, then that is another sure way to immerse yourself in an expat bubble, regardless of whether you are in Shanghai, Hangzhou or elsewhere. The key is to make yourself a social life removed from other foreigners.

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Nothing wrong with putting yourself in a situation where you're less likely to make mistakes though. Plenty of people come over with the best of intentions and end up speaking more English than they wanted, so all else being equal it makes sense to put yourself in a situation where that will be more difficult. It's like keeping the chocolate biscuits out of sight. Not that I do that.

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I love Shanghai, but am worried about falling into an expat bubble. Would anyone recommend Suzhou/Hangzhou/Wuxi to live? How is the mandarin in these places?

I can't imagine any worse than in Shanghai, which has its own dialect and mish-mash of migrants accents. I've met plenty that studied in Suzhou and/or Hangzhou and spoke great standard Mandarin. I personally think if you want to maximize your year from a language learning perspective you should stay out of Shanghai - try Haerbin or some other winter wasteland where cracking the book all winter long will be easier. Then move to the big cool city of your choice to work once you have your language skills down.

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