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Harbin Institute of Technology - current Chinese language student 2016-17


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I share a lot of thoughts with you and this is also my second time in China. During my first visit (3 months working in Hangzhou) I barely learnt anything, but when I got back to my home country, I decided to study the 600 most common words and thought I would be good to return to China (hell, I didn't even learn the tones). When I got back here, I got a good reality-check, haha. Even though I knew a lot of words, I barely couldn't understand or be understood with anything around me. So this was the point I started to research what actually went wrong and found sites like HackingChinese and this forum.


Now I managed to arrange my things such that I'm taking 7 months off from my current project and just concentrating on the language itself. I'm now 3 weeks in with studying approximately 6 hours per day, which has given me a huge boost over the beginner level since I already knew the vocabulary - just this time I've been focusing more on the grammar, listening/speaking, and most importantly on HOW to study. So far, I think I've actually spend more time learning on how to study than the language itself, lol.


Unfortunately, I have to be located in Shanghai, so I'm not getting the same immersion edge as you, but I think it will still help me to keep my motivation up compared to studying in my home country. English is not my native language, so maybe that will also help me a bit in resisting the temptation of creating the foreigner-bubble around me. Maybe I should also open a topic here to measure my progress and share some tips. Anyway, I'm looking forward to hear about your progress!

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  • 5 months later...
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Hi, I'm looking for a uni in China for my mandarin study. I heard Harbin is one of the best place to study mandarin, even though it's extremely cold. Then I saw HIT and the website is amazing, well informative (compare to the other that seldomly giving me a lot of question marks). Reading your topic above made me really wanna know about your experience there. Plus, not a lot of English speakers and better to know that they are speaking in Thai rather than in Bahasa coz I seriously wanna learn mandarin. Could you tell me more about the uni, the air quality, and the living cost there?

I'm looking to sit HSK 5 by June/July next year.

It's nearly June, so how is the progress? :) 




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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey Stella,


I am also studying at HIT.  I saw Elliot's post and asked him a few questions, and randomly we ended up in the same class!  In my opinion HIT is fantastic, and Harbin is an amazing place to be.  People go on about the cold but it really isn't that bad, you just dress appropriately.  Also remember it's only going to be a portion of the year.  Right now students are often going to class in shorts and T-shirts.  As far as I understand it, Harbin is going to be great for getting you speaking standard Mandarin.  You will be understood anywhere in China.  However, because it is also spoken in the most standard way here, I have heard that understanding people from other places can be difficult at first, especially the further South you venture.  The people here for the most part are wonderful.  They are more than happy to engage in conversation, even if you have no clue what they are talking about (and vice versa)!  Aside from having my phone stolen when I was carrying lots of things in a busy market, I haven't really had many bad experiences here, at least not due to the people.  The one thing I would say to do is be very sure about your visa situation before you come.  For me that was the biggest hassle, and because of some bad information I was given by a member of the office staff at HIT my family had to leave the country and it ended up costing us over 2000USD.  Thankfully it is all sorted now though.  


Harbin is a very cheap place to live.  Elliot can give you info on the dorms, but from what i've see n they look great.  I have a wife and two kids so we rent a place not too far from uni.  It's 1900 a month and has 3 bedrooms, I think we scored a pretty sweet deal.  As Elliot also said, the students are mainly Thai, Korean and Russian.  Our class has 14 students, Elliot and I are native English speakers, the rest are Thai, Korean, Russian, and also a guy from Turkmenistan.  Their levels of English vary from fluent to non-existent.  


The air quality is ok I suppose.  It's better than Chong Qing and Guang Zhou, which are the only other two places I have been in China.  There are 3 or 4 students in our class taking HSK 5 in a few days.  They had all studied Chinese before arriving here.  As far as I understand it, you can have terrible Chinese and pass the HSK.  I bought an HSK 4 book and tried a test without doing any practice and passed it no problem.  I'm not bothering to try 5 as I just want to wait for 6.  Why pay all that money to get 5 if I will go on and try and get 6!  A lot of people seem to come back and do semester after semester in the international language center here.  I originally planned on a year.  We finish our first semester in a couple of weeks, but I have applied to change my second semester into a 4 year Bachelors degree in Chinese language and literature (hence the comment on waiting and just doing HSK 6 in 2/3 years).  


The pace of learning is fast, the teachers are great and you actually feel like they really care about you.  They are constantly in touch with us to see how we are getting on, and always reminding us that if we have any issues with work then we should let them know, but more than that, if we have any issues with life in Harbin then they will also do what they can to help us.  I have been personally helped by my teacher before, so it isn't just something they have to say.  The uni is also very active, in that they have all kinds of events going on all the time.  Depending on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, and what you like to do, this can be a really good or bad thing!  They have Chinese speaking competitions, sports competitions, huge international student cultural days (that was yesterday and I counted 63 different nations represented), kite flying competitions etc.  For the most part these are optional, so it's your call if you join or not.  There are also optional classes - calligraphy, HSK preparation classes, painting the face masks from Chinese operas, something to do with Chinese tea...and so on.  


There are a number of very good and cheap gyms close to the uni, they have great yearly deals, if you are into that kind of thing (I am).  Being as you study half days for 5 days a week it's really easy to just head from class to the gym and then to your dorm/house.  


Elliot is probably too humble to say how his Chinese is going, but it's awesome.


If there's any more specific info you want, I am sure we are both happy to help.  I love it here, and I am so glad I came.  Obviously I wouldn't be switching over to a full degree if I didn't love it.  

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  • 1 month later...
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Hey JS6426,


I'm enrolled to come and study at HIT in the language program starting second semester which I'm really excited about (counting down the weeks until I leave). I'm wondering whether it's possible to do some sort of english tutoring on the side of study to earn a little income while I'm there? I've only budgeted on staying for one semester but if I can keep costs super low and earn some money on the side I think I can stay for another semester which I'm really hoping I can do.


Hopefully get the chance to meet you once I'm there as well.




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Hey Mitch,


It's possible, but you will probably have a LOT of homework.  I am not sure of the exact rules, I think you are ok if you are just doing tutoring, but obviously any kind of part time job could land you in real trouble as you don't have a business visa.  I didn't do the most basic level for my first semester so I am not sure the classes you take, I know you have 4 hours like all the rest, but I am not certain what your homework level will be like.  We had some students spending 4-6 hours a day doing homework in our class.  So I guess it really just depends on where your priorities lie!  But certainly I think doing some tutoring is possible.



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Ok sweet, thanks for the info Jonny. Yeah I think I'll wait a while and see what the workload is like and then decide what I'll do. You also mentioned that there are a couple of gyms near HIT and wondering which one you are using and what the price is? I'm not a fitness freak but don't mind keeping healthy. And random question, but any advice on things I may want to bring with me from home that may not be obvious to me right now?


Thanks heaps Jonny!



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I use one called 12 hour fitness.  There are 3 gyms all in the same building, tons of students use them.  I can't remember exactly, but I think mine was around 1200RMB for the year.  My teacher told me the one she uses (same building) is 1600RMB for 2 years, so I might check that out when my membership expires.  

Probably obvious to you, but clothes.  You definitely want a down coat and thermals.  I live off campus so I always wore boots to class until it heated up.  Other than that I don't really think there's much to be honest, unless there's some very specific type of food you like that won't be easy to get out here.  Most stuff, although it may be a bit more expensive if it's imported, you can just get on Taobao.  Protein would be a good example - if you plan on using it when working out, buy it before you come and you will save yourself some money.  I get mine on Taobao, it just costs more.  If you are planning on wearing boots, and I would if I were you, might also want to get those before you come.  Finding ones that fit out here can be hard depending on how big your feet are.  I got most of my clothes out here, just a really good pair of proper thermal snow boots.  For the cold season that was definitely the best investment I made.  Oh one more thing is Deoderant if you use the spray on types like Lynx or Axe or whatever.  I've not been able to find them anywhere here - local supermarkets, Carrefour, Walmart.  They all have roll on, but nowhere seems to have spray.  Again you can get it online, but it might cost a bit more depending on where you are coming from.  


I would download an app on your phone called 'Wechat' as that is how everyone communicates over here.  My ID is Jonny_stock.  Feel free to add me if you have any questions.  It'll also make it easy for us to grab lunch in the canteen one day or something, and I can show you where the gyms are etc.  I would recommend arriving around the 26th, maybe a day or two earlier, but definitely not on the 27th.  Registration is hectic, there are tons of people and it takes ages.  Make sure you have everything you need with you for that otherwise it will end up taking you both days.  For payment bring cash and tell them you don't have a Chinese bank card, i'm assuming you won't by that point, but if you do have a card they'll make you go and deposit all your cash and pay by card instead (or at least that's what happened to me).  The office in the International Student Center can be chaotic, but the actual language teachers are awesome.  I'm excited for you, you're going to have a blast!

Hope that helps.  I'll let you know if I suddenly think of anything else!



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