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Studying in 2021 ?


rouloubole

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rouloubole

Hello ! This is actually my first post on this forum so I hope I'm not posting in the wrong category.

 

I have been studying chinese on and off for three years now, and I have a level between HSK 3 and 4, but I haven't took the officiel HSK exam yet. I also have a degree in English as well as Chinese ( got it in France) for what it's worth.

 

I will be finishing my studies in wine retailing this year, but before starting to work I'd like to spend one year studying in China to really work on my chinese level, as I've never been to China or Taïwan before. However as everyone knows this year might not be the best to study abroad, with that whole situation going on.

 

First of all as I've never studied abroad I'm really confused about what city to choose, how to find a good university that has a good chinese language center, how the whole application works... I've tried looking at a few of the posts here but I haven't had a clear image about what university or chinese language center to choose.

 

I'm posting this in the Kunming section because I've always been really interested in Yunnan, I mean the place looks really gorgeous and so staying in Kunming I would be able to go around the province and visit some of the natural wonders. I'm also a history fan and I think that there are a few historic cities in the province such as Dali if I'm not mistaken. 
So would you recommend Kunming as a place to study for someone's first time in China ? If not, what cities would you recommand ? 

 

Secondly, if indeed Kunming is a good choice, what are some professionnal university/language center ? My budget is fairly limited, but I know there are few scholarships for foreign students coming to study mandarin. Where can I learn more about these ? 

 

Finally, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Are universities even taking applications in at the time ? What about September 2021, do you think students would still be able to enter the country ?

 

I know that's a lot of questions, but as I'm pretty lost in my plans I hope someone will have some answers for me! 

Thank you in advance!

 

By the way, I have a side question for those who've been living in Kunming : have you seen many wine shops here ? As I am going to graduate in wine selling, I'm pretty interested in the wine situation here 🙂

 

Thanks! 

 

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xinoxanu
2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

Finally, let's talk about the elephant in the room. Are universities even taking applications in at the time ? What about September 2021, do you think students would still be able to enter the country ?

 

Welcome! As you will discover with time, everything in China works in a case per case basis. That means that some universities are, some are not and two people asking at the same time, at the same university, will get two different answers. Ludicrous, uh? Well, 没办法. My advice: ask each university via mail/weibo/official wechat accounts til they put you through someone in admissions which can give you a somewhat reliable answer.

 

September/October 2021 seems more reasonable now than back in November, yes. If a country like Japan manages to pull the Olympics with or without vaccines, then overzealous neighbours might follow suit. We'll see.

 

2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

I'm posting this in the Kunming section because I've always been really interested in Yunnan, I mean the place looks really gorgeous and so staying in Kunming I would be able to go around the province and visit some of the natural wonders. I'm also a history fan and I think that there are a few historic cities in the province such as Dali if I'm not mistaken. 
So would you recommend Kunming as a place to study for someone's first time in China ? If not, what cities would you recommand ? 

 

Yunnan is gorgeous but I wouldn't recommend it for a first-time abroad experience to base yourself at. I am sure that @abcdefg can fill you in about the wonders of the area, and Kunming certainly has some places where you can study... but I personally gravitate towards Chengdu, the closest western-style city to Kunming and one that comes with a full expat community and relevant commodities. Living in Chengdu is not really that different from living in Paris (minus the ghettos I guess?) and is a major hub to anywhere in China (plane, train, bus) so it's easier to go anywhere from there than from Kunming. 

 

Dali is nice, but also boring and touristic af. As a rule of thumb, if a Chinese wonder has been mentioned in the West, expect for it to disappoint you 9/10 times.

 

2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

Secondly, if indeed Kunming is a good choice, what are some professionnal university/language center ? My budget is fairly limited, but I know there are few scholarships for foreign students coming to study mandarin. Where can I learn more about these ? 

 

Usually it's best to study directly at universities (and avoid if possible those with "weird" names, such as Petroleum and whatnot - although in Yunnan they might be agricultural more often than not 🤣). Not only the quality of education might be better ("might", since you'll probably get a master student as teacher), but you'll need a safe & sound visa/RP nowadays and many academies are not that reliable in that regard. Nevertheless, in China don't expect European-style quality education - anywhere.

 

https://studyinchina.csc.edu.cn/  and https://www.campuschina.org/ has information about scholarships, fees, contact info, etc. Google or the forums here are your friend for the rest.

 

Expect to pay about 6000-10000RMB for a semester in W-SW China (+visa fees), more in coastal and first-tier cities. Usually the biggest university in town is the most expensive, but they all offer the same quality of teaching so pick whatever is more convenient or available. Bonus: cheaper universities might or might not be more lenient when it comes to "breaking the rules" if that's your thing, YMMV.

 

As per the application, before this whole mess it used to be the case that you'd sign-up via the university's own admittance system. Usually that involves going back&forth with paperwork (requisites varying from uni to uni), obtaining a referral letter (if you are abroad) and so on. Once approved you go to your nearest embassy and they'll give you a visa that then you have to exchange for an RP once in China. It's pretty straightforward but also filled with BS to the brim. Regardless, once you manage to start the process is relatively clear what you have to do, so don't worry about it until you've managed to start it.

 

2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

If not, what cities would you recommand ?

 

Anything that is not too big or not too small, especially if you're on a budget. Kunming/Chengdu/Xian/Chongqing in the west; Wuhan/Changsha in Central China; Hangzhou/Ningbo/Tianjin/Suzhou/Xiamen in the East, but wouldn't recommend as a first-timer. Southern China is great if you go for work, not so much for studying Mandarin. The North will kill you.

 

Prices vary, but also does quality of life: pollution, temperature, food, transportation and availability of western commodities will play a major role on that regard, so investigate those. At the very least we have Carrefour and Auchan in many places in China, and they carry the same stuff as back in France, so you'll be covered for western foodstuff. Cheap and savoury Spanish/French/Italian wine available everywhere as well.

 

@roddy, perhaps you can move this person's post to the main/study forum? Some people with relevant information might miss it if it stays in a sub-forum.

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abcdefg
On 1/20/2021 at 11:20 AM, rouloubole said:

However as everyone knows this year might not be the best to study abroad, with that whole situation going on.

 

Lots of uncertainty. I think it would be an extremely difficult time to plan to study in China. Currently, to the best of my knowledge, visas are not being granted to students and tourists. 

 

I lived in Kunming about 10 years and found lots to like there. Also Yunnan has plenty of interesting places to visit. But now is a really bad time to go. Even the universities don't know what's possible in terms of visas and quarantine measures change from one week to the next. 

 

 

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rouloubole

Thank you two for your answers! 

 

As I expected, it might definitely be the wrong time to plan something like this... But at the same time, I feel that if I start working full time, I might not have the opportunity to go study in China to study chinese... And it's really been a dream for me for a long time. I guess all we can do is wait and see for now...

 

17 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

sually it's best to study directly at universities (and avoid if possible those with "weird" names, such as Petroleum and whatnot - although in Yunnan they might be agricultural more often than not 🤣). Not only the quality of education might be better ("might", since you'll probably get a master student as teacher), but you'll need a safe & sound visa/RP nowadays and many academies are not that reliable in that regard. Nevertheless, in China don't expect European-style quality education - anywhere.

 

I think the quality of education is important, but maybe not THE most important. I've got plenty of good teachers when I was studying chinese at the university here in France, but I am convinced than with teachers that are not as good, I would have a much higher level in chinese if I these classes were in China. I might be wrong though ! 

 

What I'm more worried about, is that for many universities and school I've looked up, the website seems so old and fishy that I'm afraid I'm not really on the university's website. There's very few information about application and... It just makes my research so much more difficult. Thanks to this forum I can actually read reviews for the universities which is actually very helpful, but I have so many questions left unanswerd 🤣

 

17 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Anything that is not too big or not too small, especially if you're on a budget. Kunming/Chengdu/Xian/Chongqing in the west; Wuhan/Changsha in Central China; Hangzhou/Ningbo/Tianjin/Suzhou/Xiamen in the East, but wouldn't recommend as a first-timer. Southern China is great if you go for work, not so much for studying Mandarin. The North will kill you.

 

Prices vary, but also does quality of life: pollution, temperature, food, transportation and availability of western commodities will play a major role on that regard, so investigate those. At the very least we have Carrefour and Auchan in many places in China, and they carry the same stuff as back in France, so you'll be covered for western foodstuff. Cheap and savoury Spanish/French/Italian wine available everywhere as well.

 

Thanks for the recommendations, I will definitely look up schools and universities in these cities. What do you think about Qingdao or Nanjing for foreign students ? Do they fall in the "too big" category ? 
Shandong has a very large wine production so I thought checking them out while I study there would potentially be useful (Plus, I love the sea obviously). And Nanjing from what I see feels like a very historic city, and I have a few friends there, I guess that would be useful. (but I don't want my choice to be decided by that, because I also would very much want to make new friends)

 

Anyway thanks again you two for your answers !

 

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abcdefg

@rouloubole -- Just for the record, in case you reconsider exploring China a couple years down the road, Kunming has a lively wine scene. Odd as it may sound, it's an outgrowth of Kunming's interest in tea. Kunming is a regional and national tea hub, specializing in the fermented Pu'er teas of Yunnan. Appreciation of fine tea involves some of the same principles as understanding fine wine, terroir and microclimates for example, in addition to proper aging.

 

Serious tea drinkers approach gongfu tea like a glass of good wine, critically smelling it first, swirling it in the mouth, letting it fully engage all parts of the tongue as well as the palate, swallowing and then paying careful attention to aftertaste.  

 

So, it isn't surprising that many tea connoisseurs became wine connoisseurs as well. In Kunming, one can find wine clubs, courses of study for amateurs and professionals, tastings and wine dinners. Quite a few people in Kunming "lay up" fine Pu'er tea, letting it age in stoneware jars or in protected glass cabinets. 

 

Also, the Alliance Francaise is active in Kunming as sponsor of "wine plus dine" social events (at which French is spoken.) They typically hold these soirees in local five-star hotels and engage a talented chef. They would doubtless have more insight into the world of wine in Kunming. 

 

One lady of my acquaintance is a high-level tea master and runs a course of study to teach foreigners about tea. She branched out 3 or 4 years ago to include wine in her educational efforts. She particularly espouses the "marriage" of Pu'er tea and the red wines of Burgundy. She sees them as two sides of one coin. 

 

I also know a wine merchant who could tell you more when the time is right. She is a Kunming native who emigrated to Australia for university, later became employed by the Penfield Group and was tasked with developing Kunming as a market for Australian wines. She now travels back and forth doing that. 

 

Yunnan has several wine growing regions where the weather conditions have proven highly favorable. About two hours southeast of Kunming is the Mile region (pronounced "mee-luh") It is famous for its volcanic hot springs and its vineyards. Wine is also produced in Yunnan's northwest, in the foothills and mountains between Dali and Lijiang. 

 

So, Kunming and Yunnan have some things to recommend them to someone in your position with your interests. But the timing is not right due to the COVID pandemic. I think you should wait until the dust settles, until it's possible to know from one month to the next whether or not foreigners will be welcome and on what terms, with what conditions. 

 

Quote

By the way, I have a side question for those who've been living in Kunming : have you seen many wine shops here ? 

 

Yes, they are not difficult to find in the newer residential areas. I can think of three within easy walking distance of my apartment. And my area is not even very affluent. 

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abcdefg
4 hours ago, rouloubole said:

Shandong has a very large wine production so I thought checking them out while I study there would potentially be useful (Plus, I love the sea obviously).

 

Yantai would be the place to go. Beautiful city on the coast, near several huge wineries, two universities. A very congenial place. I wouldn't mind living there, based on a couple of holiday visits. 

 

Jinan, the captial city of Shandong, not so great a place. Plus it's extremely hot in the summer. One of China's notorious "furnace cities." 

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xinoxanu
2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

I think the quality of education is important, but maybe not THE most important. I've got plenty of good teachers when I was studying chinese at the university here in France, but I am convinced than with teachers that are not as good, I would have a much higher level in chinese if I these classes were in China. I might be wrong though ! 

 

I wrote a comment about my journey with the Chinese language. In short: a Chinese university will just be a place where you are forced to artificially use the language a couple hours a day, but real-life immersion and self-study are still what you have to aim for. That's why the quality of education won't really matter, unless you shell out those big bucks at Jiaotong, Tsinghua and the like. I personally didn't go much to class and my level at the time was on par and even better than my peers that were drilling boring exercises everyday.

 

You'll see it yourself with time and experience because everybody here will have a different view on the matter.

 

2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

What I'm more worried about, is that for many universities and school I've looked up, the website seems so old and fishy that I'm afraid I'm not really on the university's website.

 

Yes, that's normal, it's China. I am not aware of any scams going around, but you can always use Baidu instead of Google to make sure you are at the real place (and look for the Chinese version before you bother with the English one). Weibo accounts for the university will also have the actual address there and WeChat also has their official accounts (only in Chinese tho).

 

Have a look at the okayish website for international admissions at Sichuan University (in Chengdu) to have a feel for what to expect: http://www.sculx.cn/

 

2 hours ago, rouloubole said:

What do you think about Qingdao or Nanjing for foreign students ? Do they fall in the "too big" category ? 
Shandong has a very large wine production so I thought checking them out while I study there would potentially be useful (Plus, I love the sea obviously). And Nanjing from what I see feels like a very historic city, and I have a few friends there, I guess that would be useful. (but I don't want my choice to be decided by that, because I also would very much want to make new friends)

 

They are alright, but since they are "coastal" cities they will be comparatively more expensive than the others I recommended. I was born by the sea and I spent 4 years in the middle of Sichuan, so I feel you... but you get used to it. The fact that Chengdu has many rivers flowing through the city helped a ton, even if the Chinese insist that they are "smelly" (yeah, they are).

 

If you have friends somewhere that you can rely on, you would be wise to use those connections to start building up your life in China. After all, you never know if you'll end up staying long-term in China (I was originally only going to be there for a couple months and I nearly got married, but YMMV). If they are more "acquaintances" than anything else, then sure, go somewhere with a nice expat/French community that you can rely upon until you are ready to free yourself from the laowai-ghetto shackles! Regardless, you should be able to meet people at uni you can hang out with (and you can even make friends with actual Chinese people that are studying an actual degree and are interested in foreigners). Bonus: bunk with someone at the university's shared accommodation, you'll save money and be forced to hang out with people... and you can always move out later.

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abcdefg

I've read @xinoxanu's excellent posts and just wanted to say that I like Chengdu and Sichuan very much. I would not want the Original Poster to think I was trying to sell him on Yunnan and Kunming to the exclusion of other attractive locations. 

 

Plus, @xinoxanu is closer to the whole issue of university education in China than I am. It's something about which I know almost nothing. You should listen to what he has to say. 

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xinoxanu

Yes, same here. 😁

 

Many of us are attached to a special place in China but, as with everything else, your mileage will definitely vary: I've met people who couldn't stand Chengdu because of how hot and rainy it gets in the summer, polluted in winter, how Sichuanhua gets on their nerves (it's actually cute tho) and how you get the runs when eating spicy (well, that's Sichuan for ya 😅).

 

I could go on with an essay about my appreciation for the city but I'll just say this: my favourite authentic pizzeria in the world is not someplace in New York or in Italy, but Mike's in Chengdu. Many agree with me and that alone can tell you about how wonderful this relatively unknown city in the middle of China is!

 

In the end it all boils down to what really matters to you and we can tell that wine is your passion, so you should try to find a place where you can exploit that and other skills - i.e., being a sommelier in China is kind of a niche thing but you could end up working at a high-class hotel a couple years down the line or in the import/export market. Being at the right place, at the right moment and with the right state of mind does the rest.

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rouloubole
20 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Just for the record, in case you reconsider exploring China a couple years down the road, Kunming has a lively wine scene. Odd as it may sound, it's an outgrowth of Kunming's interest in tea. Kunming is a regional and national tea hub, specializing in the fermented Pu'er teas of Yunnan. Appreciation of fine tea involves some of the same principles as understanding fine wine, terroir and microclimates for example, in addition to proper aging.

 

That's amazing! I'm actually a huge fan of tea, and I really appreciate tea culture (granted, I know more about japanese tea culture than chinese but I am sure both are worth knowing about). I would definitely want to check that out, which makes it even more frustrating somehow 😁

 

20 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Also, the Alliance Francaise is active in Kunming as sponsor of "wine plus dine" social events (at which French is spoken.) They typically hold these soirees in local five-star hotels and engage a talented chef. They would doubtless have more insight into the world of wine in Kunming.

 

I will definitely search for this, thank you for letting me know about it! 

 

19 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

Yes, that's normal, it's China. I am not aware of any scams going around, but you can always use Baidu instead of Google to make sure you are at the real place (and look for the Chinese version before you bother with the English one). Weibo accounts for the university will also have the actual address there and WeChat also has their official accounts (only in Chinese tho).

 

Have a look at the okayish website for international admissions at Sichuan University (in Chengdu) to have a feel for what to expect: http://www.sculx.cn/

 

Yeah, I think I'm just a bit overthinking this, I know chinese websites are like this, but I somehow thought that maybe (maybe!) since the english website is more destined to international students they would have worked a bit more on it but I can totally understand.

 

18 hours ago, xinoxanu said:

In the end it all boils down to what really matters to you and we can tell that wine is your passion, so you should try to find a place where you can exploit that and other skills - i.e., being a sommelier in China is kind of a niche thing but you could end up working at a high-class hotel a couple years down the line or in the import/export market. Being at the right place, at the right moment and with the right state of mind does the rest.

 

That's more or less my plan for the future, actually ! I know the wine sector in China is a bit overcrowded when it comes to selling wine, but I hope to find my place somehow.

 

Anyway thanks you two for the answers, I think I have got more answers than I thought I could ever get about these topics, so you've been very helpful !

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