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Keats School, Kunming - A Query

Barb in Maryland

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I stayed 3 months in Kunming for work and had no problem communicating with the locals. They have the typical sh -> s thing there, among some other things, but overall it's some kind of Mandarin there. If You have previous exposure to southern Mandarin then You won't have any problems, otherwise plan 2 weeks to adapt. Not so many people can speak English, when compared to other big cities within China, You will have lots of opportunities to speak Chinese. The city is a little rough and except for the good nightlife there is not much to do inside the city. Outside the city however there are numerous destinations to visit.

Kunming is also named Spring city... which makes many people think it's a hot place... but people tend to forget that the spring is a season where the weather changes often and when the rain comes it can be quite fresh. Except for mid-summer a pullover can be useful.

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You could argue that any 1st tier city (Shanghai, Beijing) will be no good as so many people will try to speak English to you. Smaller 2nd tier city may be better.

What do you want from a city your studying in?

Keats offers a very good 121 service while Kunming is friendly, relaxed, with great weather and close to great tourist destinations. And the under 30 locals speak Mandarin.

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I'm searching for a city where the inhabitants speak Mandarin all the time, so that I could practice my Mandarin more and gain a better understanding of the language.

I just returned to the US after eight months in Kunming. It’s a wonderful place in so many ways and Keats is an excellent school.

It doesn't matter if you can't understand an elderly vegetable vendor at the wet market every now and then. Most people speak Putonghua and you will need to use it every day to get your needs met and function socially. You won't be able to rely on English unless you stay in an expat cocoon, which would be a terrible waste of opportunity.

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  • 5 months later...

Hello once again,

I have just sent an admissions inquiry to Keats, as my personal circumstances have changed yet again!

Cut a long story short: after I returned from China last September, my (ex)-Taiwanese girlfriend contacted me with a view of resuming our relationship. We talked through our issues, culminating in me flying to Japan over Christmas to spend time with her after 18th months apart.

A few issues at work caused me to hand in my resignation and take the opportunity for a career break for approx 6-7 months to go to Japan to learn Japanese, and use the opportunity to spend time with my girlfriend.

She just landed a bombshell on me after flying back to Japan after Taiwanese new-year. She told her mother that she was still seeing me and her mother was very angry. Upshot is that she [girlfriend] has made the decision to end the relationship because she cannot see a way that we could get married. Cultural differences do not wash with me as she's had 2 and a half years to deal with this issue, and I have a friend who married an Indian woman who went through the exact same issue, and resolved it; and my original Chinese language exchange partner has an issue with his girlfriend because his parents do not like her. Neither ended the relationship, but instead looked to work out how to resolve this issue.

The fact that my ex-girlfriend didn't even make a token gesture says everything about how she values or feels about me: nothing.

I cannot describe how furious I am, as I have changed ALL of my plans, had already bought the plane ticket, yada yada yada. The simple fact is that after 2 and a half years she made zero effort to convince her mother otherwise. Tells me everything I need to know how she values and feels about me. Informed her that she will never hear from me or speak to me again. Period.

Ok. That's it. I've finished now. Let's get on with how to transform a negative situation into positive one, shall we?

So, once again, I've resumed my original interest of continuing to learn Mandarin, and wishing to study at Keats in Kunming.

I'm looking to study from mid-end March / early April, so fingers crossed that Keats have accommodation free!

Life has thrown so many curve balls at me this past year that I should become a full-time athlete :P In all seriousness, I always kept a back-up plan (or should that be original plan) just in case.

No more compromises or accommodation from this point forward. It's Mandarin now. Look forward to meeting my fellow Keats students ** sometime in the next 6 weeks.

** subject to availability.


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Sorry to hear about your turmoil and troubles. If the Keats dorm rooms are full, they will arrange accommodations for you at a small hotel around the corner with no change in fees. At least that has been their policy in the past.

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I have been emailing back and forth with Liu Zier - mainly because I keep changing my mind when I will arrive due to requiring to change both the destination [Tokyo] and dates on my original flight ticket with Virgin Atlantic. Since Virgin don't fly to Kunming, I'll take a connecting flight from Hong Kong (it's cheaper flying from Shenzhen, but I have no desire to return to Shenzhen), and use the opportunity to spend a few nights there to meet up with some friends (hopefully).

Looks like availability shouldn't be a problem (need to double-check), so I'll arrive Sunday 4th April.

With the persistent and interminable long winter in the UK, I cannot wait to bask in Spring (mid 20s) temperatures in Kunming.

Time to brush up on my Chinese studies before I arrive, since I've not studied or really spoken Chinese since arriving back from a 3 week holiday in China last September! Also, find out more about Kunming and my surroundings via Google Maps.


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It won’t be mid 20’s all the time in early April, though the weather should be very pleasant. Kunming has large swings between day-time highs and night-time lows. Take a sweater to wear in the evenings.


Edited by abcdefg
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Hi folks,

Currently in HK International Airport awaiting my flight to Kunming. I shall be kindly be picked up at the airport [Kunming] by someone from Keats, so good so far.

3 nights and 2 days in Hong Kong and I'm still jet-lagged! Fortunately, I have explored Hong Kong on a couple of occasions because I spent most of my time asleep in my hotel room on Mui Wo and/or watching Ghost Whisperer (for my sins - Good Lord! Jennifer Love Hewitt has massive ). I've felt like an extra from Twilight!

Look forward to finally starting at Keats, and improving my Mandarin. Not to mention exploring the city and meeting my Chinese Language Exchange Partners / activity partners (one in particular, I cannot wait to meet - she'll tap me on the shoulder to introduce herself ..).

One fly in the ointment is that I'm still not sure if the first 12 week instalment by wire transfer (using XE.com) went through ok. Used the details as provided by Keats, so need to establish if the payment went through once I arrive. Once I get the wire transfer kerfuffle established, I can then make the next 12 week instalment.

Be nice to meet my fellow Keats Students. I'll be the one asleep at breakfast mumbling incoherently about Jennifer Love Hewitt (damn Pearl and it's repeated showing of Ghost Whisperer).


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Thanks abcdefg,

I'm now in my room at Keats, and have unpacked and am ready for bed as I'm quite tired. I feel okay now that I am here and that my wire payment did indeed go through without any problems (Mrs Xue Feng laughed and mentioned that I remind her of her younger brother, as he is always obsessing over every minor detail! She seems lovely and friendly).

My teacher picked me up and she seems very nice. She introduced me and showed me around, before taking me to a restaurant for a quick bite to eat (I arrived in the evening - flight delayed).

I'll get out and about tomorrow morning and explore a little (if only to pick up a few bits) before my 1-2-1 in the afternoon. Think I'll head straight to bed after dinner because 4 hours 1-2-1 is going to initially kill me!

Also group activity on Saturday to visit a Chinese tea-room, so an opportunity to meet my fellow Keats students.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Oh kay folks,

I've been meaning to do this for a while, and finally have some time (although I can imagine my teacher waving her fist at me, mouthing 如果没做作业,你死定了!)to write a report on my Keats experience after 3 and a half weeks (another 20 and a 1/2 weeks to go).

My communication with Liu Zi Er has been nothing but positive. Despite studying at MIT in the US, she has replied to all of my emails and has been nothing but accommodating. It will be lovely to meet her when she returns to Kunming end of May.

The school has surpassed my expectations both in the quality of the private rooms (I'm in my 3rd room, in 307 with a big bathroom - although it is outside my room, but no biggie), the standard and quality of the teachers and the warmth and generosity of Mrs Xue Feng and Huang Laoshi (Joy), and the other Keats staff.

I was met at the airport by my teacher and taken for a meal at Amoli Kitchen, next door to the school (the service is poor - even by China's standards, and my order has been forgotten once too many times, so they've lost my custom), and given a mini-tour of Kunming.

Besides the quality and high-standard of the teaching, what I feel has not been mentioned in the reviews, has been free wired / wireless internet, TVs and DVD players in all the rooms (which are fully furnished), washing machine usage, ironing boards (although I'm the only student who irons their clothes), and a private library consisting of a multitude of Chinese text, grammar, guide books and novels - plus English novels, and a large collection of DVDs. Not to mention a piano if anyone is able to play (a couple of the teachers - inc. my own can play very well).

The classrooms can be used as private study areas after classes finish, as an escape from studying in one's room - and I frequently make use of the whiteboards to study hanzi.

The school has bent over backwards to be accommodating, inc making sure that students (inc. myself) were given medicine for the obligatory colds, sore throats (I personally would bring Western medicine with hindsight). My teacher provided a lot of additional help in my early days inc. helping me buy a mobile and sim-card after I 'misplaced' my Nichole Fahri jacket inc. iPhone in Kundu (long, tawdry story) within 4 days of being in Kunming.

4 hours of 1-2-1 5 days a week can be tiring and a little boring couped up in a class-room, but the teachers are extremely accommodating if you want to suggest having half of the lesson outside or in a restaurant, etc. I had a make-up class this afternoon [saturday] so I treated my teacher to drinks, etc at Salvador's and we had the 4 hour class there instead. I think both of us really enjoyed the change of scenery and we were both more attentive and awake as a result.

I have absolutely no regrets about my choice in studying in Kunming or at Keats. If I were staying longer than 24 weeks, I'd probably live in private accommodation (especially now that I have a girlfriend) so I could cook for myself (and my girlfriend), but would have no hesitation in studying at Keats because one receives so much more than standard tuition.

The only slight fly in the ointment is that I feel the breakfast is a little so-so. However, lunch and dinner (especially if Mrs Xue Feng makes her vegetarian jiaozi) are generally excellent - although I'm going to have to ask for some chille (or similar condiments) as I prefer spicy / Sichuan food.

Absolutely no regrets with choosing either Kunming or Keats. Keats meets and exceeds my criteria. The amount of students who return and choose to study is a testament to the school.

My only regret is the possibility of returning to London at the end of September - unless I either win the lottery (I did win £10 in the week) or my job / market research lands me a role based in Kunming.

Payment questions: I paid via wire transfer and used a forex company XE.com, who have a good reputation and provide good rates for currency conversion and transfer.

Note: it isn't obvious on Keats' website, but the school's rates are based on the US dollar rate, so if you pay in RMB (yuan) you may have to pay a little extra due to the conversion / exchange rate. Therefore, make the wire payment in US dollars to avoid any potential conversion / exchange rate charges.


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Could the guys who arrived in April tell me a bit about their experiences?

Are any of you taking the martial arts classes? I've studied for about 7 years. Do you think I should still take it or is it just for beginners?

Is there a kitchen to use? I like to be able to cook my own food sometimes. Nothing fancy but maybe a sandwich or two now and then.

My boyfriend and I will be going together. Are there rooms to share? If not, is it ok for us to sleep in the other's room now and then, or are there rules about that kind of stuff. I don't want to have to feel like I'm back in high school here.

If I make a friend are they welcome in the house? Could I invite them up to my room?

Thanks! How's it going for everyone?

I was also wondering about part-time teaching ops? Does anyone teach English just a couple hours a week? I'd really want to do that.

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No idea about martial art classes, as I plan to find some in Kunming.

There is a kitchen and kitchen area but to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner prepared by the school's cook, so if you really wish to cook food, you should find a private apartment - unless of course you're happy to eat out rather than eat at the school.

There are rooms for couples (bunk beds), and I don't think there is an issue if you and your boyfriend have separate rooms if you slip into each other's room now and again.

The only rule for bringing guests back is that they should leave by 23:00. However, one of the students brings his girlfriend back occasionally, and there is a small fee (10 yuan, I think) if one's guest sleeps over. I think the school wants to avoid a guest who is perpetually at the school and/or disturbs the other students.

The school is very relaxed and laid-back, and treats everyone as adults i.e. no curfew, etc.

As for part-time teaching positions, try looking on GoKunming.com

Look forward to seeing you soon (I'm known as the 英国坏蛋by both my teacher and girlfriend)!


P.s. I gave Mrs. Xue Feng your regards, abcdefg. She remembered you once I mentioned that you were the American guy.

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I was also wondering about part-time teaching ops? Does anyone teach English just a couple hours a week? I'd really want to do that.

Yes. I teach a little now, but it's a specialized deal. Opportunities abound. I get asked every week or two to teach someone's kids and have to decline.

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  • 5 weeks later...

My communication with Liu Zi Er has been nothing but positive. ... she has replied to all of my emails and has been nothing but accommodating. ...

The school has surpassed my expectations ... the standard and quality of the teachers and the warmth and generosity of Mrs Xue Feng and Huang Laoshi (Joy), and the other Keats staff.

The school has bent over backwards to be accommodating, ...

I have absolutely no regrets about my choice in studying in Kunming or at Keats. ... would have no hesitation in studying at Keats because one receives so much more than standard tuition.

Absolutely no regrets with choosing either Kunming or Keats. Keats meets and exceeds my criteria. The amount of students who return and choose to study is a testament to the school. school.

I second Putonghua’s comments about his experience at Keats.

My wife and I have just returned from a month in China with the first two weeks spent at Keats in their Study & Tour Program. (Hi Putonghua - I think we lived next door to you in 308 - didn't realize you were on here - small world!).

Because of our absolutely stellar experience at Keats, I wanted to post about it to let others know who are looking for schools in China. We echo virtually all of what Putonghua has already said especially the statement about the "standard and quality of the teachers and the warmth and generosity of Mrs Xue Feng and Huang Laoshi (Joy), and the other Keats staff". To this list I want to explicitly add Ma Lulu and Ray.

They really do tailor the program to your needs. Having studied in the US for a few years (both at university and self-study), I needed to concentrate on improving my speaking and listening skills. In addition, I was interested in cultural and historical topics rather than the subject matter of most elementary texts. Also with only two weeks available, and since no text fit these criteria, my teacher, Ma Laoshi, each day created her own teaching materials to meet the need. She was patient and skilled at teaching. I thoroughly enjoyed her class. She taught me many useful phrases and constructions and I believe my listening and speaking skills did improve even with the short time we spent there.

The Study & Tour Program was of interest to us because it met both my wife's and my particular needs. While my wife is more interested in the people and the culture (hence the Tour portion was especially attractive to her), I have a strong interest in the language and the history. Having studied in the US with its limited opportunities for "immersion", I have wanted to study in China for some time and this was the perfect opportunity for me to determine if studying in China would work for me. I was not interested in sitting in a class of x number of students with limited opportunity for interaction.

The Keats program was a perfect match for us. Along with the standard 4 hours of 1-1 in the morning, it included various afternoon activities such as calligraphy, paper cutting, Chinese massage, tea making instruction and tours to various local sites (e.g., Golden Temple, Western Hills/Dragon Gate, Wild Animal Park, DaGuan Park). The evening meal was at a different ethnic restaurant every night and most evenings included an activity (KTV, movie, etc). For the tour portion, Joy and Ray were our guides as well as enjoyable, informative and helpful companions. They also recorded our experiences on video so we can relive them at will. This program was exhausting with little time to study but great for a two week adventure (this was my wife's first taste of learning Chinese so we just wanted a brief intro for her).

I do have to disagree with Putonghua :rolleyes: on one item - the food (but since we all have different tastes, this is understandable). Both my wife and I thought the food at Keats was great. The meals during the week for breakfast and lunch were interesting, varied and delicious. In addition, because of the nature of our program, we were also provided breakfast on the weekends with Mrs. Xue preparing a sumptuous variety of dishes.

As for Kunming in early May, it was very comfortable with sunny days (I think we only had about 15 minutes of rain the whole time - but this is unusual as Yunnan is experiencing a dry spell this spring) and cool nights (good for sleeping).

We are both looking forward to returning to Keats and Kunming.

There are rooms for couples (bunk beds),...

Actually, we had a double bed in our room (308).

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