I was in my second year of university when I decided I needed to take a break. By the end of the semester, every one of my friends seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do with their lives and I had no clue. At this point, I had taken classes in what felt like every possible major: Health, European History, Astronomy, Computer Science, Geography, Archaeology – you get the picture.
That summer, after some thought, I made one of the best decisions ever: I decided I wanted to study Mandarin and teach English in China. My chosen city was Shenyang, the capital of northeastern Liaoning Province. Common responses were “it’s cold and industrial up there… why don’t you live in a city in the south?” or “are there any foreigners living there?” Like many of you, I was looking for an experience where I would be immersed in the language and culture. The answers to these questions were “yes, the winters are very cold” and “no, there are not many western foreigners in the city.” Excellent.
With my city selected, I now needed to choose a program to study Mandarin. There were only a few programs, so my choice was a bit easier than the one you face when choosing schools in Canada! Nevertheless, I was going to spend an entire year in my chosen program, away from family and friends, so I needed to choose wisely. After going through the selection process, I realized that everyone planning to study overseas must have a top 5 list of criteria that they use to make the big decision. Here’s mine:
1. Location – I wanted to be in the heart of the city; not in a suburb
2. Programs offered – I was looking for an intensive language program
3. Classroom size – the smaller the classroom, the more opportunities I would have to use my new language
4. Word of mouth – when I was doing my research, I requested email addresses for some current and past students; with Facebook, it is much easier to connect
5. Support – I wanted a school where student services got their students out into the community to use their language skills, organized social events, helped them meet new people, etc.
Lucky for me, I got everything I wanted and more!
Wishing you happy adventures in your travels and your studies.
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