Monday, March 30, 2015

Professors of What?

   School is not what I thought know I read on the website. The teachers are not professors at all as the site claims. The textbook for advanced is definitely advanced but they don't know how to teach it. If the teachers a company hires are not actually professors they should say as much to help students make their decisions with no regrets, right?

   The schedule wasn't given out until the second week in and it says:
Monday 2 - 4:45 Speaking and Listening
Tuesday 2 - 4:45 Reading and Writing
Wednesday 2 - 4:45 Reading and Writing
Thursday 2 - 4:45 Speaking and Listening
Friday 2- 4:00 Culture

   There is little to no speaking going on on Mondays and Thursdays. We read the vocabulary and go over the meanings for an hour, the teacher reads the text and then moves on to the questions. Then we look at a PPT of grammar points; some from the book and many not. Although it's advanced class there is a lot of English coming from the teacher to explain most everything. It's like a nonstop radio with 15 minute breaks each hour.

   There is no book for Tuesday and Wednesday. We read nothing. We talk for two and a half hours on any given topics, again, with 15 minute breaks each hour. Felt more like a free chat class. I eventually asked if we'd at least write. My one other classmate didn't want to but we did for the last 10 minutes. I could only pray to do more in the future. Chatting is fun, but I was definitely lost on the purpose. An English explanation also accompanies each new word. 

   After being a teacher/tutor for years since the U.S. I know that at a certain level you describe in the target language. In a good classroom you will hear.
Student: "I'm sorry what does 'naive' mean?"
Teacher: "It describes a person that is new to everything. Not stupid. Simply doesn't understand how the world works yet."
- or -
Teacher: "Do you understand the word 'criminal'?"
Student: "I'm gonna guess someone that does 'crime'?"
If that fails, the dictionary is a student's BEST friend. You know I used to tell my students it was their foreign boy/girlfriend.

   I talked to Nicole about my disappointment in the teaching styles. Their site says they have a great method but I know for a fact that this is no way to improve well. Her best answer was (and the other two times I would ask in the future) to take it up with the teachers.

  The speaking class made some improvement as our suggestion to watch a movie or see a TV show for listening was agreed to. However pausing a movie every two to five minutes with breaks effectively took the whole class. Randomly selecting 成语* idioms that are popular became more of a hindrance than a help. However, we finally stopped getting 5 related vocab words for each new word in our textbook. Each chapter already contains 70-100 new words with 3-10 supplementary and at two classes per week, it was becoming crazy.

   We also finally received 10 minutes per hour to write about a given topic during writing...I was trying to write well though, so I usually needed to use the break times as well. Every time the teacher kept asking, "Are you finished yet? We don't have much time."

   My teachers are nice people so I won't name them, but they are definitely not teachers. I know the same is said about people that travel and teach English but some people end up actually being good at it so I'm fine with that if I know upfront. Although these people have the Chinese equivalent to a TEFL certificate, sometimes, it doesn't mean they can teach.

Culture class? 0.0 Well, it's all in English and more of an arts and crafts thing. Same teachers but definitely not detailed. More of 'Chinese people like this picture let's paint one together!' (Insert big smiles and a hand raised for a high five)


DISCLAIMER: My friend that is in the intermediate level says Wendy is an awesome teacher. She gets down to business and spends no more than 10 minutes on any day with gossip. I name her because greatness deserves praise and advertisement right?

Do you know any Chinese teachers that may not be licensed but really rock the classroom? Put their info in the comments!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Arrival and Pause

   I landed and found my way to the school. Although someone should have been at the office, I had to call. Jessica is the first person I met along with a man that drove us to find me a hotel. As I'd guessed, the apartment wasn't ready. They told me to come in tomorrow (a Sunday) and I'd be able to talk to Nicole and see the apartment.

   Sunday, I went in and Nicole and I discussed how the school worked, the visa and health regulations, apartments, and internship wants. I'd explained again that I just wanted hotel or conventions as I only have done any work in that in the past, besides of course much of the States. I didn't mention it. I definitely didn't come here to do that! haha

   She said fine and I ended up needing to pay the full price through Paypal. I'd only brought enough cash to do the apartment fees (usually a month's deposit and three months rent). She told me that in order to get the apartments I wanted I should have told her earlier. Ok... Later we'd see the apartment...

   T'was dark now and we quickly walked down lane through an apartment complex somewhere in town. It'd started raining and Nicole was having a hard time unlocking the building gate. We hike up three dimly lit flights of stairs. A couple seemed to be shouting at each other, a clanging sound is going on and a man yelling something or other to someone on the next floor up. After a knock on the door, we can enter the apartment. It's also dimly lit but as a stickler for cleanliness I knew one thing was certain, although there's no way to capture the dank smell of the place, it was not clean and it wasn't what I'd seen in the recent set of pictures. One of the men inside said he was already living elsewhere but hadn't moved his items yet. I didn't need anymore time to conclude that I couldn't live there. I can do old buildings, but I can't do dirty. With a grouty bathroom and thick smell, I just couldn't do it.

   I told Nicole I'd need to find a different place. And then I was left to do just that. They gave me a website and said to look and call around. Without I phone I'd asked if they could assist and they agreed. Every place I selected they turned down as too far or an offer too good to be true. I told them that like their website stated my budget was 2300 a month. The man whom turns out to work with them laughs and says I need to budget around 5000 a month. In fact one of the men last night said his new place is 10 for just a room and a few roommates. 0.0

   I decide to try Airbnb instead but when I checked in it was a disaster. I wanted to cry and told my language partner of the place. He had a good laugh and I sighed and went to sleep. This has nothing to do with YCC so you can just read the comment on the website.

   Now I'm frustrated and back in a hotel until I can trust anything again. I confronted Nicole about the apartment not being available despite telling her in November that I'd be applying to the March 9th program and again and again since the start of the year! Her tone quickly changed into a mocking that I didn't tell her that. I let it go and reminded her that the apartment she showed upon arrival was not the same. In a louder tone she said it was exactly the same. I asked her to print the email, now that I could see her anger, and she did. She said she took the pictures on her own camera herself. Naturally, I figured I'd better ask before or after the men moved in. She said before.

   I could see her confidence and decided to hit myself instead for not finding my own place before arrival. I simply asked if they could at least look at the contract since I'm now on my own and I've been hearing of quite a few scams and immediate evictions due to fraud. She and Jessica agreed. Another woman in the office helped me call a few more "landlords" and found all but one to sound like a 骗子* cheater. I felt a bit defeated and simply left. I could barely focus on anything now.

pian4 zi

Do you have any tips for apartment hunting in Shanghai? Post them below!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Looking to Intern in China

   It all started back in October of 2013. I decided that I would indeed undergo graduate studies somewhere in the middle kingdom. However, I knew that I wasn't prepared for my major. I searched the web for insight on the best step. Should I do an intense summer study to regain lost language skills? Should I just find a job and hope to recover some of the lost language skills? Could I do both legally at the same time?

   Well everything ended up boiling down to the hybrid of a language school program. Study for three months and then do a three month internship. This started to make a lot of sense and take the pressure off of trying to do both. I dug into various websites and browsed quite a few offerings:

and a few others that, believe me, no one even needs to remember they exist.

   I should have looked clearly into Intrax Global Internships or Go Abroad China :( A company with established relationships. (Find your own personal experience reviews as I have no information on them.)

   I decided I may have the better experience using Yudefang International School [ YCC Shanghai as they claim to be an affiliate of Zhejiang University of Finance and Economics. I saw them on LinkedIn and Facebook and decided to ask the Chinese Forums community. It turns out that one guy was indeed in the process of using their services! He had some visa issues in the beginning and then stated that he was satisfied with their beginner classes but was not on the internship program.

   "Alright!" I thought to myself. This is a real company and I can live on or off campus if I choose Hangzhou, but I should probably do Shanghai. In my initial conversations I made sure YCC was able to provide either a hotel internship or something related to conventions or events; things that I have some experience in. A language partner of mine warned me that although the site seemed OK, "it's probably just somebody paying ZUFE to use their name and they aren't really part of a university. Simply out to make money."

   In my clouded with recent life event judgment, I decided it must actually be related otherwise, how could they really do business?

If you have used a program besides YCC and enjoyed it thoroughly, please leave a comment. If you have experience with YCC, please leave that comment on the last page of this story.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparation and Visas

   Fast forward to 2014 my excitement to return to China is going on an emotional roller coaster. I am anxiously studying and practicing the HSK 6 exam. I will need it when I apply to my graduate studies program in the fall of 2015. 

   It's November and HSK 6 is laughing at me a month away. I contact YCC and say that I'm ready to apply to their program for the coming Spring. They let me know they have an advanced class starting in March. This is perfect! My contract in Soko ends on February 28th exactly! I'm seeing the stars align. I send the application fee through Paypal, a widely used and fairly trusted deliverer of money. 

   Weeks go by and I've heard nothing. I let the program know that I passed HSK 6. Completely unexpected! I get a congrats and personally feel happy that I can skip the incoming student exam that they claim to have.

   January arrives and I'm a bit worried. I email about the visa forms so that I can secure a student visa and get into one of the apartments listed on the website. Shanghai can be expensive but they are offering a shared room for 2300 yuan! Can't mess this up!

   They say they'll send the forms but some issues with DHL delay the process. They tell me to use a copy of the letter but the consulate won't accept it. They ask if I can just come in in February for a new class and use a tourist visa. I can't do that. I'm working and entering China on a tourist visa to work is illegal... A friend of mine suggests I call DHL. They resolve the issue and the paperwork is here! I rush myself over to the consulate and they are not willing to do the visa because the dates of the paperwork don't match up. Nicole, the owner(?) of YCC tells me this is not an issue and that the government's form always allows for a full year. I tell the consulate but they don't trust it. They apprehensively consent to a 180-day visa.

   No problem! That's all I'll need to finish their program do an internship and visit my family in the U.S. before starting grad school. I'm satisfied...but what about my apartment?

   It's mid February and I need to not only move out of my current place but also mail a few boxes to my new place! Classes start on the 9th. I ask if something's wrong and the apartment is unavailable? Maybe a current student is there? I ask if I should start searchin on my own. Finally in March Nicole says there is a place that the student will move soon and says I can send my packages to the school or there. If I don't like the place I can opt to find my own apartment. The pictures look good but the school seems like the safer option. I send them on and feel better. I can fly out now and simply do a hotel for the weekend.