I was born in China and have been back eight times, and the last, with Hutong School was the first time I felt like I belonged in China. The perfect balance of academics, social events, and independent living made for a truly unforgettable experience. I had the opportunity to experience the city in my own way, with freedom to explore with new friends. We all lived in close proximity to each other, and with the added class time, grew close within a number of days.
The accommodations were clean, friendly, and located in flats shared with full-time residents. It gave a unique view into the city, as we were not in student-only housing. I was able to say hello to my 40-year old neighbor with a 3-year old daughter every morning. Most of the accommodations were located three-four tube stops away from the school, so my classmates and I were able to enjoy a morning commute. The school was a short walk from the tube station, and it was a beautiful walk each day.
If I could give the staff a 12 or of 10, I would. Early into my visit, I injured my foot badly and required hospitalization. The staff went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable. It was daunting to be in an international hospital with very little language skills and no parents, but there always was a translator available. Furthermore, many staff members would simply stop by to visit, just to make sure that I was doing alright.
The social scene in Shanghai is wonderful. It was difficult to branch out at first, but Hutong School made it easy with their social events. They planned overnight trips to Beijing, and day trips to Suzhou. Additionally, we met at bars several times to get to know each other. The staff attended these events and we were able to hang out with them, as friends. As we got more comfortable with the city, Hutong School gave recommendations of great places for nightlife.
I connect with China on an extremely personal level. Hutong School classes allowed me to learn Chinese at my own pace, and by the end of my time in China, I was able to communicate with others around me. The classes were small, capped at seven students. Each teacher gave us a true one-on-one experience, and pushed our abilities as far as they could. I have become inspired by the program that Hutong School has put forth, and would recommend it in a heartbeat.