For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about going back to study Chinese full time. The reason I haven’t is that I’m married; I would either have to leave my wife in the HK area and go study for a year, or we would both uproot and go to whereever I end up studying. I’m already at a fairly high level. I live on the mainland and can get by smoothly at work and socially. However, I would like to go back for an MA in translation/interpreting some day.
Right now, I don’t think I’m good enough to do that. I have never had a chance to study full-time. In my opinion, I’ve done quite well for someone who has only been able to study part-time. However, considering that I would actually like Chinese to be my core job skill, I feel like studying part time or by myself is like crawling; I’ll never be able to build the critical mass necessary for doing a higher degree. My wife and I have talked about this a lot lately. She seems to have realized that I’ll never be satisfied with my language ability until I’ve had the chance to study full time in a serious environment. I also hate my present job. The money is not bad, but I see no future in it.
My wife and I are slowly starting to agree that I may need to study full time for a year before applying for a graduate program in HK or the U.S. We are not rich, but we have enough money put back so that I could do this. My question for everyone is as follows: If cost were not the primary concern, where would you choose to study for one year? I want the most rigorous program that can be had for an advanced student. I want the best teachers, the best materials and the smallest class sizes that can be found. I don’t care about academic credits. I am just looking for the best place to learn.
Where should I go? The top three choices that come to mind are the Inter-University Program (IUP) at Qinghua University, Beijing Language and Cultural University and the NTNU MTC. These are my thoughts about these three places:
The IUP is by far the most expensive. Tuition, room and board would run to about US$18,000 for one year. On paper, it looks quite good: 15 hours a week in small group classes and 5 hours a week of 1 to 1. However, they seem to moslty focus on intermediate students. I wonder if they will really have that much in the way of materials and teaching experience for high-level students. I remember being very impressed by their website a few years ago. While it still looks impressive, I wonder if they will have much for me.
BLCU seems to have very good materials. I have a lot of the books that IUP claims to use; while they aren’t crap, they don’t seem as well designed as BLCU’s. BLCU is also pretty cheap. Tuition is less than US$3,000 a year; it seems that the total bill for BLCU would be up to US$10,000 less than IUP. However, I get the impression that class sizes at BLCU are big–I think up to 20 students–but maybe fewer for higher level classes. I don’t see anything on their website about 1 to 1 classes. Maybe I could use some of the money saved from not going to IUP to pay for 1 to 1 lessons outside, but I don’t know if I’d be able to find a decent teacher who can give me what I need.
I mentioned the MTC because I know a lot of people have studied there both before and after the IUP changed over to the dark side. From what I’ve read here, quality is slipping. Having lived and studied part time in Taiwan, I don’t think I want my next study experience to be there. If there were an amazingly good program in Taiwan, I would consider it, but I don’t see anything attractive right now.
These three seem to be the best places around to study for a year. Have I missed any other options? Does anyone here have any experiences they can share about these three schools? I’m quite interested to hear from anyone who was already fairly advanced when they began studying at any of these places.