Programs & Admissions

Our only requirement is to be motivated to learn! We welcome everyone and encourage improving social and professional skills with us. Besides our language classes, we also have a strong professional network in the city. We host networking events and professional gatherings several times a month, and our students are more than welcome to join these!

Yes. University-level credit is awarded to all Immersive Program students who complete the Lakeside Institute courses at a satisfactory standard. At the end of each Immersive Program session, we award official transcripts that are transferable to most colleges and universities. For more information about earning university credit through Lakeside’s Immersive Chinese Program, please contact us directly.

After receiving enrolment confirmation form the Lakeside Institute admissions manager, you will receive a detailed Pre-Departure Checklist. This checklist will contain all the information you need about the visa application processes, as well as information about what you can expect during your stay, how to prepare, and what to pack.

Program intake is on a rolling basis – there is no fixed start or end date, so you can book your program dates according to your own schedule. Remember that classes may be limited during holiday periods, particularly Chinese New Year (two weeks during January or February) and Chinese National Holiday week (the first two weeks of October). Also, begin your application a minimum of three weeks before you plan to start so you have enough time to settle program details and apply for the appropriate visa.

If you are planning to arrive a few days before your program begins and would like help with accommodations and navigation, please inform us in advance. Please contact us if you have any questions about when to arrive and how to prepare.

Our shortest program is a one-week Survival Chinese course which equips you with basic vocabulary and sentence structure for ordering food, asking for directions, and traveling. If your goal is to become proficient in Chinese, we recommend longer programs. Tell us your goals and timeline, and we can create a curriculum to get you there.

Most group classes have between two and six students. We keep classes small so that each student gets direct interaction with the teacher during class. Most packages also include private classes, which you can use to work through sticking points and focus on specific questions and topics.

The number of students depends on the season. We tend to have many long-term students throughout the year, with large numbers of short-term students arriving during the spring and summer holidays. Whatever the time of year, we have a strong local community and loads of events with local students and expats, so you will never be bored!

There is no correct answer for this – everyone has different strengths and challenges in learning a new language, as well as different study habits. We adapt our classes to students’ individual needs. Generally, you need to be at about an HSK 3 level to have a natural conversation in Chinese. We have had plenty of students go from zero to HSK 3 with only three months of intensive class. Remember that this is an average, not a guarantee! When designing your program, we will take into account your schedule, budget, environment, and preferred learning methods to maximize your progress in the shortest time. Programming is flexible, so you can adjust as you go.

Generally, Chinese learners are fluent at HSK level 5 or 6. We can’t say how long this should take – it really depends on you! How much time it takes to get to this level depends on your natural learning abilities, language background, and social environment, as well as your study habits and the amount of time you dedicate to practicing Chinese each day. The most important element in progressing from basic Chinese to fluent conversation is spending lots and lots of time speaking Chinese with different people, and that really depends on you! If your goal is to become fluent, you need to use Chinese to socialize as well as to study. The more you talk, the faster you learn.

We have had many students who progressed from zero to HSK 5 or 6 within a year, but many take longer. Every student is different. When booking your program, your program consultant will give you an assessment of how long you can expect to take to become fluent in Chinese based on both your study habits and social habits.

That depends on how you define “fluent” – is it just being conversationally fluent? Or does it also include proficiency in reading and writing? Due to the complexity of Chinese characters, most people learn to speak and understand spoken Chinese faster than they learn to read and write it.

The simplest way to quantify language proficiency is to measure the size of your vocabulary. The Chinese government created a standardized language proficiency evaluation system called the HSK (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì), which divides Chinese into six levels. HSK 1 requires knowledge of 150 words, HSK 2 is 300 words, HSK 3 is 600 words, HSK 4 is 1200 words, HSK 5 is 2500 words and HSK 6 is 5000 words. Chinese is a “Lego language” which combines small root words to make a limitless number of new words. This is why you can learn a lot of words with a relatively small number of characters.

In HSK 1 and 2, the learner is accumulating the basic building blocks of the language. HSK 3 represents a “turning point” when a learner has acquired enough vocabulary words and phrases to carry on a conversation and stop using any language other than Chinese in the classroom. By HSK 4, a learner can carry on an extended conversation about a variety of topics. By HSK 5, a learner is conversationally fluent and can understand most TV sitcoms. At HSK 6, can fluently converse in specialized and professional contexts, and can understand the evening news.

To judge how long it will take you to achieve a certain proficiency milestone or HSK level, you can calculate the number of characters you will need to learn per month, day, or week to meet your goal. For example, many of our students have progressed from zero to HSK 3 in three months and HSK 5 in 12 months. This means learning 1685 characters and 2500 vocabulary words in one year (or 32 characters and 48 vocabulary words per week), which takes a lot of dedication and study time. There is a big gap between HSK 5 and 6, and HSK 6 generally takes at least two years of intensive study to master.

Life in Hangzhou

Hangzhou has four seasons with hot summers and rainy winters. Spring and fall are relatively short, with sunny weather and temperatures between 18-30 degrees Celsius. Summers are long, hot, and muggy – bring light, quick-drying clothing, as well as a sweater to put on in overly air-conditioned public buildings. Winters are mild with temperatures between 8-15 degrees Celsius, but rainy weather makes it feel colder, so be sure to bring your winter clothes.

A wide variety of common toiletries (e.g. toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, etc.) can be bought at Hangzhou’s supermarkets, department stores, and international chain stores like Walmart. These include a variety of Western brands. Deodorant and antiperspirant are less common, so you may save time and trouble by bringing your own. Sunblock is common, but can be very expensive. Don’t forget to carry a mini pack of tissues when you go out – in China, many public restrooms outside of hotels and upscale department stores do not provide free toilet paper.

Every Lakeside Institute apartment is equipped with a washing machine. A terrace is provided for hang-drying clothes. Electric dryers are not used in China.

Yes. There are several dry cleaners in the neighborhood, and one of them is very close to our Center.

The voltage in China is 220, while in the US it is only 110. Most computer and smartphone chargers have built-in converters on their power adapters, but electric shavers and hair dryers often do not. Check the voltage range on any electronics you plan to bring before you pack them. Electronics ranging from 110–240V are safe to use in most countries, including China. Many electrical outlets in China are adaptable to several types of plugs, but if you find your plug needs an adaptor, you can easily purchase one in Hangzhou.

Hangzhou has many department stores and shopping malls where imported Western foods, clothing brands, and body care products can be found. Anything you can’t find in Hangzhou can be bought online through one of China’s many e-commerce platforms.

Yes, all Lakeside institute apartments and the Lakeside institute Center provide high-speed 4G and 5G wireless Internet. Most cafes, restaurants, and public buildings in Hangzhou also provide free WiFi.

Lakeside Institute organizes a variety of activities that aim to cover the interests of all students. None of the activities are mandatory, but we encourage our students to join as many as possible in order to make friends and practise their Chinese. We organize at least two activities per week, so you will never be bored while staying with us!

Most activities held on our campus are free of charge. For off-campus activities, there may be a fee to cover transport, admission, venue, or food costs.

Of course! Interacting with locals is such an important part of the language-learning process that we organize events with that specific purpose. Our community has many Chinese members who are excited to make friends with people from around the world. You will find Chinese are eager to talk to you, show you around, and share Chinese culture with you – especially the food!

Health & Safety

Hangzhou is a remarkably safe city and a pleasant place to live. Hangzhou is a very walkable city, and it is normal for people to get around on foot, even in the middle of the night. Street harassment, muggings, and other common urban threats are almost unheard of here. Women in particular comment on how safe they feel in China. Many women say they feel safer on the streets in Hangzhou than they do in their own hometowns.

Yes. Hangzhou has many good hospitals and clinics, and several of these employ English-speaking doctors. We provide information about English-language health services to all of our students upon arrival. If you need to visit a hospital or clinic during your stay in Hangzhou and you need assistance or advice, please let us know. Our bilingual staff will be happy to accompany you on a visit to the hospital or clinic to help you find your way around and communicate with the doctor.

Having pre-existing health conditions does not necessarily impact your ability to study in China, but please let us know in advance. We will advise you on how to prepare for your stay in Hangzhou and help you ensure your needs are met.

Some students choose to receive certain vaccinations before coming to China. Please consult your family doctor to ask what vaccinations you may need and receive a pre-departure health check.

We do not recommend drinking the tap water directly. Tap water in China is processed in the municipal water purification system, but it should still be boiled or purified with a home water filter before drinking. Most people in China drink boiled tap water, and many people choose to buy bottled water or bulk jugs of purified water. Untreated tap water is safe to use for brushing teeth or washing fruits and vegetables, but not considered pure enough to drink directly.

Lakeside Institute’s campus is equipped with drinking fountains where you can get purified drinking water. When outside, you are advised to bring drinking water with you or buy bottled water.

It is safe to use tap water to brush your teeth. However, you are strongly discouraged from drinking tap water directly without first purifying or boiling it.

All lakeside Institute students are required to purchase international health insurance that covers the entire duration of their stay in China. If you would like insurance recommendations, please contact lakeside Institute’s Admissions Manager for more information.

The majority of Western medicines are available in for prescription or over-the-counter purchase in pharmacies and hospitals throughout Hangzhou. Many traditional Chinese herbal medicines are also available in standard pharmacies and specialized clinics. If you have any questions about finding and buying medicine in Hangzhou, please let us know and we will help you get your answers. If you need help choosing over-the-counter medicines or picking up prescriptions at a pharmacy, let a Lakeside Institute team member know, and we will be happy to assist you in person or over the phone.

We do not recommend drinking the tap water directly. Tap water in China is processed in the municipal water purification system, but it should still be boiled or purified with a home water filter before drinking. Most people in China drink boiled tap water, and many people choose to buy bottled water or bulk jugs of purified water. Untreated tap water is safe to use for brushing teeth or washing fruits and vegetables, but not considered pure enough to drink directly.

Lakeside Institute’s campus is equipped with drinking fountains where you can get purified drinking water. When outside, you are advised to bring drinking water with you or buy bottled water.

Many students with allergies come to China. The degree to which this will impact your experience depends on what you are allergic to and how serious the allergy is. If you have any allergies – especially serious or life-threatening allergies – please inform Lakeside Institute staff well in advance so we can help you identify and prepare for potential risks.

Eating & Drinking

Hangzhou cuisine ranks among China’s eight major culinary traditions. Unlike spicy Sichuan and saucy Cantonese foods, Hangzhou food is characterized by its sweet and light flavors, focus on local ingredients, and fancy presentation style.

The most famous Hangzhou dishes include sweet and sour white fish, shelled shrimp with green tea, clay-roasted “beggar’s chicken”, and sweet soy-braised fatty pork.

Of course, as a modern city of 9 million people, Hangzhou has plenty of everything – all kinds of regional Chinese foods, as well as Western, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Middle Eastern, and other cuisines. No matter what you like to eat, you will never go hungry here!

Hangzhou may look like a meat-lover’s paradise when you first get here (and it is), but there are vegan and vegetarian options available on almost every menu (although they are not marked), as well as a growing number of dedicated vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Hangzhou is also home to a thriving international vegan community who will welcome you with lots of information and recommendations. Although the Happy Cow vegetarian restaurant locator app doesn’t work in China due to its dependence on Google Maps, there is a local version called 素食雷达 (“Vegetarian Radar”) which you can download from the app store or use in WeChat. We have a Vegetarian & Vegan Survival Guide which includes recommendations for local vegetarian/vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, a guide for meatless and vegan dishes you can get in non-vegan restaurants, and a phrase guide so you can confidently order your veg food in Chinese!

Absolutely! Halal is one of the easiest diets to accommodate in China due to the large population of ethnic Muslims in China and the popularity of ethnic Muslim cuisine. Halal beef noodle restaurants are literally everywhere, and tend to be high-quality, clean, and affordable.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are rare in China. There are plenty of gluten-free foods available, but you should be aware that most restaurant and hospitality staff are not highly aware of or sensitive to gluten restrictions. Many Chinese staples (such as noodles, dumplings and wontons) are wheat-based. Most dishes contain soy sauce, and sauces may also be thickened with flour. Many mock meats are made with vital wheat gluten. Fried foods are often breaded. Soups and boiled foods may contain pasta water.

Gluten-free travelers should prepare a Chinese “food card” with instructions for the chef which you can show to staff in restaurants. Many gluten-free travelers recommend bringing a stash of “safe foods” to tide you over while you adjust to the local environment and figure out where to get the foods you need. Expect to eat a lot of steamed vegetables and fish, rice, rice noodles, and fresh fruits and veggies from local markets. Look for accommodations with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals.

If you have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, please let Lakeside staff know so we can help you prepare.

Many students with allergies come to China. The degree to which this will impact your experience depends on what you are allergic to and how serious the allergy is. If you have any allergies – especially serious or life-threatening allergies – please inform Lakeside Institute staff well in advance so we can help you identify and prepare for potential risks.

We do not recommend drinking the tap water directly. Tap water in China is processed in the municipal water purification system, but it should still be boiled or purified with a home water filter before drinking. Most people in China drink boiled tap water, and many people choose to buy bottled water or bulk jugs of purified water. Untreated tap water is safe to use for brushing teeth or washing fruits and vegetables, but not considered pure enough to drink directly.

Lakeside Institute’s campus is equipped with drinking fountains where you can get purified drinking water. When outside, you are advised to bring drinking water with you or buy bottled water.

Accommodation

Our shared accommodations are standard two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments which are occupied by Lakeside Institute students. Each student gets a private bedroom, and the living room, kitchen, and bathroom are shared.

Yes. Students who do not want to find their own accommodations separately can book an all-inclusive package, which includes fully-furnished shared accommodations for the duration of your program. Please check the Packages & Prices page for price information. To see photographs and details about amenities and services, visit the Accommodations page.

We keep our apartments as close as possible to the school, no more than 30 minutes by public transport. Some apartments are walking distance from the school. All apartments are less than five minutes’ walk from a metro station

We have both options available – you can choose to live in a one-person suite, or in a two-bedroom or three-bedroom shared apartment with other Lakeside students. Generally, our students find they have a better experience when they have roommates to talk to and travel with.

If you want to maximize your Chinese exposure, you can also request to be placed in a shared apartment with a Chinese university student roommate. You won’t believe how quickly your Chinese improves when you practice at home AND at school!

Travel & Arrival

Flight booking is not included in our package, but if you have questions about flights, airlines, and prices, we are more than happy to answer your questions and help you find the best options available.

Pickup services are available for students arriving at Hangzhou airport. If you are flying to Shanghai and traveling to Hangzhou from there, we will give you detailed instructions to take the bus or train from the airport. We will also be available by phone, text, or WeChat for any questions you have when you arrive at the airport.

We will give you the Chinese and English address of your Hangzhou accommodations before you leave for your flight, along with the door key password, so even if you cannot connect with us, you will still be able to get to your apartment. If you are taking a bus or train from Shanghai and can connect with us by phone or WeChat to confirm your arrival time, we can make arrangements to pick you up directly from the train station or bus station and personally accompany you to the apartment.

Of course! We encourage our students to see more of China. This is the best way to put your new Chinese skills to the test and see the incredible diversity that China has to offer! Try to stick to weekend trips until the end of your program, though – you don’t want to fall behind on your studies!

Even though our programs do not include travel outside of Hangzhou, our students often gather together to organize their own group trips to different parts of China, like Guilin and Beijing. We want to make sure you have the best possible experience and are more than happy to help you out with recommendations and booking assistance! Just don’t forget to send us a postcard when you go!

China visa

Application time varies depending on the type of visa you are applying for and whether you request rush or regular service. A rush-service tourist visa can take as little as 2 days, while a student or internship visa which requires mailing and authenticating original documents can take 2 weeks or more. Start the process as early as possible to avoid a stressful rush. To ensure there is enough time to obtain the visa, we generally advise students to apply for programs at least 6 weeks before the desired start date.

Visa applications can be submitted at official visa service centers or Consulate-generals with the necessary jurisdiction. This is usually quite straightforward. We will help you find the best location to submit your application.

A Visa is required for all entries to China. Which visa you need depends on which program you book and how long you will stay. We will provide you with visa assistance upon confirming your program booking. The visa application process can sometimes involve preparing and authenticating multiple documents, which can be confusing and frustrating – especially if you’ve never done it before. Don’t worry – we make it easy for you!

Covid-19

Currently, the outbreak in China has been mostly contained. Most new reported cases were not acquired through local transmission but were imported by travelers returning to China from overseas. Although a second wave is always possible, China has implemented aggressive social distancing and transmission tracking measures, and is now considered relatively safe compared to many other countries.

Yes, we are! Although China has temporarily closed its borders to foreign passport holders, you can still study Chinese with us thorough our online tutoring programs. Our students who are already in China can choose to attend classes on-campus or take online classes from home. Pending the reopening of China’s borders, all Immersive Program and Study Tour bookings have been postponed until December 2020.

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