Mandarin is rightfully regarded as one of the least accessible languages for beginners, so if you want to give yourself a head-start on the intricacies of tones and characters, what better way than to become a student? And if you’re going to be a student in China, why not do it in a place that looked like it jumped straight out of an Ang Lee period piece? If any of this sounds remotely appealing to you, it’s time for you to jump on a plane and get to Guangxi’s expat haven of Yangshuo.
It’s not all green tea and wire-fu, though. If you’re reading this and, indeed, want to study Chinese, chances are you’re not actually Chinese. And if you’re anything like me, you might need a bit of help getting it all sorted.
Here’s the beginner’s guide to how to become a student in Yangshuo:
Get to Yangshuo
Pretty self-explanatory. Yangshuo is a pretty small town and is not directly serviced by an airport, so you’ll have to fly into Liangjiang international airport near the city of Guilin. From here, you can either take a taxi directly to Yangshuo (~300RMB) or bus it into the city and then take a taxi (80-120RMB). China old hands, or those travelling with Chinese friends, can optionally take a Didi from the airport (60-100RMB). Lastly, a bus straight from the airport will set you back 50-55RMB. No matter how ripped off you get, it will take an hour and a half to two hours to actually get to Yangshuo.
The easiest option by far when it comes to student accommodation is, well, student accommodation. Omeida Language School offers accommodation as part of their package, and this has the added bonus of taking care of PSB registration issues.
If you’re a cantankerous bastard like me, though, you might want your own digs, and that can be trickier. Yangshuo is a seasonal town, and depending on when you get there, private accommodation might be in short supply. Don’t bother with the Internet – most listings are fake and a lot of places aren’t even advertised there. Housing is done via word of mouth, so get to a bar, spot a foreigner and chat them up until they add you to the expat WeChat groups. From there you can hopefully find a place.
Depending on your specific needs, housing in Yangshuo runs a lot cheaper than that of a major city. If you’re comfortable with a bare-bones approach you can get a place for as cheap as 500RMB/month. A decent place will set you back 1,000-1,500RMB/month, whilst a cool 3,000RMB/month will get you into luxury territory. Expect to pay anywhere from 3 months to a year in advance, depending on how sketchy/foreign you look.
Finally, if you are living by yourself, get to the PSB within 24 hours and register with them. They’ll need proof of residence (typically your tenancy contract) and your landlord/lady’s phone number.
Register with your school
First things first. Or third. Get to your school, pay your fees, and have your Chinese placement test. Depending on the frequency and intensity of the course you choose, you’ll pay anywhere from 15,000 to 70,000RMB for a year’s tutoring. They’ll also tell you how to go about getting hold of your student visa, which is fairly important.
Go back to Guilin
So you just got to Yangshuo. Awesome. Now go back to Guilin.
In order to secure a residence visa of any kind in China, you must first pass a medical check to make sure you’re hale and hearty and will not run around infecting locals with prison cocktails. Unfortunately, Yangshuo lacks the requisite facilities. Off to Guilin with you.
Your best bet is getting a bus directly from Yangshuo bus station (27RMB), which takes just over an hour. If you’re a high-roller your school can arrange a roundtrip taxi for you, but expect to pay around 250RMB. From there you can take a taxi to the snazzily-named Guilin Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (~15RMB).
The medical check costs 300RMB (possibly already factored into your school fee) and is a battery of tests including X-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests. The doctors tend to speak English and have a worrying tendency to frown and say ‘hmmm’. Simply present your receipt to the doctor in each room and the probing may commence.
Don’t have HIV
Assuming your health check comes back all good, you’re set. You’ll need to give the school your passport in order for your student visa to be processed, and they’ll give you a receipt in case any marauding policemen happen to demand your papers (they won’t). Wait five or so working days to get your passport back, and you’re ready to go. Get ready to learn the shit out of them characters against the backdrop of China-best stunning views.