* Overall educational experience
Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.
IUP is a very expensive, very intense, and somewhat pretentious program that produces results. The only programs that are really comparable are ICLP in Taiwan and Hopkins in Nanjing. If you are an advanced student pursuing better Chinese at any cost, IUP is likely a better choice than the any of the other private or university run Chinese programs in the mainland, if for no other reason than IUP has the highest concentration of advanced students. If you are a beginning student or don’t have the time or money to do an intensive program like IUP, private tutoring or one of the many summer programs in Beijing may be a better choice.
• 1 to 3 Student Teacher Ratio
• Excellent teachers
• Diligent and intelligent classmates
• Expensive ($4800 for summer, $8500 for one semester)
• Limited Integration with Qinghua
• Will IUP be able to retain its teachers?
I thought I was a motivated student before coming to IUP, spending a little under 70 hours a week studying. That quickly turned into 85+ hours a week when I attended in Summer, and only started to let up after attending IUP for about 4 months. A friend that attended PiB said IUP is definitely more intense, and another friend who attended ACC says that the workloads at IUP and ACC are about the same.
One of the biggest advantages of IUP is the core classes, which start at university 3rd year Chinese equivalent, level 1, and go up to level 5. These classes are IUP’s biggest advantage over hiring a tutor; they ensure that not only do you understand the core few thousand Chinese 单词 and 句型 but that you also know the 搭配 and 用法, something which is nearly impossible to do via independent study (I’ve tried), and very difficult to do with a tutor (I’ve also tried). This is also something that the low student teacher ratio and daily 1 on 1 classes are needed for, as 搭配 and 用法 can only be adequately addressed with massive amounts of student-teacher interaction. The ancient Chinese series excellent, and the option to take custom courses is also fun, but can be hit and miss. For example, in Spring I took a course on modern Chinese financial reform （金融行业改革）. This was great because I took it with other students that had sufficient Chinese ability and substance background to explain things like effects of QE on the real RMB/USD exchange rate, but because the teacher didn’t have a finance background, we had to find the class materials and do conduct much of the discussion ourselves.
The students at IUP are nearly all top caliber. The student body of 60 is about 1/3 professionals taking time off to learn Chinese (like me), 1/3 Masters or PhD students, and 1/3 undergraduates or recent grads. IUP is where many Fullbrighters, Blakemore Fellows, and Light Fellows go. Before IUP I considered myself quite motivated, but there’s nothing like peer pressure to make sure you study as much as possible. When I joined IUP, I thought my Chinese was pretty good, only after completing the entry test did I realize that I was only at level 3 out of 5 for the core classes. Only teaching intermediate and advanced Chinese is also very helpful to create an all-Chinese environment, something which to my knowledge only IUP has. IUP also has a very active alumni network, which is active in posting jobs and organizing lectures and activities in Beijing and Washington DC.
I’ve only had two types of teachers at IUP, good teachers and excellent teachers. I’ve heard of other students who didn't like an individual teacher, but this is rare. Teachers usually spend at least as much time preparing for class as teaching class, and it shows. Combined with the 1 to 3 student teacher ratio, you can expect to spend a lot of time correcting Chinese mistakes that you never knew you had (trust me, these mistakes exist). Also, all teachers I interacted with were more than happy to give me extra help. This extra effort included things like coming to provide feedback over the weekend to do a speech competition, correcting a 5000 character essay, correcting daily essays that were not part of the curriculum, and helping me set up a post-IUP independent study syllabus. Another important aspect is that IUP teachers are at IUP year round, where as many of the summer programs only hire teachers for a few months out of the year. This means that IUP teachers tend to be much more familiar with the teaching materials than other programs.
For teachers, IUP is the top choice. Many IUP teachers taught at PIB, ACC or HIB before being accepted into IUP. However IUP’s teacher salary is no longer competitive, which means that over the coming years, some of the best IUP teachers may leave the program.
* Social & Cultural Integration:
How integrated did you feel with the local culture?
Beijing, despite the pollution, is still probably the best place to run an intensive Mandarin program for those who intend to work or study in mainland China. Even though the Qinghua-Berkeley combination might sound prestigious on paper, these institutions do little to improve the program. For Qinghua, auditing classes is technically a possibility, but can only be done within a few select departments. Qinghua also makes many matters more difficult than necessary in terms of visa and student ID card. That being said, trying to create a collaborative program with a Chinese university is notoriously difficult, and with the possible exception of Hopkins in Nanjing, I don’t think anybody has found a good model.