Theory: the best way to learn a language is immersion. Evidence (from a sample size of one): I learnt and retained more Mandarin during my 1 year studying in Taiwan than my 3 years at uni. Problem: studying abroad comes at a pretty hefty price. Solution? Hustle your way into studying Mandarin, or any language tbh, abroad for free.
Take language modules during your exchange – so you can work towards getting your degree and becoming bilingual (or trilingual, or even multilingual) at the same time! Studying at my home uni meant choosing from a select list of modules, none of them languages. But going on exchange to Hong Kong meant I could take Cantonese and Mandarin modules at no additional cost!
Often, universities offer bursaries for study abroad and it’s worth looking into special government loans/bursaries for exchanges too! You know what else? Check with your school’s Chinese department for information on scholarships to study Mandarin abroad. There’s a load of scholarships aimed at prospective exchange students or fresh-grads so exploit this resource as much as possible before graduating! The support you get with applications as a student is also super useful and makes applying less stressful compared to applying sad and alone, post-graduation.
Scholarships, Scholarships, Scholarships
When it comes to studying for free, scholarships are your best friend, adoptive parents, sugar daddy – whatever you wanna call them, there’s SO many out there that can fund your study abroad. Unfortunately, there are some things beyond the scope of what a scholarship can offer, so keep these in mind. In most cases, you’ll have to cover flights, visas, vaccinations and insurance yourself.
What a scholarship can cover though? Say bye-bye to tuition costs and living expenses! These differ scholarship to scholarship, but takes a HUGE weight off your shoulders for sure. If you play your cards right, you can also jump from one scholarship another, heheh.
How to Study Mandarin (or Any Language) Abroad FOR FREE! Types of Scholarships
In the UK, the British Council offers a range of scholarships to study Mandarin for 6 months to 1 year in China! These scholarships cover tuition, accommodation and living expenses – literally a dream! Generally, these are dependent on the political relationship between the two countries, but it’s worth a Google to see if there are similar, country specific programmes to get abroad and learn a language.
The Confucius Institute (China) and Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has scholarships that are open internationally. In these cases, eligibility is also wider in terms of age. So, after you nab that within-one-year-of-graduation scholarship, you can apply for these! Do check scholarship conditions for more specific restrictions if you plan on jumping from one scholarship to another.
Language Centre Specific
Studying a language is HARD. What’s more, it’s easy to think you’ll be perfectly fluent after one year of study. A scholarship to study abroad is literally designed as a gateway drug to get you to become addicted to the country and its culture. So what now after you’re sucked in? Find another scholarship of course!
I recommend this option after you’ve secured government funded scholarships, already have a few months of intensive study under your belt and/or are already in the country you want to study. You’ll be more familiar with what language schools are in the area and will have stronger credentials in terms of recommendation letters and language ability. My friend jumped consecutively scholarship to scholarship, 3 TIMES. Get it girl.
Although language schools (e.g. NTNU’s Mandarin Training Centre) offer their own scholarships, these will generally just cover tuition fees. Living expenses, you’ll have to figure out. but teaching/tutoring English is a very lucrative business abroad!
Work & Study
Ok, ok, so this isn’t exactly free, but a great way to continue your language learning. I recommend this after you’ve exhausted your scholarship options, since you should by now have a good grasp of the language. A lot of teaching English jobs offer Chinese language lessons as an additional incentive, but working and studying is EXHAUSTING. Unless you’re super motivated and determined, don’t try to study Chinese from a beginner’s level alongside a day-to-day job – although possible, it’ll be slow and frustrating (see the “I teach English abroad” expats for example).
This route is best for those already pretty fluent in the language since less effort is needed to retain new information and wrap your head around different language constructs. Ideally, after learning, working in a local company would help you pick up new vocab, but if not, taking evening classes is also a good way to keep on improving!
Although my experience is specific to learning Mandarin, I’m sure these tips can be applied to other widely spoken languages – French, Spanish or German? Let me know your experiences!
What are your money-saving tips on funding language study abroad?