Alumni Spotlight: Peter Cahill


Peter is a marine engineer whose work has given him the opportunity to travel all over the world. However after his first trip to China he was hooked and has been back many times favoring Southern China the most.

Why did you choose this program?

The first time I went to CLI it was just for 3 weeks to learn some tourist Chinese to help me on my travels in China. My girlfriend at that time was from Guilin so I Googled language schools in Guilin and found CLI. I liked the look of the school's immersion program from the their website and decided to give it a try for a few weeks.

The experience that I had there was amazing and it was such good value that staying in a nice hotel in Guilin (but not learning any Chinese) would have cost more than staying at CLI and having 20 hours of lessons every week!

After my first stay at CLI I decided that I wanted to learn more than just tourist Chinese. Enough to ultimately work in China. Hence I returned for a 7 week stay in the summer of 2016 and plan to return again in 2017.

Many decades ago my uncle founded a school similar to CLI but in Perugia, Italy, to teach English and Italian to foreign students. Unfortunately I never got to visit his school or study there but this made me all the more interested in trying out the experience at CLI. Having done so I truly believe that total immersion language schools are the fastest and most fun way to learn a language.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CLI offered assistance with applying for the visa, getting to CLI from the airport or train station, familiarizing with the city on arrival and basically anything else that I needed to know before I left home or when I got there.

As I had travelled to China and Guilin several times before I did not need most of the assistance, but it was available. They provided a local mobile phone to use while at CLI which is very handy and there is always someone available to help with anything you need a translator for, like a visit to a doctor, or just to buy things like train or bus tickets.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Every student that I met at CLI, and myself included, wished we could have stayed longer. My advice to anyone planning a first trip to CLI is to book as long a stay as you can. You will not regret it.

During my first trip to CLI I altered my travel plans so that I could stay for an extra week and the last time I was there, another Irish student who I met at the school changed her travel plans and return flights so that she could double her time there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

From Monday to Friday most students will have four hours of class per day with two different teachers. You have three teachers in total. A comprehension teacher for two hours everyday, and then three classes a week with your reading/speaking teacher, and two classes with your writing teacher. But the schedule is very flexible and you can request changes to suit your needs.

Lunch is available at CLI every day cooked by the Chinese cooks and is always great. Outside of class time there is an activity room and plenty of places to hang out and practice Chinese. In the evening students/interns and sometimes teachers usually head out to find dinner somewhere in the city.

There are activities arranged most nights of the week that you can sign up for if you are interested and at the weekend there is often a trip to somewhere outside Guilin. Sometimes a day trip and sometimes an overnight stay somewhere like the Longji rice terraces or some other local scenic spots.

The weekday activities vary from cultural experiences to sports or even KTV (a Chinese favorite). Some students prefer to just chill at the weekend and maybe go for a stroll around the city centre or one of Guilin's many parks.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

I guess it must have been failure. I was never good at languages in school, drawing, maths and physics and other quantitative and creative subjects were the ones that I was good at. So when I first went to CLI I was worried that I might spend a few weeks there and come away with just a few tourist phrases.

However luckily this was not the case and after just three weeks I felt that not only had I learned a huge amount but had gained the confidence to use it while traveling in China.