The Chinese Language Institute (CLI)

The Chinese Language Institute (CLI)


The Chinese Language Institute (CLI) is an innovative language and cultural center located in Guilin, China. Housed in its own 5-story language learning center and officially affiliated with Guangxi Normal University, CLI offers the fastest track to mandarin language proficiency through one-on-one training, constant interaction and complete immersion. With strong connections at private and public institutions throughout the country, CLI opens China to its students in countless ways. We warmly welcome you to study in China with CLI!



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Yes, I recommend this program

I first found out about CLI from a quick google search on "Immersion programs in China". CLI showed up high on the list, and some research verified that it was legit. After doing some comparison shopping into other programs, CLI remained the best-value, best-looking program for a short-term program. Another huge perk was its excellent location in Guiling, one of the prettiest cities in China (It's also a short train ride from Guangzhou and Hong Kong).

From beginning till end, it was an unforgettable experience. After an outstanding pre-departure experience, I arrived to the CLI center Saturday afternoon and was warmly greeted by an intern - one of the local Chinese university students hired to support the CLI program. She took me up to the recreational room and I was immediately thrust into one of the almost-constant games of Mahjong. An hour later, I was invited to dinner by another student, an Australian professor-turned-expat, whose colleague was throwing a fancy dinner for him. I couldn't believe my luck, as I had the chance to participate in a traditional Chinese formal-style event, complete with excessive delicious food and generous Maotai Baijiu toasting.

One of the huge perks of CLI is that its students come from literally all walks of life. Summers and semesters tend to have far more college-aged students, but my time at CLI had a large variety of ages, professions, and backgrounds. Some of my best friends here were law students on break, professors of music and engineering, other college students, and international people from everywhere. It's a great chance to not only improve your Chinese knowledge, but also your general knowledge of the world.

The actual city itself, of course, was incredibly beautiful. There are constantly activities scheduled and planned by CLI, and an intense guide-book constantly being updated with suggestions from current and former students. Guilin is a smaller city, by Chinese standards, which means it's cheaper and more authentic than the bigger ones like Beijing or Nanjing. You can get a bao for literally 1 yuan, or some famous Guilin Mifun for 5 yuan. The CLI campus is well-situated next to a busy city street, as well as walking distance to city center and a nearby Wanda mall.

In terms of Chinese education, it's absolutely excellent. You're assigned 3 teachers: Comprehensive, Reading/Writing, and Listening/Speaking. They are personally assigned to you, with flexibility in teacher-choice and schedule, and they coordinate amongst each other to ensure you get the best education possible. Classes run from 0820-1020, 1030-1230, 1400-1600, and 1600-1800. You can use any textbook you want, but they are very strong at teaching the HSK series as well as the Integrated Chinese series.

Overall, I cannot recommend this program enough. Come check out CLI as soon as you can!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
One of the teachers here, Oranje, loves to take students on expeditions to the local Escape Room. I've been to escape rooms in America, and they're nothing like these ones. In Guilin, they have horror-themed Escape Rooms in massive floors spanning multiple rooms. There are live actors that participate in the festivities, terrifying you as you try to solve puzzles to escape. The stories are constantly changing, with 2 to choose from at any given time. So much fun!
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Yes, I recommend this program

The great thing about CLI's Chinese Immersion Program is that it is truly authentic. If you choose to listen, speak and communicate only in Chinese, the CLI community will respect your wishes. Not only will you get four hours of classes each day, staff and students who live at the CLI building will also be talking with you in Chinese. If you are an absolute beginner, no problem. Staff respect this and will communicate to you in English when necessary.
I found the support given to be fantastic. This happened from the very beginning when applying for the program, right through to post departure follow-up. When I arrived in Guilin, I discovered my phone was so out-dated that I needed to buy a new one. One of CLI's interns came with me and helped my buy an appropriate phone. Back at CLI, staff helped me with downloading and installing the necessary apps for communication like WeiXin (We Chat).
Since students, interns and some staff live in the same building, there is never any issues of not having support when you need it. This is one of the advantages of CLI, it is not only a school, but a living, breathing community.
Another advantage is that lessons can be molded to suit your own interests. If you like text-book learning, that is fine. There are plenty of options there. If you prefer another method of instruction, you have personal preferences, or would like to study a different way, that can also be arranged. I preferred conversation, and my lessons were based on this.

What was your funniest moment?
My funniest moments were in class. What I said and what was understood had two complete different meanings. The teacher(s) and myself would sometimes double over in laughter from my mistakes.
Things like "chatting with the driver" would be interpreted as "chatting up the driver" or "maintaining a house" would sound like "maintaining a mistress". Let us say, the list goes on and does not get any better!
This just highlights the importance of tones and a tonal language.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I needed to review previously studied material for spoken Chinese. I needed to overcome shyness to speak and build fluency. CLI listened and designed my 1-week course to do this successfully. I even used classwork to talk to a local coffee shop worker. A small conversation, but a huge victory. Before I only used Chinese in the classrooms to complete lesson. I had little confidence to speak to Chinese people in real life situations. Now I have the confidence. Thanks CLI. I hope to return. Also, very skilled teachers and very friendly staff. I felt welcomed.

What was your funniest moment?
I thought one student was an intern and got confused by some teachers and interns names, but I eventually straightened everything out. Funny.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I arrived at CLI in September and studied there for 3 months. The less English you use the better you will be. You should be ready to prepare for classes the night before as well as reviewing what you have already learned. If you do this you will be able to finish one book a month and progress at a steady pace. You will become friends with your teachers which will help when class is rough and you are mentally exhausted. You also need to find Chinese friends outside of the school so you can practice speaking. A majority of the students at CLI only speak English which will mess with your brain and hinder you ability to speak and think in Chinese.

What would you improve about this program?
A more strict language pledge to vastly improve the resultant proficiency you leave with.
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Yes, I recommend this program

CLI attracted me because of its flexibility (start whenever you want, for however long you want), but now that the program is over, I truly understand why every aspect of this program is optimal for learning Chinese. It all sounds too good to be true, I know, but trust me -- this is the right program.

First of all, the flexibility and scheduling IS fantastic: I recommend trying to go for at least 8 weeks if you're a beginner! You want to make sure you're giving yourself enough time to actually learn & absorb, as well as participate in the evening & weekend activities.

Second of all, the one-on-one tutoring is absolutely STELLAR. Completely irreplaceable. I'll never try to learn a language in a big traditional classroom setting again. It's hard, because you can't just hide in the back of the class if you forgot some vocabulary or don't understand the grammar -- but that's exactly why it's so effective. Can you imagine any method that would teach you Chinese better than speaking Chinese one-on-one for HOURS every day with your teachers? I sure can't!

One thing I didn't expect was how absolutely patient, kind-hearted, and generally amazing the teachers & staff all are. Every now and then a teacher-student pairing won't be ideal (in which case you can easily talk to the staff and work out a schedule with a different teacher) but a vast majority of the students absolutely adore every one of their teachers -- myself included! My experience would have been nothing without the wonderful teachers & staff at CLI.

Lastly, I just have some advice. When you pursue this program (because of course you should!), make sure to use your time wisely. Speak Chinese outside the classroom as much as possible. Speak with other students, with the interns, with other teachers, with shopkeepers, with locals -- speak all the time! This is the one mistake I see many students making -- defaulting back to English when they're not in the classroom.

Good luck! I promise you won't regret it if you choose to take this adventure. It will change your life to become a member of the CLI family! :)

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Study and practice as much as you possibly can, but do remember to be patient with yourself. You are not a machine: you can only learn so much at a time. Just keep speaking Chinese as much as you possibly can and slowly but surely you will become a Chinese speaker! :)


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I learned about the program by word-of-mouth, and after looking through its website, I knew it was for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the classes are all taught one-on-one which allows them to tailor the lesson content and teaching approach to your individual needs.

Second, they advertise a "pengyou" program, which essentially means there are always Chinese friends around to not only help you with whatever you need, but to practice communicating with, and just hang out with. I feel a social atmosphere is very important to the process of learning a language so its invaluable to also have the opportunity to communicate outside of class.

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

CLI provided a comprehensive packet about living in China – whether in regards to technology, culture, transportation, weather and clothing, and any other miscellaneous need-to-knows. They offer on-campus housing and home-stay, or you can choose to organize your own living arrangements.

You need to organize your travel to China, or to Guilin. You're also responsible for obtaining the tourist visa to come into the country, but they provide helpful information and assistance along the way. If your stay is beyond a certain length of time, they will arrange for you to get a student visa after you arrive at CLI. When you arrive in Guilin, they have train station or airport pickup. They offer meals on-campus, provide textbooks, and give plenty of information about getting around Guilin.

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

Take advantage of the immersion environment available to you, and be self-motivated in your study. CLI has plenty of foreign students, which is fantastic, so you’re able to interact with people from around the world and share your stories. However, everyone is also there for the same purpose.

To learn the language, the teachers will push you as much as you want to be pushed, and help you as much as they have the opportunity to. However, self-study and especially PRACTICE are essential.

Most students come from countries with no daily Chinese environment or Chinese friends, let alone Chinese restaurants, grocery stories, taxi drivers, coffee shops, etc. While I was at CLI, I observed many foreigners who only used Chinese in class, and spent the rest of the time using English with other foreign friends. I also observed many who consistently tried their best to communicate in Chinese at every opportunity, based on their language proficiency.

CLI won't force you to do total immersion. Part of the beauty of the program is that they will do everything to make it the experience you want. If you want to be pushed and challenged and improve quickly, push yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, make mistakes, and use the language as much as you can!

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

Each student has 20 hours of one-on-one classes a week, which breaks down into two 2-hour classes per day – a Reading/Writing class and a Speaking/Listening class every other day, and a comprehensive class daily. At orientation, they will tell you to expect to do about four hours of homework per day. Because all the classes are one-on-one, all the classes are at different times.

They provide a weekly schedule, with classes starting as early as 8:20 AM, and going as late as 6:10 PM, but four hours a day, so you will either be done early in the day or have plenty of breaks. CLI arranges optional activities every night – culture, physical, or just fun. We had badminton, bowling, Tai Chi, traditional tea ceremony, hot pot, and others.

It's also easy to find activities on your own. There's a nearby gym. The Chinese interns are always willing to get dinner together. CLI also arranges longer weekend trips to nearby scenic areas like Longsheng, Yangshuo, and others.

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

My goal for the experience at CLI was total language immersion. While it wasn't my first time abroad, or even in China, it was still a new environment and a new challenge. I was nervous I would get frustrated trying to communicate, or others would become frustrated trying to understand me. I worried I wouldn't progress fast enough.

CLI helped me develop patience with myself and reminded me that language, like most things in life, is a process, with no one setting standard for how quickly you ought to progress, and in what ways. Adjusting to new culture and new surroundings is the same. We need to have patience with ourselves and keep in mind that everyone's experience will be different. We can and should learn from others, but we won't necessarily experience what they experienced.

What does a person need to know or understand in order to survive in another culture?

Respect. Patience. Accept your own ignorance. Ask questions. Remember that your way, or your culture's way, isn't the right way, it's just your way. And there are other ways. Culture is not right or wrong; it's different. Before you arrive in the new place, prepare yourself to know nothing. Try as much as possible to erase all expectations, and expect to be surprised, challenged, amazed.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Cory Donovan

Job Title
Director of Engagement

Interview with Cory Donovan - Chinese Language Institute (CLI)

What position do you hold at CLI? What has been your career path so far?

Cory: I am currently the Director of Engagement at CLI. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a degree in Business Administration. After graduation, I worked for Incourage Community Foundation in Wood County, Wisconsin helping residents overcome the “digital divide”.

Having volunteered for many global organizations, such as the Clinton Global Initiative, I realized the important role that language plays in not only basic communication, but also in solving today’s global issues. Wanting to learn a foreign language and having desire to help the world, I decided to journey to China to learn Mandarin Chinese. I enrolled in CLI’s Immersion Program located in the picturesque city of Guilin. After four months of study, I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the CLI team as Director of Engagement.

Did YOU study abroad? If so, where did you go and what inspired you to go?!

Cory: My first experience studying abroad was a study tour of China in 2009 through my university. My teachers of course encouraged me to broaden my horizons and bolster my resume, but the true motivation came from within. I believe most who decide to study abroad are deep down an explorer, motivated to discover the world and themselves. This inner motivation also inspired me to study abroad in Ireland. I wanted to learn more about my family lineage and the history of the country my ancestors once called home. I returned to China in 2012 to start learning Mandarin Chinese, motivated by the desire to become bilingual.

What does the future hold for CLI - any new programs to share?

Cory: CLI is excited to announce the completion of a comprehensive renovation at its new 5-story language learning center located in the southern city of Guilin, China. CLI’s new and improved center is equipped with 36 dorm rooms, 18 classrooms, two public kitchens, numerous lounge rooms, and a library with over 100 Chinese language and cultural books – CLI is truly the epicenter for learning Chinese language and culture.

CLI is also excited to expand its fully customizable faculty-led study tours program. Institutions have the opportunity to design their own China study tour tailored to their specific learning needs and interests. Whether the program's focus is business and economics, art history, environmental sustainability, civil engineering, sociology, or intensive Chinese, faculty will be able to provide their students with an enriching and unforgettable educational experience.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

Cory: As the world becomes more interconnected, the desire and need for students to receive a global education will continue to increase. The destinations students choose will provide the biggest shift in the international education industry. Governments have all ready identified critical or under-served languages, providing significant financial aid to ensure students have the opportunity to study these languages. Thus, Asia and the Middle East will continue to supplant European countries as top study abroad destinations.

Technology is also changing the way we think about study abroad. As technology continues to advance, there will be an increase in the amount of distance learning that takes place. One-on-one language tutoring over Skype, teachers teaching a classroom of students from halfway around the world, and the ability to listen to lectures from top professors at top institutions for free, makes one rethink the way education is delivered. Although nothing can substitute experiencing another culture firsthand, these new options may prove to be enough for some students.