For two months, I visited a one-by-one language course at LTL in Beijing. I did not participate in the whole cultural programme, since my internship place already provided a place to stay. Furthermore, I also participated in the language programme in Chengde for one week.
The one-by-one language course was okay, but nothing special. During the two months, I had courses with two (male) teachers and we covered the book 'Short-term Spoken Chinese'. In my opinion, the quality of the language course can still be improved. A little more engagement and creativity from the teacher's side would have been nice. Apart from learning from the book only (which makes it a bit boring...), more creative exercises could have been applied during the course in order to better learn Chinese, for example reading a simple Chinese book or making a role play, etc. I think this engagement can be expected from a trained language teacher. I felt I did not speak sufficiently during the course, although it should be the priority that the student is engaged to speak more (at least more than the teacher).
For one week during the two months at LTL I also participated in the language programme in Chengde, which is a small town not too far from Beijing. I was told that staying at Chengde would boost my Chinese language skills - which was also true. However, in my opinion this programme is a bit overrated and too costly for the service received.
My host family was an old couple, which was pretty fine for me. They were really nice people although I would have wished that they would have integrated me more into their lives and showed more engagement. After my language course in the morning, which finished in the afternoon, I mostly came home. My hostmum would arrive at home a little later and start to cook. In the evening we watched tv together and then went to bed. It would have been nice to do more things together with them, such as joining them visit the places they go in the afternoon, or cooking together, etc. I also think for the price I payed for that week, at least the most important facilities should be provided (and it should not be needed to be stated extra), such as a shower, a bed (with a mattress - I had one but I heard of another person that slept on a wooden bed and who didn’t sleep very well) and a clean environment (often they didn’t wash the dishes properly and they were smoking a lot in the living room). Otherwise it was really interesting to see an authentic Chinese family.
Since Chengde is a quite small town, as mentioned, you rely a bit on the activities offered during the programme, in case your family is not very active. Before going to Chengde, I was interviewed by one of the LTL employees which activities I would like to do (horse riding, rafting, playing soccer, etc.). However, I was quite disappointed by the activities offered in Chengde since it turned out they were not included in the price for the Chengde programme. Zhongwen (a really active woman even though highly pregnant) tried to organize a lot but I was shocked about the huge prices. When staying longer Chengde, which is not the most interesting place on Earth, and I think I would get poor after a while if I always had to pay so much extra for every activity. The school could help to join more things that do not cost so much or even don't cost anything.
I hope those things I mentioned could be improved in the future, since I think that LTL school and also their Chengde programme has a lot potential. The outcome just needs to be more adjusted to the price and more creativity could make the stay at LTL much more interesting and fun.