I decided to spend the first semester of my gap year in between high school and college studying at BLCU. While I had previously been to Beijing with family for some sightseeing, I knew that living there, on my own, would be completely different. Therefore, I am very glad that I found CSA to help guide me through this challenging, yet exciting opportunity.
CSA was there to help from the moment CSA Chris picked me up from the airport. Questions regarding visa/local registration, weekend activities, my homestay, and even those regarding Chinese vocab/grammar were always answered promptly, often with follow up a few days later to make sure everything was handled accordingly. Believe me, life in Beijing is challenging and annoying situations arise quickly (especially if you ride the subway and spend time around locals), so it is very important to have a responsible party nearby that is willing to assist you.
Regarding the staff, everybody was friendly and made me feel as comfortable as possible. Jessica even helped my family arrange an excursion to Harbin just to be helpful! No matter when or where, the CSA staff was always a pleasure to chat with and did their very best to make sure my stay was going smoothly. I also credit them for bringing us students closer together by arranging enjoyable weekend activities and occasional trips! They truly did their best to help us out.
Prior to arriving in Beijing, I studied Mandarin for four years in school and arrived with a solid grasp of the language. Regardless, BLCU placed me in relatively low level classes because I was unable to write characters at the caliber which I spoke/read. This was disappointing, but there was always a bit of new material to learn and was kept busy. Perhaps the best outcome of this situation was the fact that I encouraged myself to spend more time with my homestay family and my CSA-assigned tutor. There is nothing better for studying than hearing authentic Chinese being yelled in a household, or playing around/watching Chinese cartoons with a little kid who speaks no English! In addition, my family treated me as true family member- they helped me with homework, were always willing to converse, cooked dinner for me nightly, etc. Again, credit to CSA for arranging the homestay, and I strongly recommend that you choose this method of accommodation if you decide to study in Beijing.
Overall, I can't thank CSA enough for their guidance through the traffic (literally) of Beijing. Studying there was a culture shock from the get-go, and I would not have succeeded without the help of the staff. What I took away from my program were much improved Mandarin skills, the ability to adjust to daily life in a chaotic foreign city, a host of new friends, a strong bond with a kind Chinese family, among others. I strongly recommend contacting CSA to help you organize your adventure in China.