After taking one year of Mandarin at a local community college in the U.S.A. I was looking for the next step. After researching a number of options, I decided to attend CLI's immersion program in Guilin. As this was my first time traveling overseas, I was very careful about selecting a program. After reading CLI's website, scouring the web for feedback, and speaking with a person at CLI, it all sounded to good to be true. I thought it was unusual that I could not find one negative comment about this school. Anyway, I decided to give it a try. The registration/pre-departure process was extremely organized and helpful. In no time, I had all my questions answered, had assistance with applying for my Visa, and was provided with very informative pre-departure checklists and information. I decided on taking 6 weeks of classes at CLI. You can read about the details of how this works on their website. I was assured that even though my flight arrived at around 1 am in Guilin, I would be met by someone with a CLI sign at the airport and they would bring me to CLI. Even though my flight was a couple hours late, CLI made good on their promise and someone was waiting for me and drove me to CLI. It was after 3 am when I arrived there. Two interns were waiting for me at CLI, escorted me to my room and provided me with all the necessities and information I needed to get through my first day. Even though I had first year Chinese under my belt, I was really not confident that I could carry on a conversation before coming to CLI so I was happy to find out that the interns and pretty much everyone at CLI could communicate with me in English if there was a need. Having local college interns work at CLI is genius. It was like I was in this protective bubble until I felt comfortable going outside on my own. They escorted me outside to show me places to eat, helped me find an ATM, and a store to get started with some daily necessities. As time went on, I met many interns. Not only did they help me adapt to life in China, they helped me when I needed assistance after hours with my homework/study. They were there for me to practice listening, and speaking as I interacted with them, and they quickly became my friends.
I lived at CLI and attended two 2-hour one-on-one sessions per day, five days per week. I had three teachers. I met with my comprehensive teacher every day. I was with my conversation teacher 3 times per week and my reading/writing teacher the other 2 days per week. They customized my classes based on assessing my level on the first day and also discussing my goals with me for this trip. All three of my teachers were awesome! They were all extremely good teachers and each did their part in contributing to my Chinese education. I am 54 years old, have a horrible memory and therefore I think I have to put a lot more time into learning than most people do. I have also never learned another language before. Everyone was extremely patient and understanding with me. I spent a great deal of time outside of class doing my homework and studying. I had no illusions about becoming fluent in just 6 weeks. My goal was to be able to carry on a basic conversation with a Chinese native speaker by the time my six weeks was over. With the help of my teachers, the interns, other students at CLI, and a great deal of studying, I was able to reach and exceed my goal. If it is possible, I would recommend staying at CLI for a longer duration. Many students stay for 4 months to 1 year. Even though that was not possible for me, I found my six weeks of intensive study was greatly valuable and I plan on returning to CLI in the future.
In addition to my daily classes, CLI has a large number of organized activities to choose from most evenings and weekends. I participated in a number of activities, including several weekend excursions and even one that included an overnight stay. These activities and excursions were awesome. I had a great time sightseeing and making friends with other students and CLI staff who also participated. Guilin is one of the most beautiful and Scenic places I have every been to.
I chose to purchase all of my weekday lunches in advance (meal plan). This is basically having a home-cooked at CLI for lunch every weekday! The two ladies who cooked these meals for us are amazing cooks! I had a lot of good food during my stay in China. The lunches were as good or better than even the best restaurants that I frequented.
My stay at CLI flew by. Before I knew it was time to go. I learned a great deal, made many friends (who I continue to communicate with now that I am home), and had a remarkable experience that I will never forget.
I mentioned before that when I was doing my initial research it all seemed to good to be true. Well, I can tell you that not only was my experience everything I read about and was told about, it was much much more!