Overall, I had a great time in Chengdu! I love the city and the people I met during the program really made the trip amazing. I would go back to China in a heartbeat, maybe a few different cities, but I can see myself spending more time learning the language possibly working there.
Best parts about this program:
The friends I made (cheesy I know, but they are amazing people).
The food! Oh my god, Sichuan food and Chinese food in general is the greatest in the world, and I am severely craving ShanDong jian bing!
Lui Ming. I hope he continues to teach the program in further years. He was the professor for some of the cultural classes, and he was the most honest and honorable professor.
Night life. The campus is ridiculously close to bar street, and little bar street so it makes the weekends super fun - definitely stop and get street skewers and play with a monkey on your way back.
Our Mandarin professor. Honestly dont know her name, we had a rough start, but by the end of the program that class was my favorite!
Cost of living. You can live like a king in China for really cheap! Im pretty sure on the of guys that went actually only spent like $400 while he was over there. (I may have broken the bank a little bit more haha)
The 'Tibetan' village trip. Absolutely a great time!
Worst parts about this program:
Some of the random lectures, i.e. environmental issues, international business. These were long, circular lectures. Most of us walked away from these wondering why we sat through it. Most had NOTHING to do with China.
Dawn, the university rep. She wasnt the nicest person in the world and didnt always tell us everything. She also might have copped an attitude with us a few times.
The misleading information given to us when we signed up. You dont stay in a university dorm, you stay in a hotel on campus. You dont go to a Tibetan village, you go to a BaiMa village, etc.
The weather. Okay this isnt really the worst thing about the program, but I definitely wasnt the most prepared for Chengdu weather. It rained A LOT, and it was super humid. I am not used to humidity at all so it took quite a while to get used to.
About the Tibetan village trip: This was one of the best nights I had during the entire trip. Sucked that we spent something like 11 hours getting there (7 hours driving, then the rest was lunch and stops because there was construction cramping our style and causing rock slides in the road) but only 14 hours, including sleep time, at the actual village. We danced with locals and had a goat roast and overall it was a great time. Unfortunately, we did not go to a Tibetan village. We went to a BaiMa village. They are not Tibetan. I don't know why AsiaLearn advertises it as Tibetan, and I don't know why the university representative led us to believe they were Tibetan until so close to the actual trip. Sometimes they can be grouped with ethnic Tibetans because they are a minority group but they do not even practice Tibetan Buddhism, but rather BaiMa. A person in my group even asked our Tibetan studies professor if they were Tibetan and he just said, "They don't think so."
I think everyone that did this summer program was let down. We felt a lot of the activities were falsely advertised. A couple of quick examples: One weekend the University representative explained the weekend would include a trip to the Leshan Giant Buddha, then an hour drive to Mount Emei, where we would stay on the mountain in a monastery and wake up the next day at 4am to watch monks chanting. After we would continue up the mountain to the giat golden Buddha. Unfortunately, we were misled. We stayed in Emei Shan City, which is not on the mountain at all, we stayed at a local hotel then walked to the monastery at 4am, where we all felt very intrusive walking around while the monks prepared the chant. We stayed for only about 20 min...
I dont want to discourage anyone from doing this, I just want them to know that the program was a little different than what we were led to believe. I had a great time. The city is a lot of fun and Chinese are really welcoming of Americans. Chinese students always want to hang out and practice their English and older people get a kick out of it if you arent Chinese. As far as safety goes, China is safest country I have been to. Cab drivers are extremely honest, and actually everyone is extremely honest when it comes to money. That doesnt mean people wont try and over charge you for a souvenir, but it does mean they will always give you your change. At night, I felt just as safe as during the daylight.
China is an amazing country that is rich in history and culture. It is beautiful in its own way and I would love to go back and travel more. Especially since that means I can eat more of my favorite foods like Beijing duck.