Stephanie Lin, studying at Columbia University, joined Lotus 20 weeks Fall Semester program in 2006.

Lotus Educational Foundation has given students the opportunity to truly see the way other people live and thus expand their minds and increase understanding. They have done this through providing homestay families as well as charity excursions to places such as senior homes and orphanages. Participating in both kinds of activities is still a rarity in China. The majority of foreigners visiting China are wealthy tourists who will never get a taste of the real, nitty-grittiness of China, or foreign students who all too easily get sucked into a comfortable lifestyle of living in dorms or apartments, going to class occasionally, and eating and partying for scarily low prices. They may leave China after one year without ever sitting down to eat dinner with a Chinese family or gaining an awareness of how both the government and non-governmental organizations are addressing poverty issues that still pose a significant obstacle to the country's rise into the class of developed nations.

Currently, I am living with what you may call a typical middle-class Chinese family. Besides improving my Chinese language skills, interacting with these people everyday has given me a more real understanding of China's present social trends and pressures than I could ever have gained through books and articles. I'm getting a close glimpse into the way a few out of China's millions live everyday. It's actually a pretty incredible opportunity. Besides being an observer, I feel that I am a significant part of my host family's life. I only hope that I can teach them as much about American culture and the way I live my life as they have taught me about Chinese culture and the way they live their lives. Since arriving in Beijing, I've participated in two charity events in nearby Hebei province through the Lotus program. One event was to a senior home, and was specifically open to all students in the Lotus program. The other event was to a children's orphanage. Both volunteer experiences impressed me deeply. I really encourage current and future Lotus students to make the most out of their time in China and value any opportunities to understand Chinese people on a deeper level.

-- Stephanie Lin