WMatthew Cecil, from the University of Colorado, USA, joined Lotus 8 weeks Summer program at BLCU in 2005.
My experience coming to China with the Lotus program was great. I was given a friendly greeting in an unfamiliar country in the form of the airport pick-up.
The host family they found for me to live with was also great. The family was incredibly hospitable, cooking tasty dinners and taking great care of me. I enjoyed playing with their two-year old and playing Go with the father. The host family was the perfect setting for me to practice my Chinese. They speak some English, and I signed up to tutor them, to get the free homestay. It worked out that to fulfill the 1-hour of tutoring I was expected to give them, I just went back and forth between English and Chinese in my conversations with them, giving them English practice and giving me Chinese practice. Also, the many conversations we had talking about cultural differences between the US and China were very enlightening to me.
My experiences at Beijing Language and Culture University were equally good. They put me in a class exactly right for my Chinese level, and the teachers were great. I had a total of 5 teachers in my 8 weeks there, each with a different teaching style; so no matter your learning style, you'll find a teacher who fits it. The university also planned optional trips to the Great Wall, Inner Mongolia, and Xi'an, giving me a chance to gain an appreciation for Chinese history and see the sights. I went on the Xi'an trip and got to be a full-fledged tourist for a weekend, which was good fun.
Lotus connected me with a calligraphy teacher, and learning calligraphy with him was a definite highlight of my time in Beijing. The teacher taught not only calligraphy methods, but also the philosophy, history, and appreciation of calligraphy - It has opened for me a whole new world of a very rich form of expression.
I would definitely recommend Lotus as the perfect way to plan your first visit to China, as they make it the most worry free experience possible, and also the most authentic and engrossing. I would also recommend it to any return visitors to China, as the treatment you'll get through Lotus is friendly and worry-free.