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University of International Relations - Beijing experience, Lotus homestay experience

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I went to China this summer to study Chinese for 6 weeks. I'm writing this post as a reference for anyone later on that might be interested in studying at UIR or doing the homestay with Lotus.

University of International Relations, Beijing


Before I went to China, I sent a few e-mails to UIR people, who responded to me in a more or less timely fashion. The only problem was that my application was not received in time, though I sent it a month in advance of the deadline(later, it turned out that my application just never got there). I got in touch with their US contactperson, who was genuinely interested in helping me apply, made me a few calls to clarify what I needed to do, and arranged for me to send my application info over the internet instead.

The UIR Chinese programs are not actually located on the UIR campus, but in a building called "中关村学院一分院"(Zhongguancun xueyuan yifenyuan) that is shared with a Korean private school, ECC(you can see a sign with hangul characters 이씨씨 outside). The building is located across from the south gate of 林业大学(Linye daxue); the 林业大学 bus stop is right in front of the gate as well. The hotel/dorm advertised on their site, 青美宾馆(Qingmei binguan) is connected to the school building. The BLCU campus is not far and Wudaokou station is a 15 minute walk away.

Upon arrival, I was given a very brief placement test where I introduced myself in Chinese, answered a few questions, and was asked to pronounce some pinyin and read some characters aloud. I was put into the "B" group - there were three groups, A, B, C, from beginner to advanced. The site advertises D and E groups as well, but I guess there were no students of that level attending.

There were two two-hour classes every day from 8:30-12:30. The classes mainly consisted of learning vocabulary words, practicing dialogues and reading texts aloud, and answering questions after listening to tapes. I don't really enjoy this style of language instruction although I think it might be standard for most schools in China. I felt the B class was a bit easy, and later on changed to C class, which no one had a problem with. Fortunately, the instructors were pretty easygoing and didn't mind spending time in class just chatting with us and letting us improve our Chinese conversation skills. I don't think I learned that much from the actual classes. However, my girlfriend, who previously knew no Mandarin, took the 8-week beginner's course in A class and learned quite a bit, so maybe it just depends on your learning style. I would just say to make sure the course is going quickly enough for you, and don't be afraid to change levels if you think it's too easy.

I think the environment at UIR was really friendly; since classes were so small and there were only 4-5 active classes when I was there, everybody knew each other. It was really easy to make friends and find people to go see sights and do things with. The ladies working in the office were also very friendly, fun to talk to, and helpful in recommending restaurants and places to go see.

I'm not sure if I would go back for formal language instruction in China; I don't really like the teaching style, and feel you can learn much more on your own, or just talking to people and being in the environment. It might be good for people who need a very structured environment or don't have much discipline to learn on their own. From what I've heard the classes at BLCU or other schools are very similarly structured, though I might be wrong.

Lotus Homestay


The application was pretty straightforward. I feel now that they were way too expensive, and it seems the host family gets little or none of the money. They responded quickly to e-mails, and arranged for me to be picked up at the airport.

The host family was very nice and helpful, and helped me get to UIR on the first day(although there was some confusion on its location). They also went with me to a few places in Beijing (paying my entrance ticket!), took me to watch "Crazy Stone" at UME Cineplex, treated me to dinner at a hotpot restaurant, and helped me purchase contact lens. They also served breakfast, dinner, and lunch if I was home for it (though Lotus says they're only obligated to give breakfast and dinner). They had high-speed internet which I could hook my laptop up to, and a washing machine, although in practice the host's mother hand-washed all the clothes. They were located about 30 minutes away from the school by bus and lived in a nice apartment. They spoke to me in Chinese most of the time, although they did enjoy practicing their English sometimes. I think living with a Chinese family was a nice experience, although if I did it again I wouldn't go through an organization.

I've read some posts about other homestay programs, and at least Lotus does offer what they advertise, just very expensive. If you've never been to China before and want to experience a Chinese family, I think it might be a good idea.

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Thanks for the detailed write-up - UIR and Lotus are two organizations we don't have a great deal of info about on here.

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