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Lucy Millett: 4 weeks on a Standard course

I thought it would be large classes, wasn’t expecting to make real friends and learn as much as I did. I learnt than I had expected to learn, the classes were small, the teachers taught in English and it was less formal and more fun than I had thought.
I enjoyed the first week but by the second week I felt I was progressing a lot quicker and then moved up to the next class. The school was brilliant, a lovely, peaceful building with a very sophisticated feel to it, the staff were extremely friendly, knew us all by name and chatted and joked with us. Its location could not have been better, it was right in the heart of Beijing with great things to see just a short walk away.
I loved learning the characters, being able to impress people with simple sentences, looking at the way bits of language linked and clicked together. I found the pinyin difficult to pronounce at times though and some of the grammar very tricky.
Everyone on the course ended up as friends because we were in the same hostel and did lots of things together. When they started to overwhelm me a bit it was easy to go and do things by myself. I made my own plans for excursions and carried them out alone for the most part. I really loved this but would have had afternoon lessons for the final two weeks if I could have, as this would be a better way to cement what I had learnt.
Beijing was great, safe, and cheap and loads of things to do and see. It was horribly dry though, grey and sometimes quite smelly and always noisy which adds to vibrancy! The people are friendly and the place is exciting, I came home craving peace!
There was a mass to do depending on what you wanted and always people to do it with. There were lots of bars and clubs on sanlitun – the bar street and plenty of shopping streets and complexes, touristy sites, quieter less visited temples and museums. I wish I had more time and had opportunities to explore outside the capital. It is a contrasting city of old and new, colour and greyness, winding ramshackle hutongs and huge unimaginably wide streets roaring with traffic.
The accommodation was great, there were loads of fellow students as well as longer term residents, weekend regulars and a constant flow of newcomers. Nevertheless it had a quiet calm feel to it and there were always new people eager to start a conversation and old hands ready to advise. After a few weeks it felt like home. Bizarrely I also met a girl went to school with who was travelling with her university! Facilities were great, lounge with TV, CD`s, DVD’s, table football and bar, Internet, laundry – every thing you needed – I met one traveller who didn’t leave the hostel for 3 weeks!

CESA was fab! They were so friendly on the phone and did so much to help I can’t thank you enough you weren’t nameless people at the end of the phone. You knew my name, remembered me and signed emails with first names – I felt like we knew each other and could chat! Thanks for all you help! I had a great trip!”

I would love to go back, I have so much more of China to see and will definitely visit enough. I will be studying Chinese at University so don’t know if I’ll get the chance to go back to the school but I loved it, it was brilliant!”