Thomas Smithurst, from Australia, joined Lotus One-on-One program in 2006.

Over April 2006, I enrolled with Lotus Study for a two-week homestay and one-on-one study program. Though the time was very short, I nonetheless came home with significant improvement to my Chinese. And the extent of my cultural understanding improved even more.

The first weekend of my stay coincided with a Lotus excursion to the Beijing Lama Temple. Lisa Sheng and her staff ran an excellent tour. As a guide Lisa not only explained to us the significance of what was there, but also illustrated how the practice of Buddhism has influenced Chinese language and culture. In a short visit such as it was, I learnt a great deal. And something I couldn't but notice was the character and motivation of fellow Lotus students. I thought it reflected well on Lotus.

I also joined a group of fellow Lotus students and Lotus-affiliated Chinese volunteers for a benevolent excursion on a Sunday. We visited an old people's home in Hebei, at a distance not too far from Beijing.

The excursion was great for two reasons: firstly, because of an insight into welfare conditions in China, which I might now suggest are nothing exceptional. Secondly, and more importantly, because of feeling the rewards of community service. While there we helped out with bathing of the elderly men, cleaning of their clothes and rooms, and by giving them companionship with conversation and games. They were immensely thankful, and despite broken communication, those of us from abroad seemed to be accepted as familiars. Not only was this feeling felt in relation to the elderly men, but the Lotus affiliates seemed willing to extend a genuine bond of friendship to us as well. It was a tremendous day. I should remember it distinctly for a long time to come.

For the homestay, I stayed with a very hospitable husband and wife couple. Zhang Xiansheng and Li Nushi were both decent and temperate, eager to help however they could. Best of all, they and their neighboring friends had established an affable social network. I spent a lot of time over meals and spare hours chatting with them all. It was through these occasions that my conversational Chinese and cultural knowledge received their greatest boost. Essentially, the homestay proved outstanding.

Li Laoshi, my teacher for the two weeks, was highly capable. She was also a very decent person, which was reflected in the moral significance of examples from current affairs and culture she introduced to her teaching. I was particularly pleased with the way Li Laoshi prepared a conversational exercise at the beginning of each day, identifying that this would be of singular benefit to me. And during the course of the lessons, Li Laoshi quickly plugged gaps in my proficiency, noticing and following up on any shortcoming in my vocabulary or grammar.

In terms of administration for the stay, the Lotus staff in Beijing coordinated things smoothly and proficiently. I was impressed by their degree of care and attention.
All in all, I would highly recommend Lotus to new students.
Thomas Smithurst