Randy Baum, from Kansas University, USA, joined Lotus Homestay program in 2003 and Spring Semester program at Beijing University in 2004.
My host family Lee is charismatic, clean, lively, and invaluable tool to my understanding China. From observing the way in which the couples interact with themselves and with their friends to the manner in which the bill is dealt with at a restaurant, living with my host-family has broadened my understanding of Chinese culture. More simply, my family is fantastic at without hesitation or inquiry teaching me pieces of Chinese history, geography, music, and of course culture. Every time we sit down for dinner I leave feeling I better understand the way China works and why.
I thoroughly enjoy the times I spend in China due mainly to Lotus homestay program and my host family and would recommend this process to anyone.
Living with a host-family is the best path to improving one's Chinese. When you learn Chinese in a classroom, class begins and you speak Chinese and when class ends, you speak your native tongue. And that's about all the Chinese you can muster for that day. With a family, you often speak Chinese, and depending on your speaking ability, you may never speak your native tongue at all. This technique is beneficial to not only your speaking, but to your listening ability, knowledge of the usage of idioms, spoken Chinese, and slang. And importantly constantly hearing "authentic" Chinese alters your Chinese to the way in which Chinese people speak and away from the way foreigners speak Chinese. Soon you might even find that your ability to speak your native tongue suffers and that you are not only speaking good Chinese and listening with a full understanding of what is being said, but what you are actually thinking just in Chinese, rather than first in your native tongue and then in Chinese. That level of Chinese, I have heard, is what is called "fluency."