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These are some of the exeptional people that have joined us over the past year to experience our homestay in China program. Take some time to read some about their experiences and get an idea of what to expect. We hope that you will have the opportunity to add your story here sometime soon.

Sunny was our first guest back in 2003.

In the winter of 1998, I had the opportunity to stay in Beijing for two months with my uncle's family. It was a memorable trip because I had traveled by myself for the first time and experienced a new culture. Ever since that trip, I was determined to learn Chinese and thought of going back someday. Luckily, in the summer, I was accepted to the university I had wished to attend. So before classes start in next March, I had free time. I knew this was a sign from God to do something meaningful. Since I had been interested in volunteer work, I searched the internet for some information. I decided to volunteer by teaching English to Chinese children. With the help of Insight.China, I was able to leave for my mission.  On November 2nd, I arrived in Beijing and took a three hour train trip to Shijiazhuang City the capital of Hebei Province. The modernization of Beijing was greatly impressive and made me speechless. Though it was my first visit to Shijiazhuang, the city felt familiar and it was not hard to get adjusted. My host family treats me as if I were their real family member, and I consider them as my Chinese family. Living with them is delightful and helpful since I learn Mandarin and experience the Chinese culture in everyday life. A month has passed since my arrival, and I have noticed that China and South Korea share many commonalities that sometimes I forget that I'm in a foreign country. From my appearance, everyone thinks I am Chinese! I truly enjoy every moment here, and feel so comfortable that I don't miss home at all. [...]Thank you Insight.China for making this possible and I wish that more people will participate for the enhancement of the international community.

Sunny Jang. (Dec 2003)

Alex: It took a while but she finally ate donkey meat.

Just a few words about New Time’s Homestay Program:
My name is Alexandra. I’m mid-50’s, an American who lives in New Jersey. When I found out my office was closing down for a month this summer, I got this ‘crazy’ idea to spend the time having an adventure! My online research led me to Insight.China and Mr. Dou and the Homestay Program. After emailing and IM’ing off and on for a couple months, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just DO it (yes, I know—I sound like a Nike commercial!).
Mr. Dou arranged my homestay in Shijiazhuang, a medium sized city (8 million people) in central China, about a 2 hour train ride south of Beijing.
I stayed with Mr. Li--who is a Vice President of a college--his wife and their eleven year old daughter, from July 2nd to July 30th , 2005. I can honestly say that I have never met kinder, more thoughtful people in my life. They truly bent over backwards to make me comfortable and happy while I was staying with them. I felt a part of their family. I’ve been home almost three weeks now and not a day passes that I don’t think of them—and miss them.
On a larger scale, I learned so much about Chinese culture and society and history by staying with the Li’s and meeting their friends and colleagues. I have found myself thinking of other trips I’ve made (for example, Italy in November, 2004) and realize how shallow the experience was when compared to my stay in China.
As for Mr. Dou, he was always available and he called me several times to be sure everything was going well. I popped into the office a few times and got to know some of his staff, all very nice (including a couple lunatics who shall remain nameless!). It’s a very informal atmosphere there and you always feel welcome.
The first week of August, I left Shijiazhuang to go to Beijing to join my daughter who was flying in from the States. Mr. Dou graciously allowed us to use the company apartment there. He also arranged for one of his employees—Jack--to accompany me and Jack helped me set up an itinerary with their driver in Beijing. Everything turned out wonderfully and my daughter and I had an incredible week being tourists (the Great Wall is even more mind-boggling than you think!).
The only thing I can say about my China experience is that it was the BEST ‘crazy’ idea I have ever had! Please feel free to write me with any questions you might have, I’d love to hear from you.

Alexandra. (Aug 2005)

Colin says: Try a Homestay and Change Your Name!

In China you will find many people who have adopted English first names, mostly those with an interest in foreigners. How would you like to do this in reverse? When you come to Insight.China to get involved in their homestay programme essentially you become part of a new family. You will also gain a new surname. My name is now Xu You, You being my given name. Since I have travelled a long way and intend to visit many sites my first name I am told essentially means “water moving about the land a lot.” I can now compose the Chinese characters of my name which in situations like visiting a university class and Public Security for a permit caused a great deal of good humoured laughter. Having this Chinese name is more than symbolic. It represents acceptance which I have found in abundance.

The homestay requires giving up some independence but what is gained I think more than compensates. I have the use of a bike which allows mobility (I haven’t yet used the public transit) and the wide tree lined boulevards with bike lanes are very accessible. The narrow market streets are a different story and create a nice contrast. Be prepared for great food. Although I can’t cook I do dishes to chip in when they let me which seems appreciated. Any food can be served at any meal but each meal has at least one new plate appear with what was not eaten at the last. The family has internet, tv and even gets the English language <<China Daily>>. If you do a blog (at least the Google version Blogger) you will find it blocked here in China for political reasons presumably, but what you post will be seen elsewhere unimpeded.

The people I have met are courteous and genuinley interesting and interested. Many are downright friendly but also you will encounter the curious for whom sighting a foreigner <Lao Wai> may be the event of their day. You will be a centre of attention and will encounter smiles, quizzical looks and just be checked out in all kinds of ways. This city is one of about a million people and just 400 km from Beijing but some people have not been exposed to international visitors. I have yet to see one myself. Air pollution can be a bit of a downer but the wind does blow it away. Spring is coming here with temperatures now reaching 20 degrees Celsius but it sure drops off at night. By the way this homestay is a teaching experience for sure, albeit not with the responsibility, hours and formality of a contract. It is a good way to warm up for classroom instruction down the road or just to be experienced in its own right as a cultural exchange. It offers a lot of flexibility.

Colin. (Mar 2005)





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