My name is Rudi and I am a recent University graduate from Sydney, Australia. Having studied Mandarin in High School I had some exposure to the Chinese language as well as culture. When I finished University I saw the time as an ideal opportunity to study Mandarin out of interest as well as future career development (considering the importance China is taking on the world stage). I think in the business world if you are fluent in both English and Mandarin you will be considered a great asset.
Cucas has been of great help assisting my settling in to Beijing. The Cucas website makes it very easy for foreign students to apply online to Universities within China and allows them to check the status of their application. At first I was skeptical towards most organisations dealing with the University applications but Cucas' affiliation with the HSK program instilled some confidence in me. Being a foreigner with not much conversational skill I found it frustrating when I directly called the University (Beijing Language and Cultural University) to clarify questions I had. The "Live Chat" function on the Cucas website was very helpful to me - I was able to have a variety of questions answered immediately.
I also arranged to have the Cucas "Pick-up" service from the airport when I arrived. Going to a China can be difficult and frustrating especially when you have a low level of conversational Mandarin. When I came off the 12 hour flight I was exhausted and it was comforting to know that the Cucas staff that greeted me were able to speak English and were also fluent in Mandarin so any communication barriers with locals were non-existent. I have found the Cucas staff to be very friendly and their help has minimised the stress I have experienced.
I have not yet started class at BLCU yet (I will be here studying Mandarin for 1 semester) but I have spent time exploring the local area as well as settle in. I don't feel much in the way of "culture shock" as the Chinese people are very easy to deal with. Beijing is definitely a very interesting city and I can't wait till I can properly converse with the locals.