Thanks for sharing these impressions Joseph!
Thanks for the comment Joseph! I'm really curious what the downsides or bad parts you've heard of are (if you're open to sharing them ). Would be happy to share my takes on whether those reported downsides resonate with my own experience and those of my friends.
Like Kevin outlined, I think categorising some of the features (e.g. lack of academic rigour) of the programme as strengths or weaknesses is tough because it very much depends on how someone sees the programme fitting into their larger career trajectory.
One plausible downside that we tried to capture in the post is that Schwarzman can be used for a variety of purposes, so there are ceilings on how far you can optimise for any one element. "...you will get exposure to a little bit of business, policy, international relations, and China studies, and that if you just want to specialize in one of these things, it’s potentially better to do a more specialized program." (What other programs do those applying for Schwarzman Scholars consider?)
But in my personal experience, this wasn't really a downside. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to fully optimise for community-building, something related to alternative proteins or China studies, and during Schwarzman I had the flexibility to test my fit across these domains in different ways.
Another plausible downside (if language immersion is your goal) is that language study is not a huge (enforced) part of the programme. You are only required to take language classes for the first module. And while you can take language classes throughout the year, they are only offered twice a week. That said, some of my friends took class at one level and audited classes at a one level higher, while also supplementing that with extra classes outside of Schwarzman. Chinese teachers are also available pretty much everyday over lunch for you to chat and practice your Chinese. So, by default language immersion is not a strength of the programme but if learning the language is a priority for you, it's possible to make decent progress (e.g. a friend went from knowing no Chinese at the start of the programme, to somewhere between HSK 4 and 5 a year later, which I think is something like upper intermediate level). If language learning is your only goal though, then Schwarzman is likely not the right programme. We've attached a spreadsheet with some potential language intensives that might be a better fit for someone with a pure language learning goal.
Finally, would echo Kevin's point about logistics of getting into the country being tough, but would add that my sense is that logistics of getting into the country are decently challenging for any foreigner at this point.