To answer your question, I’ve taken 3 Chinese classes at a community college (101, 102, 201) I’d say I have a very very basic ability to speak and understand and read and write it, the entire point of going there is to study at the university and improve my Chinese ability. I think at the current moment I’d only be able to have very basic conversations with people.
There are two reasons I chose Chengdu. Two of my best chinese penpals live in Chengdu. Awesome, I won’t be alone when I arrive. The other is that I’ve heard Western China is more cheap than places along the coast (generally). I know Chengdu isn’t the cheapest place to go, but I feel like it’s a good balance, being that it doesn’t seem like a shit hole, and doesn’t seem ridiculously expensive either.
Looks like I’m gonna have to kick my coffee habit before I leave, haha.