In a word: Intense Past Review

By (East Asian Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 02/20/2018 to 06/08/2018 with

CET Beijing

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Amazing Chinese skills!

Review Photos

CET Beijing: Intensive Language Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program definitely leaves up to it's name - it is INTENSE. But I feel like this was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your Chinese definitely will improve, especially if you wholeheartedly stick to the language pledge. On the other hand, I came out of this program thoroughly EXHAUSTED, and towards the end of the program, the level of intensity combined with stress was negatively affecting both my mental and physical health.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You live in a dorm that's shared by the other students and you have a room to yourself and your roommate. One plus is that each room has its own bathroom, and the dorm's staff cleans each room every other day (and changes the sheets 1-2 times a week!)

* Food:

The cafeteria food has TONS of options, but learning how to order food from there can take practice as there are a total of 0 English signs. It's all part of the adventure! In case you get sick of the cafeteria food, there are a good amount of restaurants nearby. And of course, there's always 外卖!(take out)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Not as much as I would have liked - the main reason being that the intensity of the program ensured that I spent 85% of my time on campus. A common complaint of the students (and myself) is that given the amount of work that we had to complete every week, going out to explore the city on the weekends was REALLY difficult, which was extremely disappointing. Often times even if we had breaks, teachers would give us even MORE work (the reasoning being that vacation = more time = to complete homework, not to explore the city) and that was also really hard.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Prevalent Health Issues: almost all of the students had some sort of stomach problems eventually (not all were serious!) but that's just part of living in Beijing. In addition - the pollution was a real concern. Wearing face masks helps, but sometimes it was impossible to escape. Buying an air filter will DEFINITELY help! Health Insurance: The GeoBlue Health insurance that each student is required to enroll in is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I had to visit the hospital quite a few times over the course of the program and the insurance made it painless, not too mention extremely inexpensive (often times, free!)

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

I probably would've chosen a different program just due to the stress I experienced due to the program's intensive nature.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Extremely easily! The currency exchange rate between RMB and USD ensured that living on a student's budget was quite easy.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Food = about $40-50 a week (but this varied depending on where I was eating). Other Expenses - $20 a week (city sight seeing, museums, etc.)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

this program has a 24/7 language pledge that at times was enforced with the intensity of a police state. (picture teachers sometimes going through the halls to monitor whether or not they hear students speaking English - yes, this DID happen!) It sounds grim, but the language pledge does help you improve. When you need a break though, going off campus was always an option.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? CHIN 30A
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? In a word, the language pledge is DIFFICULT. Yes, you improve but many students (myself included) found that adhering to the pledge was extremely taxing. A lot of issues stemmed from the fact that everyone's Chinese were at different levels. At times, conversation between other students was the equivalent of small talk (ex. "How are you?" "I'm tired." "What'd you do yesterday?" "I studied/did homework" etc.) and this became exhausting because you weren't able to connect with other students on a deeper level. It came to a point where for a time, I felt like my relationship with the other students was just superficial. I would suggest going into the program knowing that the language pledge could negatively affect you in this way. However, I would also suggest going into the program knowing that, if need be, you CAN get a break by going off-campus to speak a little bit of English and no one will think of you lesser for it. The important thing (which I wish more people knew on my program) is that you respect the wishes of other students on the program. One way I dealt with the stresses of the language pledge was by meeting up with other friends from time to time (friends who weren't on the program) to catch up when I needed to give my brain a break. Now that I've been through the program, I think the idea of a genuine 24/7 language pledge is a good idea in practice, but is simply unrealistic. You are a human being who will need breaks from time to time. My advice would be to take those breaks when you need, but ALWAYS make sure to respect the decisions of other students and their goals for their time abroad.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the roommates and other students
  • the teachers - they genuinely care so much about their students and seem like family after a while.
* What could be improved?
  • The language pledge
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You'll come out of it exhausted, but with incredible language skills. At times though, it really seemed like I had to choose between maintaining my physical health or academic progress just because the program was just that intense. I really wish I had known before I went abroad how exhausted the program would have made me. Even though I'm proud of the progress I made, I might have explored other options had I known this in advance.