I am finally back from 4-week my study/visit in China. I must say, I had an absolute blast. At the beginning of the trip, I met the 7 other students and my group leader accompanying me on this trip. We were complete strangers, intimidated by each other. However, by the end of our 4 weeks together, we grew closer and became close friends-we learned there was nothing to be afraid of.
The CIEE Leadership Academy in Nanjing, China is mainly composed of 6 components: living (host family), service, language (Mandarin), leadership, and the week-long tour.
The first 3 weeks, we were in Nanjing, China. Our first two days in Nanjing consisted of orientations, meeting up with our Chinese host siblings/co-teacher, and moving into our new host families.
Living: We were matched with our siblings by our interests. And I must say, CIEE couldn’t have done a better job with matching me to my host sister, Tracy. We had identical personalities and the same interests: music, languages, etc. She was shy at first, but she quickly opened up to me and we quickly became close. My host parents were also very warm, kind, and passionate people. They made me feel completely at home. One of the biggest pluses is that my host mom loves dumplings (and making them, too)-I absolutely love dumplings!
Service: Monday-Friday morning, the 8 of us students and our Chinese peers became English teachers to migrant children (5th graders) at the Yuhuatai Elementary school. We taught from 9 a.m.-11:20 a.m. Each class was 40 minutes long with 10 minute breaks between each of the three classes: English class, games component, and the cultural component. In my class, I had 14 students (10 boys and 4 girls). By the end of the third week, I had only 12 students (8 boys and 4 girls). I did have some troublemakers in my class, some quiet students, and some in between-but they were all eager to learn and have fun!
Afterwards at 11:30, we would have lunch at the school cafeteria.
Leadership, Language, and Cultural Activities: After lunch, we would go back to CIEE Center where we would have classes 5:30. Everyday, however, composed of different classes:
Monday: Taichi, Leadership, and Lesson planning
Tuesday: Chinese, Leadership, Lesson planning, and Chinese
Wednesday: Lesson planning and Field trip (lasted until at least after 7)
Thursday: Chinese, Leadership, Lesson planning, and Chinese
Friday: Taichi and Lesson planning (we got to leave early on Fridays)
On our field trips, we went to the Confucius Temple, Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Masoleum, Ming Tomb, Presidential Palace, Yangzhou, etc.
On the weekends, we all had free time with our host families to explore or do whatever we wanted. My host family arranged for me and my host sister to go to Suzhou for the second weekend, and stay at my host dad’s younger brother’s home with him, his wife, and their 10 or 11 year old son. When I was in Suzhou, I went to three beautiful gardens, a temple, the Suzhou museum, and also went to a movie theater (or cinema as they call it there in English). During this same weekend, several other members of my group also went to Suzhou while others did other activities in Nanjing like going to an opera and/or climbing the Purple Mountain.
Week-long Tour: After our three weeks of living, teaching, and learning in Nanjing, we said goodbye to our host families and hopped on a train to our first destination: Shanghai. We stayed in Shanghai for about 3 days. There we went to the Chenghuang Temple area, the Bund, the French Concession, the Shanghai Museum, an acrobatics show, and went to Zhujiajiao-a Shanghai river town.
Our next stop on the tour was Beijing. In Beijing, we went to Tiananmen Square, the Wangfujing shopping area, the Great Wall, 798 Art Zone, Kungfu Show, the U.S. Center in Beijing, the Forbidden City, and the Silk Market.
This experience was an once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am extremely glad I decided to do this program. A month of my summer to go to China and learn the Chinese culture, learn to become a leader, learn Mandarin Chinese, live with a host family, make new friends and connections, and most importantly, make a difference in the lives of others. There is no better feeling that that.
I highly recommend this program to all high school students. It is only 4 weeks to go to one of the following countries: China, Japan, Spain, Dominic Republic, Czech Republic, Senegal, Ghana, Jordan
CIEE Leadership Academy website: