Toggle view

Learning Chinese Off the Beaten Path

Written by Joshua Yap, (University of the South-Sewanee) Student Correspondent
CET Summer Intensive Chinese Language in Kunming, Summer 2014

I have been in Kunming for just over a month now and it is one of the best experiences I have ever had. There were many things that factored into my choosing the Kunming program. I wanted to go into a CET program with a language pledge, and would only take up the summer; this left my options to Kunming, Harbin, and Beijing. During my time studying abroad, I planned on traveling as much as I could, and experiencing new things. I wanted to be in a modern city, but not in one that is overpopulated. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, I also wanted a cultural experience. All of my wants, for the most part, made Kunming the best choice for me; I’ll tell you now, I have had the experience of a lifetime here in Kunming.


CET Kunming offers so many things that have helped me increase my proficiency in the Chinese language. The program places me with a Chinese roommate, they house us in the Yunnan University Hotel, they have some of the best teachers and staff, and most importantly they give us a language pledge. As frustrating as the language pledge is, it is equally as rewarding. Of course the only thing I knew about the program before I came was that there was a language pledge, everything else I left to luck. I write about all of this now so that you all know what to expect. Living with a Chinese roommate is rewarding, frustrating, and everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love my roommate; we have great conversations, he takes me into the city to explore, he helps me with whatever he can help me with, and he and I get a long very well. From what I can tell from my other classmates, CET has done a great job with pairing all of us with compatible roommates. Having a Chinese roommate takes the immersion experience to the highest level. I would actually like to credit my roommate for improving my colloquial speech the most.


Kunming’s location opens up wide opportunities for travel in Southern China. In the month that I have been here, I have taken weekend trips, some overnight, to climb mountains, see ancient towns, and visit the most beautiful countryside China has to offer. Beijing and Harbin also allow me to travel on the weekends, but I wanted to travel to places like Dongchuan where there is very little foreign influence, and the scenery is so beautiful you want to cry; Kunming is the hub for these kinds of places. A couple weekends ago, a group of about twelve of us took a trip on our own to 红土地(hong tu di; The Red Lands) and I saw scenery like no where else in the world. Getting there was an experience in itself. The four and a half hour bus ride consisted of the driver yelling at people because his horn wouldn’t work, constantly stopping to let passengers on that didn’t pay at the bus station, and babies being carried in traditional baby back packs; this is the epitome of travel in China’s countryside.


Kunming is a city that is growing and modernizing every day; and with a population of about 4 million, it isn’t overwhelming crowded. Last year I spent a couple days in Shanghai where the population is over 20 million. I loved being in such a cool and modern city, but the number of people was overwhelming. Kunming has that big, modern city feel without the dense population. The weather in Kunming is also very famous; Kunming is known as the Spring City since it feels like spring all year round. Kunming’s air quality is also really great; I can see blue skies here. Another thing I have noticed is that even in this modern city, there is rich culture everywhere. Beijing and Shanghai are so modernized that there seems to be a loss of Chinese culture. Kunming hasn’t reached that point yet. Here I can walk around alone, hop on a bus alone, explore and meet people from different cultural backgrounds.



I have always thought that to master a language I would need to have a solid understanding of the culture. There are many phrases and words in Chinese that are rather hard to explain if one doesn’t know the cultural context. A couple weeks ago I was confused about the use of a phrase I was learning in class. When I asked the teacher for a deeper explanation, she began to explain that there was historical meaning to it.

Kunming has given me everything I have wanted in my search for a place to study and much more. The weather, the location, and the people all make Kunming, to me, the best choice out of CET’s locations.


Enter NAFSA’s Video Contest

NAFSA video logoJoin NAFSA in celebrating international education—enter NAFSA’s second annual video competition and highlight your international education programs. Share your videos showcasing the real and positive impacts of international education.

Submit a video (five minutes or shorter) by 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, April 17. The winning videos will be featured at the 2013 Annual Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Visit the contest home page for more details.

Photos and Videos from the CET 30th Anniversary Events!

CET is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012. The first CET group studied in Beijing in the summer of 1982 and over a quarter-century later, we headed south to Shanghai, launching a program there in 2008. Last month, CET alumni, staff, faculty, roommates and study abroad professionals came together at the M on the Bund bar/restaurant to celebrate 30 wonderful years, the vibrant and growing field of study abroad, and one of the world’s most dynamic cities: Shanghai. Executive Director, Mark Lenhart shared with guests how excited he was to be thirty years old, and introduce CET alumnus, Jamie Fleishman. Jamie studied abroad with CET in Beijing during the Spring 2010 and recently won first place in the CET alumni video/blog contest. Watch his first place alumni video here: http://cetacademicprograms.com/2012/05/11/happy-birthday-cet

In addition to showing his winning alumni video, Jamie also introduced The Stars of CET video, which features footage from the 30th Anniversary events held in Beijing this past June.

Check out The Stars of CET video here:

Here’s to 30 more years!

Click here to see more photos from the CET Shanghai event

Click below to read more about CET 30th Anniversary events, contests, photos and videos:

Scholarship for Students Studying Abroad in East or Southeast Asia – Application Deadline April 4th

Intensive Chinese Language in BeijingAttention all CET Japan, Vietnam, and China applicants:

The deadline for the Freeman-ASIA study abroad scholarships is quickly approaching!

Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia.

Student Application Deadline – April 4th, 2012.  Adviser Endorsement Deadline – April 11, 2012. Applicants should have a minimum 2.8 GPA. The program’s goal is to increase the number of Americans with first-hand exposure to and understanding of Asia and its peoples and cultures. Awards of up to $3,000 are available for summer programs.

Award amounts range from a maximum of $5,000 for a semester/quarter program to a maximum of $7,000 for an academic year program.

Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) U.S. Student Programs Institute of International Education

809 United Nations Plaza

New York, NY 10017-3580

Tel: (212) 984-5542

Fax: (212) 984-5325