At CET, our goal is to make study abroad accessible for all. We believe that learning happens best when your class reflects the world around us—complex and diverse. So we work hard to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No matter where you are coming from, we want you to have a successful study abroad experience.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
Race & Ethnicity
The average Chinese person is not surrounded by the racial diversity that exists in the US and as a result racism in China manifests differently than in the United States. Students may hear racially insensitive comments or notice some staring, but these instances can mostly be attributed to the lack of knowledge about and/or exposure to people of other races and ethnicities. Students have reported being approached by strangers for photos, questions, and other interactions born of their perceived foreign identity.
In contrast, heritage students and others who may be mistaken for a local sometimes feel less welcomed than their peers with more obviously foreign features. Interactions with locals are typically initiated in Chinese and their language skills may be held to a higher standard. However, past students have also reported this to be beneficial to their language learning and provide a living experience more similar to that of a local.
While homosexuality is legal in China, only heterosexual marriages are recognized by the government at this time. The local cultural climate is becoming more and more open toward LGBTQ issues and individuals, although it has not reached the same level of general acceptance and understanding as it has in the US. Misconceptions are often widespread and there is little notion of political correctness when discussing related issues. Most younger people are tacitly accepting, if not fully supportive and curious to learn more of and about LGBTQ issues and individuals. While this is the attitude adopted toward most LGBTQ foreigners, it should be noted that a double standard exists and locals are often less accepting of other Chinese being LGBTQ.
Chinese culture is very gender binary. A non-binary student would likely find it difficult to explain what being gender diversity means to their Chinese friends. Locals will always assume someone to be heterosexual and cisgender. As a result, small talk will often lead to asking students about their dating life and suggesting that they date a local and settle down in China. Although the intentions behind these conversations mean well, this can become daunting for students who do not identify as straight and cis.
There are five religions officially recognized in China: Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism. There is little knowledge of or exposure to other religions in China. Chinese people—while not usually religious themselves—are on the whole very open to religion and generally interested to learn about different faiths. It is a common occurrence for students to be asked about their religion. Proselytizing is illegal in China, but personal religious observance and practice is fine for foreign students.
Cost of Living
Day-to-day cost of living in Hangzhou is cheaper than major Chinese cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and is generally cheaper than most places in the United States. A subway ride costs around 5 RMB, 50 RMB for a meal out at a restaurant, 30 RMB for a movie ticket. Students can expect to spend anywhere between 30 to 150 RMB per day.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
The international dormitories are located on Zhejiang University of Technology’s Zhaohui campus, in the northern part of the city center. Most classes are held in the same building, and is a 1- to 5-minute walk from the dorm rooms. The dorm facilities are not wheelchair accessible as there are no elevators or ADA-compliant restrooms in the building.
Students are typically assigned to housing by gender. However, arrangements can be made to accommodate gender diverse students if notice is provided in advance. On-site staff can also specifically recruit a local roommate open to living with gender diverse students with advanced notice.
Rooms and bathrooms are typically shared, but a single room may be arranged for students with documented need if requested in advance.
Some subway stations provide elevators and ramps, but this is inconsistent across the city. Walkways provide straight lines that serve as guides for anyone that is visually impaired and walks with a cane.
Health & Medicine
There are a variety of health facilities available to students in Hangzhou. During orientation, on-site staff provide students with basic information and recommendations for seeing a doctor and buying medicine. There are some prescription medications that are not accessible in China—students should do their research beforehand and ensure they bring their prescription and the necessary amount if in-country refills won’t be possible. For example, birth control pill brands in China differ from those in the US.
Keeping Fit in Hangzhou
Our host university, Zhejiang University of Technology, provides many campus amenities available to students for free—soccer fields, track, badminton courts, basketball courts, ping pong facilities, and an Olympic size swimming pool. Many past students have joined local clubs or pick-up games with their roommates and fellow students in a variety of sports.
Managing Mental Health
At this time, there are no mental health services within Hangzhou. However, there are many services available in Shanghai, which is just a 1-hour train ride away. There are also counseling sessions available via Skype through the Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinic. More information on mental health services can be provided to students upon request.
Special dietary needs can be accommodated in China, but require patience and persistence as many local people are not used to the idea of dietary restrictions or severe food allergies. On-site staff work with students on a case-by-case basis to find reliable options and teach them how to communicate their dietary needs clearly.
While many vegetable and tofu dishes are easy to come by, it should be noted that many of these dishes often include animal fat or small bits of meat in the cooking process. Vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free students must be patient and clear when ordering food in China. Students with stricter dietary requirements are recommended to consider cooking their own meals in the dormitory’s shared kitchen.
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad in China (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in China could be like for you or your future peers.
- Navigating China as a Black Woman: The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice
by Denise Jackson, CET Beijing | Fall 2019 & Janterm 2020
For “Students of color”
- CET Shanghai: Heritage Essay
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2019
- Support at CET Harbin
by Tatiana Wade, CET Harbin | Fall 2018
For “Students of color, low-income students, and those who want to go to China”
- Black in Beijing
by Minnie Norgaisse, CET Beijing | Spring 2018
- Japanese-American Experience in Shanghai/China
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2018
For “Japanese (Japanese/American) in China”
CHINA Alumni Insight
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in China may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you register with CET (after acceptance to the program), your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Greater China.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Greater China. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.