Why did you choose to participate in a gap program?
I chose to participate in a gap program not only to improve my Chinese language ability but also to deepen my understanding of another country’s culture and life. I knew an intensive and immersive language program would give me a structured way to learn about another country, make meaningful friendships, and also experience things I had never had the opportunity to experience before.
How did you decide which program was right for you?
I decided on CET Beijing because the program focused as much on intensive language learning as on immersion into the culture. With the Chinese language pledge, I expected to be pushed to practice the Chinese I had learned during the day even after classes were over. With a Chinese roommate, I expected to learn more about Chinese life and to be able to practice my language with a native-speaking peer. I could see how these aspects would give me a valuable push in my Chinese ability and show me how important it is to embrace new experiences with excitement.
What was a typical day like in your gap program?
A typical day at CET Beijing started with “big group” for two hours, where new class material was introduced. This was followed by “small group,” which was fewer students, for two more hours, where we reviewed the material from “big group” again. After morning classes, I would have a break for lunch, where I could eat anything from noodle or rice bowls to Peking Duck either at the cafeteria or an authentic restaurant near the campus. Every week, I would be assigned a one-to-one time, which followed lunch and was 25 minutes of individual practice of the material from class that day with a teacher. I think the one-to-one was one of the most pivotal parts of my language improvement. In short, we went over a week’s worth of material three different times each day, which helped to cement the material and help us practice.
After class was over, I would typically return to the dorm and work on review homework from class, preview homework for class the next day, or go to a cultural painting, calligraphy, or martial arts class hosted by CET. I also had time to explore the city with friends, experiencing Chinese life through museums, restaurants, monuments, grocery stores, tea houses, and different neighborhoods, to name a few. This made each day unique and exciting!
What was the most memorable moment of your program?
Of the countless memorable experiences during CET, the most memorable part of my program was the final banquet, where I realized the progress I had made in language, thought back about my incredible experiences in Beijing and also travelling in China, and spent some final time with my friends. My classmates and I gave a speech where we thanked our teachers and presented them with gifts. There was student-teacher performances, music, highlight videos, and the official end of the language pledge, where we all realized how normal it had become to try to express ourselves just in Chinese. It was during the banquet that I realized how becoming part of another culture by living in a different environment had made me a better learner and part of our bigger global community.
What advice do you have for teens looking at gap programs?
Do a gap program! I am enrolled in college now, and I was so much better prepared to handle the transition to dorm life and college academics from having had a gap year experience. Don’t be afraid of programs that look intimidating or out of your comfort zone. The most intimidating situations are often the ones that end up being the most rewarding, especially when it comes to language and cultural experiences. The ways that these experiences open your eyes to an entirely different world and way of living are truly endless, and the best way to do that is to put yourself into situations you know will force you to adapt and grow in your understanding of the world and yourself as a global citizen.