CET High School & Gap:
China Fieldwork Semester

Engage with rural China. Explore community change through project-based learning.

In this interdisciplinary, full-semester program, you discover how the Chinese landscape has changed livelihoods and the community’s sense of place over generations. Live in a restored historic building. Spend 3 weeks on the Tibetan Plateau working with initiatives to protect critically-endangered species. Learn a traditional regional skill from a master craftsperson. Contribute to ongoing research in this welcoming community. This is immersion learning at its finest—all in China’s beautiful Yunnan province.

Ready to begin your experience abroad?Apply Now

arrival date
departure date
program length
recommended credits
application deadline
Spring 01/22/2020 05/16/2020 15 Weeks 12-15 $20,750
What’s Included
None October 15

Your transcript will come from Dickinson College.

Understanding China from Diverse Perspectives

Explore Yunnan through the program’s project-based approach to history, literature, and science. Study local temples and dwellings to see how cultural changes have affected them over centuries. Draw connections between your Chinese literature readings and the historical architecture all around you. Build upon the work of previous students as you collect cultural data and learn how to turn it into actionable information.

Spend your semester on 3 major projects to help you study the land, meet the people, and understand the community. If it’s possible to know China, this is the best way to start.

An Integrated Academic Approach

Though your curriculum has courses focused on individual topics, the program’s experiential learning component ties all the different subjects together. Coordinated individual and collaborative group projects bring to life and connect concepts across the board as you learn in hands-on work environments. And a semester organized sequentially around 6 core thematic units—Place, Dwelling, Work, Belief, Diversity, Modernity—ensures a deep and holistic understanding of the surrounding community.

Chinese in the Real World

Small class sizes meet you at your Chinese level and provide you with the attention your language skills need to thrive. All levels—beginner to advanced—include curriculum elements that complement fieldwork research projects in your other courses. And when class is out, you have endless ways to practice—shopping at the local market, discussing your craft at your apprenticeship, or even with your host siblings during homestay weekends.

Whether you’re new to learning Chinese or you’ve attended a Chinese language immersion school, your Chinese skills will grow and be challenged like never before.

Xizhou Apprenticeship: Learn the Art of the Craft

As a part of your Grassroots China course, you spend afternoon weekdays for one month working personally with a local craft master, observing and learning a skill practiced in the Xizhou community. Apprenticeship options have included:

  • Silversmithing
  • Traditional Tie Dye
  • Woodcarving
  • Cooking
  • Wood Block Printing
  • Wool Felting
  • Paper Cutting
  • Traditional instrument playing


Fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau

Pack your bags for a 3-week Traveling Seminar along the Tibetan Plateau and the Three Parallel Rivers region.  Trek into the monkey reserve on Baima Mountain and understand ongoing efforts to protect an endangered species. Explore reforestation efforts at Pudacuo National Park. Hike China’s famous Tiger Leaping Gorge. You even learn the 2,000-year-old tradition of making black pottery during a homestay with Tibetan farm families.


Core Courses

You take all of these courses:

 HIST 150 Grassroots China
3 credits | 45 hours

LITR 152 Chinese Literature in Translation
3 credits | 45 hours

ENVR 151 Landscape Ecology
3 credits | 45 hours

Chinese Language

You are placed into one of these courses:

Beginning Chinese
3 credit | 45 hours

Intermediate Chinese
3 credit | 45 hours

Advanced Chinese
3 credit | 45 hours

Optional Math Course

Determine whether you’ll need to continue math during this semester and we will help facilitate a distance learning course with your high school, an online course, or onsite tutoring support so that your math skills stay on track.

Math Elective
3 credits | 45 hours

The Linden Centre—Your Home Base

The Linden Centre is an educational facility that serves as a platform for cultural exchange based in Yunnan province. It is strategically located in Xizhou, Dali for its distance to China’s commercial centers, thereby providing a rural haven for deeper interaction with the community and structured explorations of China’s past. The building facilities themselves are housed in a structure built locally in 1939 and restored in 2015 by Brian and Jeanee Linden.

Living in Xizhou

With a small rural community of roughly 2,500 people, Xizhou has unparalleled immersion opportunities. Whether you’re discussing proper techniques with your silversmithing master, enjoying Yunnan province’s ecological diversity, or appreciating the local cuisine, you encounter something new everywhere you look. Your days are filled with any number of activities in this area known for good weather, diverse communities, and a rich culture and history. Dance to Tibetan techno pop with locals on the city square.  Take a scenic bike ride to the Tongue of Erhai Lake. Taste Xizhou baba, a Dali specialty pancake beloved by locals.

Housing & Meals

You’ll share a room with other 3 other students and enjoy common spaces like a shared kitchen, dining area, and courtyards for playing games and hanging out.  You’ll eat most meals on-site at the Linden Centre, with occasional small group meals out in town with stipends.


Your classes are held either on-site at the Linden Centre, out in the Xizhou community, or further afield in Yunnan. During your month of apprenticeship, you can either walk, bike, or take a bus to reach your site.

After Class is Out

  • Explore Dali’s old town with friends
  • Take in the famous Three Pagodas of the Chongseng Temple
  • Taste local specialties: Yunnan coffee, Pu’er tea, Crossing-the-Bridge noodles
  • Gaze at the views from atop Cangshan Mountain
  • Enjoy movie nights at the Linden Centre

A Typical Day in Xizhou

7:30 am: Grab breakfast and review your readings for the day.

8:30 am: Head to the courtyard for morning taichi.

9:00 am: Fieldwork! One day you might study a local temple, another day you might be off-site researching local biodiversity.

12:00 pm: Lunch break with delicious local cuisine prepared on site at the Linden Center.

1:00 pm: Chinese and math class in the classroom or outside.

3:00 pm: Free time! Catch up on homework, review Chinese, or relax with friends around the courtyard.

5:30 pm: Grab dinner in small groups in nearby restaurants. Indulge in local fare, or even try the pizza place!

7:00 pm: Gather back at the Linden Centre for evening seminar. Discuss readings, reflect on fieldwork, etc.

8:30 pm: Free time!

Full-Time, Bilingual, On-Site Faculty and Staff

The Academic Director ensures that the academic experience is rigorous and holsitic. He designs the curriculum, teaches some of your core courses, and leads fieldwork and excursions.

The Resident Director and Resident Assistant help you with your daily life in Xizhou. They handle all the program logistics, meet regularly with students, and advise students on cultural adjustment, health and safety concerns, and other needs related to a successful term abroad.

Academic Staff & Faculty

Dr. John Flower
Dr. John Flower is the founder and the academic director of the China Fieldwork Semester program, He also serves as the Director of Chinese Studies at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC.  Previously, Dr. Flower was associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and fellow at the East Asia Center and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia. His scholarship includes articles and book chapters on local history and folklife in China and Tibet, as well as the digital monograph Moral Landscape in a Sichuan Mountain Village, co-authored with his wife, Dr. Pamela Leonard.

Dr. John Flower

Academic Director

Dr. Pamela Leonard
Dr. Pamela Leonard received her PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University, and served as adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has authored and edited publications on China, “postsocialism,” and environmental issues, and worked with international NGOs on environment and development issues in China.  Dr. Leonard teaches the Landscape Ecology course.

Dr. Pamela Leonard


Flight Estimate

We estimate that you’ll need an additional $1,500-$2,000 for airfare.

Spring Semester

$20,750/ Term

On Site Expenses

Students typically spend about $500 on personal expenses on souvenirs, extra food, and snacks. All other expenses are covered by the program fee.

What's Included

Courses & Textbooks

All courses are included in your program fee. We even supply the textbooks, too (excluding those needed for the elective math course).

Activities & Excursions

All activities & excursions that we arrange are included in your program fee. All you need to do is grab your camera.


We arrange your housing with other students and resident staff for the entire semester.


All of your meals are included in the program fee.  Special dietary needs? We’ll work with  you to accommodate those, too.

Supervision and Staff Support

We are your support network. From pre-departure questions to academic support to emergency management, CET staff can assist with student needs for a successful semester.

Medical Insurance

Comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation coverage is included in your program fee.


You’ll receive an official transcript from Dickinson College at the end of the program…so you’ll have completed a semester of high school or gap year AND have college credit to boot.

Visa Support

We guide you step-by-step through the visa process. You’ll need to do the legwork, but we pay the consular fees if you obtain your visa through the service we recommend.

Scholarships and Financial Assistance AvailableLearn More

Application Requirements

CET seeks motivated high school and gap students interested in a fun and challenging spring semester. The online admissions process includes submission of an application form including short essays, an official high school transcript, and one letter of recommendation from a teacher. CET advisors are available to help you in both the decision and application process. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until the final deadline of October 15. Students are generally expected to have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

What's Not Included

The program fee does not include round-trip transportation to & from China, items & services of a personal nature, and medical expenses not covered by the insurance provided.

Price Subject to Change

CET reserves the right to increase quoted charges at any time without prior notification, based on increased instruction costs, exchange rate fluctuation or other cost increases beyond CET’s control.