Shanghai, the biggest city in China (and biggest by population in the world), bustles with cosmopolitan energy and countless things to see and do. With its futuristic skyline and traditional markets selling exotic foods, it definitely feels far from ordinary.
Spend your evenings out with peers or home with your host family practicing your Mandarin over authentic meals. Relax among the sycamores and stuccoed villas surrounding Fuxing Park in the French Concession, or explore 5,000 years of history at the Shanghai Museum. Give back to the local community by helping teach English to migrant children at the local elementary school.
You’ll live in a country that is rapidly becoming a global superpower, and gain life skills you can draw upon in college and beyond.
- Increased language proficiency (12 hours per week of formal instruction; 5 hours of one-on-one tutoring per week; 2 hours of language exchanges per week with optional evening tutoring available; and, a required Chinese Language Commitment instituted at the CIEE Study Center)
- Ability to navigate across cultures (35 hours per semester in an intercultural seminar)
- Certificate of volunteer service (minimum 35 hours per semester)
- Deep understanding of Chinese family and culture through day-to-day experiences with a local host family, vetted and approved by CIEE
- Documented language growth through pre- and post-program language testing
Sample Activities and Excursions
- Visit “Old Shanghai.” Every Friday afternoon CIEE takes students to explore different parts of Old Shanghai to get a better understanding of and appreciation for the city’s roots. Destinations include the Jade Buddha Temple, Zhujiajiao Watertown, the Urban Planning Museum, and the Jewish Refugee Museum, to name a few.
- Take part in a variety of culture-oriented activities. Learn calligraphy, martial arts, or erhu (Chinese violin), and join CIEE for a trip to the Beijing Opera House.
- Enjoy many of the language-based activities organized by CIEE throughout the semester. Join us for Chinese movie nights, language trivia nights, and even a Chinese karaoke competition!
- Tap into one of your passions through volunteering at local nonprofits. Work with Stepping Stones teaching English to migrant children, at Heart-2-Heart playing with rural children waiting for open-heart surgery, or with iFine mobilizing local resources for environmental awareness. Prefer something else? CIEE staff in Shanghai are happy to assist in finding other volunteer opportunities to fit your interests!
- Explore sites unique to China like the Propaganda Poster Museum (site of the first Communist Party Meeting ever), and the M50 Modern Art industrial warehouse and park. These group visits offer a rare chance get an up-close look at one-of-a-kind intercultural communication concepts.
- Embark on a week-long trip to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the Silk Road. Yunnan is an option for spring semester students as well.
- Relax and learn during trips to Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuzhen, or Yangzhou (one trip per semester).
The CIEE Difference
A Gap Year Experience that Gets It Right
Just the right balance – of structure and independence, academics and adventure, serious and fun.
Full Cultural Immersion
Live Like a Local
Shop local. Eat local. Live like a local. For a structured program, this is as authentic as it gets. Whether you go abroad for a full year or a semester, you’ll have time to settle into the local scene, forge friendships, chat with strangers, observe life around you, and take it all in. On your Gap Year Abroad in China, you’ll get an inside perspective and a real sense of place.
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in another culture than by living with a local family. Not only will your host family provide you with daily meals and a place to stay, they’ll also introduce you to local customs, and offer support and guidance in an unfamiliar environment.
Our host families are consistently rated as the highlight of the Gap Year Abroad experience. We carefully screen all host families and choose them based on personality profiles and common interests. Through your host family, you’ll build a home away from home and develop relationships that endure long after you’ve finished your Gap Year Abroad program.
Service Learning Options
Make a Difference in Your Own Unique Way
Volunteer work is an essential component of your Gap Year Abroad experience, and a rewarding way to create positive change in your new community. The professional skills you’ll develop along the way will prove valuable for your resume and for years to come.
Teaching English, working with an environmental NGO, volunteering with children in hospitals – all these service-learning opportunities provide ways to make a meaningful difference, while also building fluency and insight into Chinese society and culture. In the Shanghai program, you can propose your own service-learning project or choose to volunteer through any of CIEE’s local partners.
Do you enjoy working with children? Current options include teaching English and providing much-needed care for students at Stepping Stones, a local nonprofit school for children of migrant workers. Because of their migrant status, many of these children cannot be admitted to regular Chinese schools, and rely on volunteers to provide vital services and a friendly, helping hand.
Heart2Heart is another valuable service opportunity. Many children from rural communities are brought to Shanghai for heart surgeries. The waiting list can be long, and it’s often tiring and stressful for parents who are unfamiliar with being in an urban hub. Heart2Heart provides care in the hospitals for families as they wait for surgery. CIEE volunteers help by keeping children engaged and positive throughout that process by playing games or sports, working on their English, or simply bringing a smile to their faces.
Interested in environmental science or green initiatives? You might opt to volunteer through iFine Environmental Protection , an NGO that organizes cleanup campaigns and educational workshops to help raise awareness of environmental protection. Together you can work towards their goal of making Shanghai a zero-waste city!
Language & Culture Program
Communicate and Collaborate – Locally and Globally
Full immersion is the most efficient way to learn. With CIEE you can fast-forward your language skills during class time – then put them into practice out on the town. Alumni say this is, hands down, the most effective way to learn. Fun and engaging classes help accelerate fluency so that you can maximize your experience abroad while gaining competitive skills for the future.
For 12 hours per week, you’ll enroll in an intensive Mandarin Chinese language program taught by CIEE staff. Couple this with five hours per week of language tutoring and two hours of language tutorials each week. You’ll be fluent before you know it!
You’ll also take an intercultural seminar at the CIEE Study Center with fellow Gap Year Abroad students. Through a combination of coursework and activities focused on Chinese culture and society, you’ll gain the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world. Try your hand at calligraphy, dumpling making or papermaking. Take a Chinese martial arts class or instruction in Chinese musical instruments. All of these experiences are designed to give you a better sense of the Chinese people and their daily lives.
With CIEE, cultural studies classes go much deeper than sightseeing. They enhance your language coursework by adding important context and content. By connecting the dots through this integrated approach, you’ll get a holistic big-picture education – one that could not be possible without the power of study abroad.
Our coursework is all about experiential learning and intercultural connections. Working with diverse groups expands perspectives and builds critical skills. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, the ability to communicate and empathize with those considered “foreign” is more important than ever.
Out & About
Treks and Adventures
Program Excursions & Independent Exploration
Our Gap Year Abroad programs offer a smart balance between structured activities and free time. You’ll get to travel and see the country as a group, and still have time for everyday exploration.
In Shanghai, you can try out a new hobby, like martial arts or calligraphy, and visit countless places of historical, religious, or cultural significance around you. Weekend trips are a great way to get away with your CIEE peers and see more of the interesting villages, cities, and countryside farther afield. Excursions include day trips to Wuzhen (also known as the Venice of China), as well as to other interesting sites, such as: Yangzhou, Nanjing, or Hangzhou. Take a tour of a silk-spinning factory and see traditional methods used since the 14th century, visit marketplaces, and meander through old-world scenes and streets.
Fall semester students can choose from one of the following options for their one-week trip:
- Taiwan – Focus: International relations and government
- Hong Kong – Focus: Business and international trade
- The Silk Road – Focus: History and importance of the Silk Road trading route
In addition to the Taiwan and Hong Kong options, spring semester students can choose to participate in a one-week trip to Yunnan, where they’ll learn about the historic Tea Horse Road – one of the longest and most dramatic trade routes of the ancient world.
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
We want you to get as much as possible from your CIEE Gap Year Abroad. That's why our program fees cover all the extras, including:
- Transportation from a local Chinese airport
- Language classes with CIEE
- Volunteering opportunities
- CIEE-sponsored trips and excursions
- Room and board with a host family
- Supervision and support by a student services manager
- Orientations prior to leaving the U.S. and upon arrival in China
- International medical insurance through iNext and 24-hour worldwide travel assistance and support services
- Language pre and post testing to demonstrate improvement in the target language.
Academic Year 2016-2017
May 15, 2016*
May 15, 2016*
November 1, 2016*
*Early Bird Discount: Beat the application deadline by a month and get $400 off.
*Prices are subject to change and will be locked in for the participant on the day CIEE receives the completed application and program deposit.
- Students must be a high school graduate in good academic standing
- No previous language experience required
- Students must demonstrate, through the application and interview process, their flexibility, maturity, adaptability, and readiness to face the challenges of living in a new culture
The CIEE Study Center in Shanghai is responsible for the supervision and support of CIEE participants throughout the duration of their stay. The Gap Year Abroad program coordinator at the Study Center will remain in regular contact throughout the program in order to check in on your language progress and to make sure that the homestay and volunteer placements are going well. The office selects, screens, and interviews all host families and will place students with a family that best matches their student profile.
All CIEE Gap Year Abroad participants take part in an online orientation prior to their departure. In addition to providing logistical information, the orientation helps students set realistic expectations and goals. It also affords students and parents the opportunity to ask questions of CIEE Study Center staff.
In-country orientations offer the perfect start to your gap year abroad experience. For one week when you first arrive in Shanghai, you’ll receive an introduction to local customs and culture, set expectations for your time in the country, take a language placement test, and participate in exciting cultural activities—all while settling in with your host family and before starting classes.
About the City
About the City
Perched on the banks of the Huangpu River and the East China Sea, Shanghai is China’s largest city by population, boasting more than 23 million residents, and a global axis of culture, commerce, and finance. The city has seen massive redevelopment over the past 20 years, and the new financial district of Pudong is home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. You’ll find the fastest-growing rapid-transit systems in the world. Shanghai’s urban centers are connected by elevated light rails, the world’s first commercial high-speed Maglev train, and 13 subway lines.
Meet the Staff
Meet the Staff
Steve Chao earned his doctorate in education from Saint Louis University, MBA from Lindenwood University, and bachelor degree from Columbia College. Steve has extensive experience in the field of international education working as an adjunct faculty member and program administrator since 1985. Before joining CIEE, he was director of international programs at Worcester State University in Massachusetts, where he led university international initiatives, study abroad, and international student services for six years. Prior to that he directed the International Affairs Center at Indiana State University and taught modern Chinese history. Born in Taiwan, he began his career in international education at Columbia College, where he was director of international programs for nine years. Steve has also taught courses on U.S. higher education as a visiting fellow at Tongji University in Shanghai, and he served as chair of the Department of International Trade at Tainan University of Technology, a leading women’s higher education institution in Taiwan. He has served as a research advisor to the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission 211 Project and to the Ministry of Education in Taiwan on educational reform and curriculum. He has worked for CIEE since the fall of 2010.
Gap Year Abroad Program Manager
Matthew Chitwood joined CIEE in fall 2015, and leads the Shanghai Study Center’s internship, service-learning, gap year abroad, and custom programs. He holds a dual M.A. in China Studies and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University. He also completed the graduate certificate program in American Studies at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. Matthew attended undergrad at Northwest Nazarene University, a private Christian liberal arts university, where he studied International Business, Spanish, and also studied abroad with the CCCU in Central America. He has lived in China for nine years with work experience spanning the business, education, and nonprofit sectors, including with CIEE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Prior to that, Matthew developed and led custom programs for CIEE’s Beijing Center and was Resident Director for the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. He has also enjoyed teaching university-level courses, including Issues of Contemporary Chinese Society and Living and Learning in China. Matthew is professionally proficient in Mandarin (and Spanish!) and is a certified Wilderness First Responder.