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The Experience

Live and learn immersed in the heart of an ancient culture, thousands of miles from what you’ve known.

Making pork-and-herb dumplings. Playing table tennis and basketball. Climbing sacred mountains and touring temples and ancient palaces. Sampling street foods and noodle houses in every town and city you visit. When you’re living in an exotic land, over 7,000 miles from home, every day is an adventure. Here you’ll be placed in the first year of high school (year 10) at a boarding school, with all courses taught in Mandarin. Although the Chinese learning environment is intense, CIEE’s got your back, providing 80 hours of group tutoring sessions per semester.

Students playing pickup basketball
Jump right in! Pick-up games of basketball and volleyball with local peers get you acclimated quickly.
Students smiling
China is a mecca for international students – get ready to watch your friends list grow!

“One of the best parts of this orientation week so far is all the other abroad students I have met who are spending a half year or whole year in China. I have met new people from Germany, Belgium, Italy, Thailand, Denmark, and the United States. Everyone has his or her own story and life all over the world, but we are all meeting in Shanghai. Every chance I have had, I have eaten Chinese cuisine. There is a plethora of Chinese dishes, and I want to try as many of them as I can! My orientation week has been a complete blast.”

-Fred K., CIEE High School Abroad Alumnus


Upon arriving in China with your fellow participants, you will be met by staff in Shanghai, where you will begin your three-day orientation. During orientation, you will participate in different workshops focusing on a variety of themes, and you will take Mandarin classes — all designed to best prepare you for your experience in China. Additionally, you’ll see some of the best that Shanghai has to offer!

Activities are subject to change, but may include a visit to the Bund — where you’ll have incredible views of Shanghai — the Jade Buddha Temple, and the Jin Mao Tower. Laugh over incredible food during group meals each evening, and get to know staff and other participants. After orientation, you will depart for Zhengzhou via high-speed rail to settle in before beginning school.

“When I arrived in Shanghai, I started off with a week of orientation arranged by my program. During this time, we got to explore Shanghai and get used to life in China. It was very helpful because it helped us understand where and how we would be living for the next year. It also helped us get closer to many other students from different countries that had also come to Shanghai for one year. It was easy to make friends with these kids, and because of this, I knew it would help make my year here a lot better!”

–Craig L., CIEE High School Abroad Alumnus

The Destination

Improve your Mandarin, learn, and play in the rich, unique culture of the world’s most populous country.

China is the world’s most populous country. And with the majority of China’s 1.2 billion people speaking Mandarin Chinese, it’s no wonder that Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, with nearly three times as many speakers as the languages in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots (Spanish and English, respectively).

Roughly the size of the entire United States, China spans diverse geographical terrain. From poor rural provinces to wealthy sections of ultramodern cities, there’s a dramatic range of socioeconomic culture as well. While in China, you’ll get an up-close view of the country’s extraordinary history, from ancient to modern times.

Great Wall
Gaze in awe at the Great Wall.
Girl hugging an elephant trunk
Embrace the wild.
Visit ancient temples.

You’ll spend orientation in Shanghai, the biggest city in China (and the biggest city by population in the world). Shanghai 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. Relax in the French Concession, or explore 5,000 years of history at the Shanghai Museum.

During the academic program, students are placed in the city of Zhengzhou. You’ll take time to visit ancient tombs and temples, and to picnic in green parks on the banks of the Yellow River. Called the cradle of China’s civilization, Zhengzhou traces its history back though the ages and served as the capital of the Shang dynasty (1766 B.C.–1050 B.C.).

The Take-Aways

Language Proficiency

Regardless of your level of proficiency upon entry, you’ll make dramatic strides in your Mandarin language skills while immersed in the Chinese boarding school experience. You’ll receive 80 hours of Mandarin language group tutoring each semester, plus you’ll take all of your academic classes with native speakers. Return home with remarkably improved language skills, ready to ace the next level of Mandarin classes in the United States.

Based on ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, CIEE High School Abroad participants improve, on average, two language levels during the course of the program.

The CIEE High School Abroad program provides students more language contact hours in just a few weeks than the average U.S. high school student receives through high school language classes in an entire academic year — 150 hours.*

*Alice Omaggio Hadley’s Teaching Language in Context
Student in traditional attire
Don’t just study history, live it.

Local Transcript

You will receive an official record of classes and grades from your local school in China. Credit transfer will vary from school to school, country to country, so please consult with your U.S. school guidance counselor.

Global Citizenship

After immersing yourself in unfamiliar practices and customs, you’ll become better equipped to interact with people from other cultures — in school, on the job, or in your personal life. In today’s interconnected global economy, intercultural skills have never been more important.

94% of participants said their intercultural understanding and knowledge improved as a result of their participation in the CIEE High School Abroad program, while 93% said their experience made them more aware of global issues.

Independence & Resilience

Come home better prepared to make transitions, take control of new situations, and appreciate challenging experiences for what they are: opportunities to learn and grow.

90% of participants said their level of independence increased as a result of their participation in the CIEE High School Abroad program.

“I learned things that aren’t taught in schools: what is really important to me, what I want out of life, and how to be more open-minded and confident.”

–Sophie R., CIEE High School Abroad Alumna

College Readiness

Studying abroad gives you the kinds of life skills that can’t be learned in a classroom — and shows college admissions reps that you’re already one step ahead in terms of initiative, maturity, and independence.

79% of participants said their experience with CIEE helped shape their college applications.

“Everyone is shocked to hear that I studied abroad when I was 15 years old. I’m shocked myself — yet, quite frankly, I’m shocked that it isn’t more common to study abroad in high school. CIEE gave me an opportunity that most people have never heard of. The program transformed me into the person I am today, with impeccable people skills and the ability to adapt to any environment. I owe a huge thanks to the CIEE program. I am proud to be a CIEE alumnus!”

-Alex A., CIEE High School Abroad Alumnus

Passion & Direction

Upon return, you’ll likely have a better sense of what you want to study in college or even pursue as a career.

86% of participants felt their experience with CIEE impacted their educational or career pursuits and goals, while 96% of participants said they regularly use the knowledge and skills they acquired while abroad with CIEE.

Sample Activities & Excursions

Exotic cuisine, stunning historical sites, and bustling cities will be yours to discover in China.

Venture off with your host family to climb a sacred mountain. Set off on a hike and encounter a group of monkeys carrying their young. Tour a Han dynasty emperor’s palace. All of these opportunities could be yours during your stay in China. From local festivals to table tennis tournaments, you’ll experience it all and then some. Think you know Chinese food? You’ll find out how much more there is to know, as you sample traditional dishes and develop your palate. A nearly indescribable diversity of adventures awaits you!

Students jumping
Get a move on! Learn martial arts, perfect your ping pong, and get ready to walk, hike and bike to see the sites.
Student hiking, with mountains behind her
Take a break from city life and explore the country’s vast terrain.

Meet the Staff

Nina Wineburgh

Enrollment Coordinator

Nina’s passion for international education stems from her own experience living with a host family and attending a local high school in a small town outside of Avignon, France during her sophomore year of high school.

Upon her return to the U.S. with refreshed perspectives and yearning for cross-cultural exploration, Nina continued to pursue her interest in the French language and immersive experiences.

As a French & Francophone studies major in college, she spent a semester studying and living in Nantes, France, and a semester in Rabat, Morocco, on a CIEE-led program. She is thrilled to help facilitate short and long term study abroad programs for high school students with the hope that their experiences are as transformative and inspiring as hers was.

Rachel Babich

Enrollment Coordinator

Rachel has been committed to supporting study abroad since high school, when she traveled through Europe on a cultural exchange program. Returning home with a greater understanding of her world, she sought out opportunities to see new cultures. Through studying in the South of France, living and working in Paris, and traveling to over 25 countries, Rachel has seen firsthand the power of immersive study.

Since then, she has been helping American and international students experience the transformative opportunities study abroad can bring. She is excited to help high school students and their families have a great experience studying with CIEE!

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