AFS Year and Semester High School Abroad in China

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Year and Semester: School will be challenging, but rewarding. Spend your days sipping tea with family, riding rickshaws with friends, and becoming a member of one of the most dynamic societies on the globe. You will most likely be placed in the Senior 1 level (equivalent of 10th grade). AFS students are not placed in the Senior 2 or 3 levels as they are the graduating classes and these students are typically engrossed in studying for university entrance examinations, leaving nearly no time at all for social activities. Because school is such a priority for students, most of your socializing will happen within the classroom, in study groups, or through school-related activities like sports, martial arts or dance. Chinese teenagers seldom date.

Summer language: This four-week program is designed to provide an intensive introduction to the Chinese (Mandarin) language through immersion in Chinese culture. Mandarin is one of today's most critical global languages, and there may be no better way to learn it than to participate fully in the culture. This program offers you the opportunity to take Chinese language classes, and then put your new knowledge to immediate use through interactions with the community and your host family. The language classes will be complemented by time in the community either independently, with fellow AFSers, or with your host family. Through immersing yourself in Chinese culture and daily life, you will be able to contextualize your language lessons and increase their impact further. Cultural activities that will complement your language lessons may include: Chinese painting, calligraphy, paper cutting, martial arts, cooking, and field trips.

Summer global prep: This two-week program is designed for students who want to get a flavor of China by taking part of different local activities and learning survival Chinese. Mandarin is one of today's most critical global languages, and there may be no better way to learn it than to participate fully in the culture. This program offers you the opportunity to take classes in a language school during the day, and then put your new knowledge to immediate use through interactions with the community and your host family. In keeping with Confucian ethic, the Chinese have a strong sense of family and respect for hierarchy. Within the family, both parents usually work outside the home and only have one child, and it is not uncommon for a grandparent to live with the family. Most Chinese families in the cities live in multi-story apartment buildings.

Questions & Answers


based on 3 reviews
  • Growth 9.7
  • Support 7.7
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 7.3
  • Safety 8.7
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Carlos Alberto

Learning, growing and adapting

China is an amazing country, full of beautiful, humble and really nice people. They always make sure you feel part of the family. I did my exchange in a Highschool in Jiu Jiang City. During this time I lived with a chinese family and was a regular student.

I'll try to organize my experience the best I can:

AFS-China: Everything gets ready in your home country. Every student who is about to make the same exchange program as you arrives on the same date. With that you start the introduction, they explain the rules and prepare you to leave the next day to the city where you're going to stay. From this time on, the school es the one in charge of whatever happens to you. Normally AFS' work is to make sure you have a nice transition when introduce into the culture. They do this by giving each student a contact person. In China things work differently, they don't give any contact person, when I was there my only contact person was my teacher, and he wasn't available always and didn't have much time. This was something that other students experience as well. Another thing is that in my case in particular I had problems with my first family, and was left homeless for around two months, during this time AFS was suppose to help me out and work on finding me a family as soon as possible, but they didn't or it didn't feel like it. Instead they contacted the school, and ask them to find me a family, and during this time my school had a "foreigners apartment" where I stayed.
Life in China: living in China is a mixture of feelings, everything is as weird as you can expect and a bit more, but its also magical. China has one of the best cuisines I have ever tried, and you should be very open minded to enjoy everything. I must admit that the first shock you receive is the cultural difference, and AFS tries to explain that this is going to happen during it's training, but you can never imagine what it really feels like.

Language barrier was one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest. The percentage of people who speaks english is really really low, and chinese is a hard language to begin with, without any basis it takes a long time to start understanding and speaking, but once you start to understand chinese just get easier and easier.

Traveling: It's hard to travel alone with AFS, they have certain rules you have to fulfill in order to accept your request. It's hard to get all the requests ready, but it's completely worth it. Traveling in China is an amazing experience, I would go as for as to say it's the best experience of all.

School life in China: This varies a lot from city to city. In my case I was in Jiu Jiang (九江市 ). For me this meant I have to attend class like any other student my age (16 at the time). My schedule was starting from 7 am till 12 for 2 hours of lunch, then begin the afternoon from 14h until 19h for one hour break for dinner, and finally from 20h until 22h to go home. This everyday from Monday to Saturday. Yep, you read that well, 6 days a week of school, all day. It was exhausting, I stopped going to the night classes because I was doing nothing there. After some time I started to go in the afternoon to play outside with some friends. School expected nothing from me, everything was in chinese so I couldn't do much, and the worst was that all my classmates were always at school, so I couldn't make friends, and even if I do no one could speak with me, nor they could help me because no one had time. That's the most frustrating part, specially if you want to interact with chinese people. The good part is that you are not alone, you and all the other foreigners become one huge family to help each other survive and make the experience unique. That's not good if you're looking to learn the language as best as possible and to live the culture to the fullest, but it's part of the experience never the less.

How can this program be improved?
Much better organization from AFS China will be key. I was left there without help for two months. My mom had to pay for my stay and my food, during the time I had no family.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Just like many other exchange returnees will tell you, this trip was life-changing. Although it was very short, at just two weeks, it was long enough for me to love with China. Each day in this program was packed with different activities to do with the other American students on the trip or the Chinese students. We usually had Chinese classes in the mornings at an international school, and spent the afternoons experiencing cultural activities or interacting with Chinese students. We all stayed with host families. I had an amazing family, and we somehow managed to become very close in the short time that I was there, so much that my host sister and I were crying by the time I left, but I still wouldn't take back this trip for the world!

Yes, I recommend this program
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AFS in China changed my life!

From the moment I arrived in my host city to the time I boarded my flight back to the US ten months later, living in China was a rollercoaster of fun. While living and studying in Liaoning Anshan I was immersed in a new language and culture that gave me a new view on the world. My host family was warm and welcoming from the first day on and I felt at home during the whole year. At school I made friends that I will have for the rest of my life while simultaneously learning Chinese from fabulous teachers. Although there were some times when I missed home, the people around me always reminded me that I was at home in China. Besides school and family life I had lots of free time to explore my extracurricular interests. This included learning calligraphy after school, going to a gym where I met some new friends, and travelling throughout the country. If you have an opportunity to go abroad, AFS China should be at the top of your list!

How can this program be improved?
Because AFS China is such a large program, nearly 400 students were there while I was, getting in touch with people in charge was slightly troublesome. For example, to travel independently you need to have the approval of your host school, host family, local AFS Coordinator, AFS China national office, and natural family, which made the process take up to 3 weeks. If there was a way to expedite this it would have made the year much easier.
Yes, I recommend this program


AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS...