China's enormous and extremely diverse culture is one of the many reasons people keep coming back again and again. Picture yourself climbing the Great Wall of China and taking in the surrounding scenery. A hour later you are back in the hustle and bustle of Beijing wandering inside one of the many markets the city has to offer. The numerous transportation options makes it easy to hop from one place to another, despite the enormous geographical distances. Does it get any better than this?

For high school students wanting to study abroad for the summer, it has never been easier. With a wealth of programs to choose from, you are sure to find something to suit your needs.

Program Types

Most (if not all) summer abroad programs include an element of cultural immersion, including language study. Though actual timelines vary, all programs will include some sort of tour around China. Most programs typically last about 4 weeks.

  • Language and Culture Immersion: These types of programs focus on students gaining an overview of the Chinese language and experiencing a wide variety of cultural activities. Chinese language classes are held typically for 3 hours during the first half of the program. Cultural immersion includes a homestay component, where you stay with a local family anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. You will also be able to participate in tours of urban and rural areas as well as cultural workshops.
  • Volunteer Abroad: This type of program typically entails students partnering up with Chinese high schools to volunteer at local schools. Some provide the options of partnering up with local non-profit organizations and NGOs. The locations are usually limited to northern parts of China. Mentors and adults will work closely with you to provide all the support you need. The end of the program usually includes a short trip around major sites in China. Some may also provide you with a certificate indicating completion of community service hours.
  • Internship Abroad: An internship abroad offers much of the same experiences as the language and culture immersion program, except that participants typically stay in one area for a longer duration. Travel opportunities tend to be limited to more rugged terrains. Students have a choice of a variety of placements. They also have the opportunity to study development issues and a more intensive language study if they choose to do so. After successful completion, students will receive a letter of recommendation from their mentors.

Planning Your Trip

When studying abroad in China, be aware that you will need to obtain a travel visa. Programs do not typically include this service, but for an extra fee they will help you apply for one on your behalf. As well, most programs do not include flights to and from China, or medical insurance, Some programs offer scholarship or financial assistance, but is usually reserved for the language immersion programs.


Most programs typically do not require any other requirements other than filling out an application forms and paying the deposit. Spaces tend to be limited so acceptance is usually determined on a first come first served basis. There is usually no prerequisites to study Chinese, only a willingness to learn.

Some popular programs ask that students provide evidence that they are in good academic standing. You will need to provide supplementary materials such as 2 letters of recommendation other than the application form.


Accommodation is included with all tour packages. Most programs also include all transportation within China, instructional materials, pick up and drop off at the airport ( in China), and pre-departure orientation packets. Students usually stay in a combination of shared dorms and homestays. Travel programs usually provide you with hotel stays.

Things you will need to arrange independently include flights to and from China, travel visas, personal expenses (such as additional activities, souvenirs, and services outside of host accommodation), and health care.


Planning for a program in China is relatively hassle-free. Fees include all transportation (within China), accommodations and meals. An itinerary is typically set before leaving so you will know when and where you'll be at any stage on your trip. Most programs incorporate excursions in your itinerary and appeal to a wide range of interests. They don't really provide options for weekend trips, but if you want to see more of China, think about getting a visa that allows you more time to travel after your program is completed.

If you wish to travel in addition to your program of study, it is very easy to arrange tours. Major Chinese tour companies such as CITS speak English and even offer customized trips.Trips vary in price depending on the type of tour you want. Bus tours are cheapest but may not suit your every whim. Private tours include a personal driver, but tend to be pricier. They are also the fastest to arrange, which means that if you want to arrange a trip for the next day, it can be done! Some fun places to go:

  • Head over to Lhasa, Tibet and tour the famous Potala Palace. If you've got a week or more, consider checking out additional temples in Tsetang, Gyantse and Shigatse.
  • Guilin and nearby Yuangshou are popular due to its majestic scenery. Many go there to visit the numerous limestone caves and the famous Li River.
  • Head along the Silk Road and experience various cultures such as the Kirgiz and Uygurs
  • For city lovers, you can't go wrong with Beijing, with its fantastic mix of historical landmarks and bustling city life.

To visit China, you will need to obtain a tourist visa before you go. You can get one by applying at any one of the embassies. Visas take anywhere from 1 to 6 business days to complete, depending on if you apply for one yourself or through travel agency. There are visa agents that can arrange everything for you, but they typically have a service charge. Here is a list of Chinese embassies and consulates. It is best to consult them for up to date information on documents needed and visa fees.

It is also idea to pack a few essentials (such as a first aid kit) if you have allergies or other medical conditions. Like they say, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Financial Costs

Study abroad programs in China typically cost around $5000 USD, excluding flights to and from China. Depending where you live, flights can range anywhere from $1000 - $2000. A tourist visa typically costs anywhere from $50 to $100 depending on if you apply for one yourself or through an agent. If your health insurance does not cover you when you are abroad. International plans start from $15 per month. Be sure to check what is included in the plan and pick one that best serves your needs.

Since room and board is included in most programs, you might not need as much for other expenses like souvenirs and additional meals. Souvenirs range in price depending on what you plan on purchasing. To give you an idea, t-shirts range from $2 to $10, and art can go for anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars.

Asking your parents to part with their hard earned money isn't the only way to fund your trip. An increasingly popular way to raise money is to use crowdsourcing from popular sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. All you have to do is create a compelling argument why people should help you out and how much you think you'll need.

The website GoEnnounce gives an opportunity to high school seniors to win a $500 scholarship. All you need to do is fill out a profile on their website and list your academic achievements, and they will pick a student based on their profile. Requirements typically include having at least a 3.0 GPA and a complete application. Check each scholarship carefully to see what you need to submit as well as what each scholarship provides.

Top Reasons to Spend a Summer in China
  • Gain an appreciation for your own country: Immersing in another culture abroad can make you appreciate what you have back home. While you may be visiting awesome sights and meeting new friends, you'll might also see how others live in China. Some are definitely less fortunate than you, and having the opportunity to be exposed just how much you have will make you appreciate it even more.
  • Increased opportunities from learning Chinese: Did you know that Mandarin Chinese is the most used language on the internet? Learning an additional language not only helps you with that college application, you can use your language skills down the line to land you a better job.
  • Participating in an internship might help you gain job opportunities. Many companies are expanding globally and keeping in touch with these connections might give you more opportunities to travel in your future job.
  • Study abroad will expose you to people you wouldn't otherwise be able to meet. Who knows, that student you met in Beijing can turn out to be a lifelong friend!
Contributed by Sarah Li Cain
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High School Summer Abroad Programs in China

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