Alumni Spotlight: Ethan Hill

Ethan started studying Chinese in high school and has continued to take Chinese in college. Attending the CET Harbin Chinese program was Ethan’s first time in China.

Why did you choose this program?

I was introduced to the CET program though my college. Every year, we have a little Study Abroad fair where representatives from different Study Abroad programs come to our college to introduce and answer questions about their respective programs. This is how I first heard about CET.

Additionally, one of my Chinese teachers had worked for CET. When I visited CET’s website, what stood out to me about the CET Harbin program was that it was one of the few summer programs in which you could select elective courses in Chinese to focus on your specific interests within the Chinese language, as opposed to a general language course. For example, elective courses were offered in Literature, Classical Chinese, Composition, Business, Conversation, and Newspaper Reading. CET Harbin also offers a one-on-one course in which you can research a topic of your choice with a teacher.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My college’s Study-Away office helped me get more information on CET and explained to me how transferring credits from CET to my home institution would work. They also had suggestions for scholarships I could apply to to help fund my trip abroad.

The CET staff was extremely helpful. They were very patient and happy to answer my questions (and I asked a lot!) The CET staff served as my guide in preparing to go abroad. I was responsible for organizing my Visa application documents (passport, JW202 form, photo, etc.) and sending them into the Chinese consulate to get a student visa (X2 visa). I am not near any consulates, so I mailed my Visa application materials to a third-party company called CIBT which submitted the documents for me to the consulate, and effectively got me my Visa. (I would highly recommend using CIBT. They make sure you have all the required documents and can help with your Visa photo.) In addition to collecting my Visa materials, I was also responsible for buying plane tickets.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would advise anyone who is planning to attend this program to not overlook the importance of sleep. Sometimes, it feels like you just have too much homework to get a good night's sleep. In this case, I would strongly urge you to not finish all of your homework and go to sleep at a reasonable time instead. Think of sleep as a part of your homework every night. Sleeping well each night is one of the best ways to prepare for class the next day.

Additionally, find time to relax, exercise, and enjoy yourself. I personally find that when I am in a good mood, I am much more efficient in my homework and do a better job in general.

Another piece of advice is that if you have a question, do not hesitate to ask a teacher or staff member. Sometimes it seems like the question you have is obvious or silly. However, as is usually the case, some of your classmates have the same questions too but are just too afraid to ask. Do yourself and classmates a favor, and ask questions!

Also, regarding Visa application materials: start thinking about and gather them as soon as possible. A Visa can take a while to process.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The earliest classes begin at 8 AM, so if you have a class at this time and want to eat beforehand, waking up at 6:30 or 7 AM is probably a good idea.

The number of classes you have each day varies. Typically, the most classes you’ll have in one day will be three. Aside from the one-on-two class, each class is two hours (it is split into 50-minute segments with a 10-minute break in between).

After the morning class, you can eat lunch at one of the dining halls. Then, at 1 PM, you will have a 50-minute one-on-two class. This is, in essence, a conversation class, where you work on tones and speaking fluency. Before each class, you and your classmate will need to memorize a short dialogue. During this class, you will go over the dialogue, and the teacher will correct your tones and grammar. I feel that this is an extremely important class. Tones are integral to speaking fluent Chinese but all too often seem to be overlooked. It is easy to forget about them when you are talking to someone in Chinese.

After the one-on-two class, you might or might not have another two-hour class. After this class is over, the day is yours. You can exercise, play, eat, or of course, study. This is a basic outline of a typical weekday.

During the weekends, there are no classes (but you will still have homework to do). You can do what you want. A few of my classmates even organized trips to Inner Mongolia and Dalian during this time. Additionally, every weekend, there is some sort of excursion. These excursions are optional, and you have to sign up to participate which I would highly recommend you do.

For example, we went to a few museums including the Heilongjiang Museum and Jewish History Museum. We also visited a temple. Normally, the excursions take up the better part of the day. The exception is the trip to Fenghuang Mountain. This mountain climbing trip took up two days, and in my opinion, was the most fun excursion.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was most worried about traveling to China on my own, the reason being this was my first time flying by myself. I was mainly worried about missing flights and getting stuck in the airport. I overcame this fear by asking the airport staff questions and constantly calling my parents to ask for help. In the end, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.