Alumni Spotlight: Donovan Orow

Senior at the University of Michigan, studying international and Asian studies.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I knew CET was an amazing organization after my experience in the summer of 2018 with another CET program that I also had a fantastic time participating in. In addition, I wanted to improve my Mandarin Chinese, especially my speaking skills, and I knew a language pledge would be an ideal method to do so.

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

CET provided us with housing and had selected our roommates for us based on a questionnaire that we were required to fill out months ahead of arriving in Beijing. Furthermore, CET planned excursions for all students, including for the Chinese roommates; these excursions involved going to see historical attractions in Beijing and as well as taking a historical trip to a different city in China. Stuff that we had to take care of on our own was transportation costs if we wanted to do things on our own, food, and other personal needs.

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

Please, try to spend as little time with other foreigners as possible.

I understand, you are in a different country, and China is vastly different from any Western country, so you may choose to hang out with other foreigners to obtain a sense of belonging. However, if you do this, you are simply wasting your time abroad. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm sure you will have time to talk to your friends you made abroad once you get back to your home country. While abroad, please do yourself a great favor and spend as much time as you can with your Chinese roommate and other locals instead of trying to evade the language pledge all the time by spending the majority of your free time with other foreigners.

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

On weekdays, you will have class from 8 AM - 12 PM, followed by a one-on-one session in the afternoon. You get around an hour and a half for lunch, and after that, the one-on-one session lasts around 25 minutes.

Every day (minus Friday), there is a small quiz at the beginning of class that tests new vocabulary and grammar assigned from the reading; keep in mind that these, while assigned every day, they are actually a fairly small fraction of your overall grade. Every Friday is the weekly test, including of a written test (consisting of multiple-choice, true/false, constructing sentences, and short essays) and an oral test (topics usually assigned by the teacher and are relevant to textbook readings).

While four hours a day may seem tedious, there is a ten-minute break between every hour, so you can go out into the hall and stretch, use the bathroom, etc. So, in reality, it goes 50 minutes of class, ten minutes of break, and repeat until 11:50 PM.

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 did not have any fears of participating in this program. I love traveling and am truly thankful for having the opportunity to participate in this program from CET. However, during the summer of 2018 (my first time in China with CET), I was a bit shy to haggle for souvenirs and other things I may have wanted to purchase. I told myself, if I don't haggle on my own, then I can't say I've utilized my time in China well. Don't be afraid to practice your Chinese by bartering with locals!

What's the weather like in China during the summer?

Very, and I do mean very, hot. Be prepared to wear sunscreen if you plan to do lots of sightseeing. While walking around in China, you will notice hundreds upon hundreds of people, especially women, walking around with umbrellas out to protect them from the sun's ultraviolet rays. While this may be unusual for Westerners, Chinese people try to avoid getting tan or sunburned as much as possible.

After walking around with an umbrella out myself during a hot and humid day (pretty much every day), I will say that it felt significantly cooler and I did not have to worry much about getting sunburned!