Why did you decide to study abroad with CET?
Omega: I decided to study abroad with CET primarily because of the rave reviews my Chinese teacher on campus gave the program. I had studied Chinese under her for a year and a half and I trusted her judgement. I also explored various programs myself, however. I talked to people who had studied abroad in China with CET and with other programs and everyone had an awesome experience- hands-down- however the students who came back from studying abroad with CET sought me out (and other students studying Chinese) to tell their story. That decided it for me. I wanted an experience that I would be excited about coming back to America to tell, and I found that in CET (as evidenced by my eagerness to complete this review).
What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?
Omega: The best place I visited outside of Beijing was Yixing for various reasons. First, I traveled to Yixing with friends from my program to visit the home of one of our Chinese roommates. That connection to the city made our visit smooth. We visited tourist stops- eating xiaolongbao and buying tea pots- but the excursions we took to places our friends had frequented as a child were the best. We hiked up a mountain, visited two bamboo parks (in addition to seeing bamboo all over the place as we drove), toured a natural formed cave and waterfall, and got massages. To top off our trip, we had dinner at the Chinese roommate's friend's house and road bikes around the city afterwards.
The beauty of the city captured me. It was big enough that thee was plenty to do both inside and outside of the city, but it wasn't too big that we feared getting lost or hit by one of the thousand-plus cars speeding by (as it was in other cities).Friends, food, and fun... Yixing pretty much provided it all for me.
What is one piece of advice you'd give future CET - Beijing students?
Omega: I would highly advise future CET-Beijing students to maximize the program and use it to its fullest potential. Talk to the professors and learn from them. Never be afraid to just walk into their office one day and talk about something you experienced or saw while out in the city or on campus. That being said, I would also encourage them to not be trapped in the program. Go out and explore the city around you; make friends at the college where you are studying; and connect with alumni from your university back at home.
Being hands-on and engaged in all that a study abroad experience has to offer you is the difference in having an experience that only last one semester (or year) and one that will last a lifetime.Before I began my program with CET, I spent Chinese New Year in Shenyang with the family of one of my international friends at Vanderbilt.
When I began my program in Beijing, I connected with an alumnus of Vanderbilt and interned under them for the semester. I also connected with another international friend's family and would go out for meals and travel with them, or seek help with Chinese. Those are the experiences and connections that really enhanced and supplemented my time in Beijing.
Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.
Omega: Dumplings is a given, so I will name two other favorites that, when on the menu, had to be ordered in obnoxious quantities: xihongshichaojidan (stir-fried tomatoes and eggs) and tangyuan'r (no translation). The first, xihongsichaojidan, is a traditional Chinese dish that, even here in the states, most Chinese people either know how to make or can instruct you in making. This was a staple of almost every meal I had. On top of a steaming bowl of rice, xihongshichaojidan is one of those dishes that is simple but "Oh so delicious!" I like it so much that I have even learned how to make it and prepared it while serving abroad in Kenya. Mention this dish to any Chinese person (both in China and abroad) and you are certain to get an "Ooo!" and nod of approval!
The second, tangyuan'r is a more rare delicacy (in resturaunts, atleast)- unless you travel to China during the Spring Festival, in which case, it will be available in abundance. Tangyuan'r is like sweet dumplings in a broth. I had it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. They come in a variety of flavors- seaseme, peanut butter, chocolate, strawberry, and more- and are very easy to make (if you can find them). All you do is buy the frozen tangyuan'r, boil them with hot water until soft, and then... enjoy! Dumplings, xihongshichaojidan (stir-fried tomatoes and eggs), rice, and tangyuan'r are a MUST-HAVE for study abroad in China.