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CET Academic Programs


CET Academic Programs is a study abroad organization that has been developing and delivering innovative educational programs abroad since 1982. Originally “China Educational Tours,” CET began operations in Beijing, and today offers a varied portfolio of semester, summer, and short-term customized programs for college, high school, pre-college, and gap year students around the world. Known for strong academics, professional program management, and supportive student services, CET strives to integrate students into their host communities, adopt environmentally conscientious practices, and promote diversity and inclusion across all programs.


1155 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program
CET Beijing

I started studying Chinese when I was 13 years old. Almost 8 years later you’d think I would be fluent by now, but alas, that is not my reality. However, within these 8 years I have developed a deep appreciation for Chinese language and culture, so much so that I made it a personal goal of mine to spend a semester abroad in China. Congratulations, 13 year old Abigail, you did it!
As you may have guessed, life in Beijing was not what I had expected. In fact, it was the opposite. The bikes, the traffic, the pollution, the population density; it is, in every way possible, the opposite of my hometown. I thought I would find pockets of similarity, and for the first two weeks, that was all I was looking for, or so I thought. Looking back, it was not similarity that I was searching for at all, it was a sense of home. Those first two weeks were by far the most difficult. Not only was I adjusting to the academic rigor of the program itself, I was also trying to make a home within Capital Normal University and trying to create a support system within my fellow participants and CET faculty. Everything was hard, everything was unfamiliar. However, that feeling of home I was so desperately searching for, along with the support system I was working tirelessly to create, came quicker than I had expected it to. There’s something about working through a mutual struggle that creates a bond between those experiencing it, and a deep one at that. I truly believe I made life-long friends while on that program, both from my college and others. I learned that I was not as independent as I once believed myself to be, and that’s okay. I learned that it’s okay to struggle, that it’s okay to lean on others when you need to and that it’s okay to ask for help. I had been so focused on becoming emotionally self-sufficient that I had forgotten what it was like to really need someone. This experience helped me navigate that dependency in a healthy way.
While the personal growth that comes from studying abroad is unbeatable, the academic growth I experienced cannot be ignored. Within my first few years of college, I had heard about study abroad experiences in Europe, ample freetime allowing students to travel from country to country on a whim. For most, academics were able to be put second. I ignorantly went into this abroad experience anticipating something similar, I was rudely mistaken. In order to stay afloat at CET Beijing, your studies must come first. This program is known for its complete language immersion with a 24/7 language pledge put into place for all participants regardless of one’s location. There are quizzes every day, tests every week, and essays every weekend, in addition to your daily homework and studying. There is a clear expectation of excellence. With these expectations and requirements, you may believe that the staff is unconcerned with students well-being, but that could not be farther from the truth. Within my academic career thus far, I have had my fair share of faculty that are uninterested in creating a relationship with me, and are unwavering in their course requirements regardless of student feedback. The teachers that I was so privileged to have at CET Beijing were excellent, in and out of the classroom. They were always willing to help, regardless of the subject matter. The office faculty made themselves available to you throughout the day leaving their door open and encouraging students to stop by, even if it was just to chat. The CET faculty had always said Beijing was our second home, and by the end of the program, I really believed them.
For students on the fence between choosing to participate in CET Beijing or choosing to stay at their home institution, my advice would be to take that chance and go abroad. It’s bound to teach you something, if not about yourself, indefinitely about the world around you. What do you have to lose?

What would you improve about this program?
Like every other program, CET Beijing has room for improvement. The main aspect being ways in which to support students as they struggle through the language pledge. Regardless of your language level, sticking to the language pledge is a challenge. I would have loved to have had scheduled meetings with faculty, once every few weeks, to be able to speak with them in English and express myself emotionally. In addition, I would have loved to meet my roommate earlier via Wechat. Being able to talk with her beforehand would have eliminated anxieties that had been built up surrounding the thought of living with a complete stranger for five months. In that way, you would be able to get a sense of compatibility as well. Not every roommate pairing is going to be perfect, but I believe that prior communication between roommates would allow for students and faculty to work together in creating a good match, hopefully eliminating some of those issues before they arise. Finally, restructuring the language practicum aspect of CET Beijing. Speaking with Chinese in public is a great way to improve your Chinese, there is no debate there. However, being tasked with interviewing people within a park, a museum, etc. always seemed to create a sense of anxiety, either within students or those being interviewed. Not to mention with China’s extensive amount of dialects, it was fairly common to not understand the interviewee’s response. Therefore, this aspect of the program, at times, felt unproductive and not entirely useful.
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Yes, I recommend this program
CET Beijing

This program gives you many opportunities to learn Chinese which makes it a great Chinese program, you just have to take the leap. Nobody is going to force you. Each Semester at CET is different for example in the Fall semester the environment wasn’t as immersive as the Spring. There was too many students that quit the language pledge within the first weeks which made it hard for the students who wanted to make friends but couldn’t because the temptation to speak English was there all the time except for when class was in session. As I was at CET for spring 2019 and then Fall 2019 I had the opportunity to hear serval reasons why the Language Pledge was Impossible, but it's NOT impossible. In the past, I read reviews that said "stick to the language pledge" which I 100% agree with, but it sounds hard especially when you get into the 3rd weekend. Just Don't make an excuse for yourself as to why you can't do the Pledge. Don't tell yourself: I’ll start tomorrow, it's impossible, my Chinese level is too low, I’ll never make friends/connections, everyone else does it. Every day you will have challenges it's not easy but very possible to achieve with the help the all the CET staff and roommates. CET has a great structure, for example, Sunday to Thursday there are office hours, RD makes me feel secure, almost all teachers are friendly and ready to answer all the Chinese questions you have. The only things CET lacks is more training with the Chinese roommates help the CET Students with the culture shock. I feel like there needs to be not just a separate meeting about diversity/culture shock but also a joint meeting. I had been to China before my first semester at CET so the culture shock wasn’t a huge deal. But it is for most students. For example, I heard students say my roommate: leaves water on the floor, wash all her clothes in the sink, chews with her mouth open. Which are all normal parts of lifestyle in China. The 2nd problem is not really pushing the language pledge. Too many students start to get tricky if they notice that staff members are being too nice and not catching them when they speak English, which can ruin the experience. This program was challenging but rewarding. Starting at the beginner class was challenging. I wasn’t able to say anything except “I like …, I think…” for a while. I lost my personality at the beginning but gained much more than my personality at the end. I learn about north versus southern Chinese culture and language, where the locals eat, how to make jokes, have the confidence to ask questions/join clubs, meet new friends outside of CET, dream in Chinese, to be able to travel using Chinese, this list could go on forever. If I had the chance after graduating from University I would pick CET to study Chinese again.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice is next time you start to doubt your Chinese Language Pledge ask yourself these 3 questions:  Why did I pick CET Intensive Language Program in Beijing? Have I talked to the RD/teachers about my difficulties?  How does my Chinese compare to the 1st day?
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No, I don't recommend this program

During my time in Varanasi, I became fully engaged in the culture of Varanasi. I lived with a local roommate in a flat and was able to explore the city with him. I learned how to bargain for fruits and vegetables from local sellers and how to then prepare and cook them into a meal. We also made many trips to the Ganga where we saw and took part in many of the traditions that the locals practiced. The program itself was quite engaging and encouraged involvement and exploring in the community. As a group, we visited many temples and met with local experts to learn more about the history of this important religious city. There was always something to learn and keep you busy!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Most of the temples were amazing and incredible to enter and visit.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Without a doubt or exaggeration, CET Jordan is the best Arabic program in the world. The level of immersion and support the program allows for is truly exceptional--within days you'll be speaking Arabic around the clock and studying advanced topics (Arab politics, the history of conflict, religion and identity, and more!) all in the target language, flipping seamlessly between Modern Standard Arabic and the Levantine Dialect.

To be clear, it's a hard program, but the staff work really hard to pepper classes with exciting and rewarding excursions. During my semester, we spent a night camping in the gorgeous Wadi Rum desert with a Bedouin tribe, hiked through the carved stone city of Petra, swam in the Dead Sea, toured the historic Ajloun Castle, picked fruit at a local citrus farm, did yoga at an Ammani studio, met with the leader of a national political party, and relaxed at an authentic Turkish Bath House--and that's the abbreviated list!

Getting off the plane in Amman for the first time, I barely spoke Arabic and knew nothing of the country. By the end of the program, I'd written half a dozen academic papers in Arabic, made more friends than I can count, and gained a language I love. Cannot recommend highly enough.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Stick to the language pledge as much as possible. It's a powerful tool for language learning, and CET is the only program I know of that takes this that seriously. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn a rich, challenging language, and you deserve the full experience!
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program
CET Colombia

CET Colombia is definitely a semester that I will NEVER forget and that has changed me for the better. I learned so much about my host country, the world, and even myself while on this program. I was challenged in new ways which was tough at times but it was 100% worth it and made my program so much more worthwhile. All of my professors were clearly educated in their fields and did a phenomenal job teaching the coursework. It was also super cool to be able to see what I was learning in the classroom about Colombian and Afro Colombian culture in real life when I would go out on program excursions or personal trips. 10/10 recommend!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could change anything about my program it would be how often I went out and explored by myself! I feel like I could've had so many more memories and adventures if I had ventured out more and made more Colombian friends on my own outside of the program and just explored the city more on my own.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Isabel McLaughlin


Isabel is an artist and student at Kalamazoo College who loves to research and create politically active art, grow and eat food, and walk in big cities at night.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the CET Brazil study abroad program because I was intrigued by the radical art movements and street art in São Paulo.

I am drawn to big cities, and São Paulo seemed to offer a wide variety of opportunities and activities. Additionally, every aspect of the program supported an immersive and authentic experience. The most important for me was living in an apartment with other Brazilian students my age. I was extremely excited about meeting new people and building lasting relationships.

I was also intrigued by the Volunteering and Social Justice opportunities that were advertised in this program.

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

Kalamazoo College assisted me throughout the application process, both inside the University and the process with CET. Obtaining the Student Visa was long and complicated, but all of my questions were answered by CET.

I was in the first group of students to participate in the program. This meant I did not receive information from past participants.

When arriving in São Paulo, the CET team was amazing at assisting students. However, we also had the freedom to make our own decisions and find new opportunities.

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

I believe that everybody needs to shape and accept their own study abroad experience. Although we all have expectations about future travels, I think it is important to acknowledge these expectations before, during, and after your trip.

Don't compare your travels to others! Social media and stories don't fully communicate the everyday reality of studying abroad, so don't use social media to compare and criticize.

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

I participated in 5 classes during my semester in São Paulo. My Portuguese class met 3 times a week in the morning and the other classes occurred once a week in the afternoons.

Half of my classes were located at the CET office (2 blocks from my apartment) and the others were at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (6 blocks from my apartment).

Reading assignments were common, but homework and projects were not overwhelming. This allowed me to use my nights and 3 day weekends to go to museums, adventure to new neighborhoods, experience night-life, and explore parks.

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 incredibly afraid that I would not feel welcomed and accepted by friends, colleagues, and professors in São Paulo. I did not speak Portuguese before arriving in Brazil, and I was afraid this language barrier would inhibit others from understanding my intentions and actions.

Overcoming this barrier was a long process.

My friends and professors always encouraged me to speak confidently. Their support helped significantly; however, it wasn't until I accepted my abilities and took pride in my growth that I lost my fear.

What did you learn on your program that will stay with you?

I learned how to incorporate attitudes of community and sharing into all aspects of my life. Most of my experiences in Brazil showed how eating, cleaning, talking, studying, exploring, drinking, and dancing are meant to be enjoyed with others.

Before studying abroad, I had a mindset of independent strength and productivity. This mindset changed dramatically and I now find more joy in relaxation, conversation, and collaborative work.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Nova Shao

Job Title
Resident Director, CET Shanghai
Nova started to work for US-based study abroad programs in Shanghai in 2007 and joined CET Shanghai in 2013. Nova holds a BA in Sociology from East China Normal University and a MPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Bergen in Norway. As a native Shanghainese, Nova leads walking tours in Shanghai herself. She loves introducing her native city of many faces to students, and enjoys helping students get most out of their Shanghai experience and proudly being a responsible global citizen.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Nova from CET Academic Programs in China

I am most interested in experiencing and exploring a culture that is very different from mine. I have traveled to many places in Europe and also within China, but my favorite travel memory goes back to the first year of my college life.

I traveled to Harbin, the capital city of Heilongjiang Province in North China, with a few friends. It was right before the Chinese New year when almost all the Chinese people working outside were heading back to their hometown to celebrate the New Year with families, and we could only get a ticket for a hard seat on the train.

The painful 23-hour ride on the train was paid off by extraordinary experience in Harbin. The nature shaped by the freezing weather, the way the local people prepared and sold food, the fun of playing in thick snow and ice, and the interaction between north China and Russia are all deeply rooted in my memory.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I had been working for other study abroad programs in Shanghai before I joined CET Shanghai in early 2013. The biggest change for me is to grow from a “baby-sitter” to an educator.

An educator’s responsibility is to guide and train students to get the most out of the study abroad experience instead of taking away the challenges (especially the cultural aspect) from students.

It is certainly harder but much more meaningful than being a “baby-sitter”. Effective communication skills, good judgment, from experience, understanding of student’s background and patience are all needed to make it happen.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Students often say that the Shanghai experience has been a life-changing experience for them. It has an impact on student’s life choices in different ways.

I know a student who planned to establish a student club to promote Chinese language and culture creatively after she returned; a student who changed her mind to study public health instead of molecular biology after she was inspired by the person she met in China; a student who got his dream internship in New York City which owes a lot to the internship experience he had in Shanghai; and more and more students who fell in love with Shanghai and China and couldn’t wait to come back to start a career.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

As a Shanghai local employee, I am proud of my company and my supervisor who trusts local employees and offers many opportunities for local employees to grow.

CET is an organization which actively supports academically qualified students of all races, religions, origins, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. I proudly found such diversity and inclusiveness in our office in Shanghai too.

It is just amazing that every staff member in our office is trusted to be a “manager” of certain job divisions and we are all indeed committed to CET’s mission of equipping students with new skills, broader perspectives, and an appreciation of difference.

US visitors, meet us in person!

  1. Tuesday 18 February
    Studio City, CA Gap Year Fair
    Harvard-Westlake School
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  2. Wednesday 19 February
    El Segundo, CA Gap Year Fair
    Vistamar School
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  3. Thursday 20 February
    La Jolla, CA Gap Year Fair
    La Jolla High School
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM

Professional Associations

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Institute of International Education Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo