CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange



A nonprofit, non-governmental organization, CIEE is the world leader in international study and exchange programs. For 65 years, CIEE has helped thousands of students, professionals, and educators gain the knowledge and skills necessary to live and work in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world by offering the most comprehensive, relevant, and valuable exchange programs available.


300 Fore St.
Portland, ME 04101
United States


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I absolutely loved this program! The program coordinators were lovely and provided support to their students. The program was amazing! I spent a year there, and it really did change how I look at the world. This coming from a former high school exchange student no less. It also helped me figure out what to do after I graduate. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in a great program without the added stress of learning a brand new language.

Yes, I recommend
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I think it's cheesy to say but I really do think of everyone I've met here as a family. Our teachers flip between being our mothers and our cool older sisters but I always have the sense that they care and are doing everything they can to help.
The language program is /intensive/. Monday - Thursday 2 hours of speaking/listening class and two hours of reading/writing class. In the advanced reading/writing class we learned an average of 80 vocab words a lesson, with a new lesson every two class days, a test every two weeks, 800 character essays in the off-weeks. The speaking/listening class had less volume but was more critical, each week had two dictations and one report, with a new lesson every week. At the beginning of the semester we signed a language pledge to only speak Mandarin from 8am-8pm Monday-Friday. From what I understand of the intermediate class, it doesn't matter what your level is, it will be a challenge.
Apart from the language classes there are supplementary culture classes, Taichi, Calligraphy, and traditional Chinese painting. There is also a required history class focusing on China-U.S. relations, which I found extremely interesting. Friday morning has an optional media class for advanced students, which discusses issues in contemporary China by looking at Chinese media. This class is 3 hours once a week, where the only homework is to prepare a 10 minute oral report regarding the topic for the week based on a piece of Chinese media you find for yourself. Friday afternoons there are excursions to sites in Nanjing. Nanjing is an old old city rich in history and interesting places, everywhere we went was well worth it. Some sites include the National Examination Museum, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's memorial, Xuanwu Hu lake, Nanjing history museum, Nanjing Massacre museum, and the Purple Mountain. These excursions are a lot of fun. Everyone goes out as a big group and talks and has a good time.
You can either live in a Chinese household or in the dorms with a Chinese roommate, either way you will live with a native speaker which is super useful for practicing conversational Chinese. I choose to stay in the dorm, which is the same building as our classes, so my class commute is just 8 floors down from my room. The Chinese roommates double as tutors, but your tutor won't be your roommate. That is, my tutor is someone else's roommate. Your tutor is required to meet with you minimally 3 times every week, each time for an hour.
I'm not sure if it's the same every year but this year we had volunteer English teaching on Wednesdays. We went to Nanjing's migrant school to teach Chinese 3 grader's English.
If you take all part in all the activities (I did) your schedule will be like this.
Monday: 8-12 Language Classes, 2-3:30 Taichi (Approx. 3 hours homework*)
Tuesday: 8-12 Language Classes, 2-5 China-America Relations History Class (Approx. 3 hours homework)
Wednesday: 8-12 Language Classes, 2:20-4 Teaching English (approx. 5 hours homework)
Thursday: 8-12 Language Classes, 1:45-3:00 Calligraphy/Painting Class (approx. 2 hours homework)
Friday: 9-12 Contemporary China through Media, 2-6** Excursion (approx. 0-4 hours homework***)
*All the homework times are just mine, it really depends on how hard you're willing to work and how fast you work. The fastest of us still had at least 2 hours everyday, 4 total to spread over the weekend.
**It depends on the excursion how long it will take
*** 0 hours if you plan to prepare for Monday on the weekend, 4 if you hope to have a totally free weekend
The Taichi teacher's English is pretty bad, the Calligraphy teacher's is alright, but she prefers to speak Chinese, the History class is completely in English, the media class is completely in Chinese. The excursions depend entirely on you, if you speak English with your classmates, it's in English, if you speak Chinese with the teachers and the roommates, it's in Chinese. If you take all the classes and try to speak Chinese during the excursion, you'll minimally have 21 hours exposure to native Chinese speakers every week, with more opportunities to talk outside of class with the roommates (and local people, talk to the locals!). My college back home meets 3 times a week for 90 minutes, which means each week I only got 4.5 hours each week, meaning each week of this program was equivalent to a month of classes back home, minimally. I'd say the whole thing is worth more than a year of Chinese language classes.
Also! There's a week off for spring break so you can travel within China. I went to Beijing, some others went to Sichuan (to see Pandas) some others went to Shanghai. Then in the middle of the semester there is a big trip. I think it changes every year but we went southwest to Yunnan. Absolutely wonderful Yunnan is. We picked tea leaves with locals, we stayed in their homes, they made local food for us, we picked pineapples (the best pineapples of my life) and I learned a lot about the way they live and what they care about.

The building has a bunch of bars and restaurants and cafe's near it. Food in China is ridiculously cheap. As of this writing the exchange rate is 6.6 Chinese Yuan = 1 USD. Most meals are about 10 Yuan, which is less than $2. "Expensive meals" range from 40-80 Yuan, which is $7-$11. When I say expensive I mean like 4 star restaurant quality /good/ meals for $11 dollars. American food exists, more expensive, no more expensive than in America.

The building's cleaning staff leaves something to be desired, but that's not actually in the program's control because the program simply pays for the rooms using the tuition fee, so the cleaning service is building wide. They basically never change their mop water so I got used to wearing indoor slippers in my own room, one girl actually asked them to stop cleaning her room because she felt they were making it worse.
Toilet paper is not free, most public restrooms do not have toilet paper, but every convince store sells it, so usually someone has some or it's not far. (be the hero that brings enough to share.)
There is not readily available hot water in the building, when you go to shower you need to activate the water heater and wait for it to reach temperature before you can have hot water for your shower. The rooms have air conditioners (hot and cold), but the A/C and the water heater both use metered electricity. You get 200 units of electricity a month (I have no idea how much 1 unit is in actual terms, I just know that if you don't leave the heater/ A/C on while you're not using them you probably won't run out) if you run out you can pay for additional units.

At first it seems way way too much, but within a couple weeks you adjust and you still have plenty of time to learn. I've learned more in these 3 months than I had in my previous two and a half years of studying, and I know if I could stay for 3 more months I would approach professional fluency.

Everyone here is so nice. The teachers are strict but it's because they want you to progress. They really care and constantly made our needs a priority. They also literally made cakes for us, celebrated every birthday, and would sometimes spontaneously take us out to eat for free.

One last thing. Almost everyone in China drinks hot water. In America, you might be in the habit of walking over to the faucet and pouring a glass of water when you're thirsty. You /can't/ do that here. The water that comes from the faucet is safe to brush your teeth with but is not safe to swallow in large amounts like drinking water. You can make it safe by boiling it, but that means that if you haven't pre-boiled any water, you'll have to wait almost 2 hours before the water is cool enough to drink. Some times. Pre-boil water. I would frequently boil water the night before and drink it in the morning. Bring a cup. If you can pour a little water out into a separate cup it will cool faster and you can drink a glass at a time instead of waiting for it all to be ready all at once.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, only complaints are with the building that it's in, but there's no way around that. It's part of Nanjing University and I don't think they have plans to fix it up or anything.
Yes, I recommend
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It was awesome. I wish that I could have stayed longer. I’m
Over the summer I went to Toulouse, France because I got a full scholarship to study Language and Culture for a month. There were many obstacles to overcome such as the language barrier, cultural differences and behavioral differences. I went into this new adventure without knowing anyone and coming out with new friends. We would go out and explore the city together and live like real french teenagers. I was living with my host family that consisted of two younger girls the ages of 15 and 12. The funny thing about them is that they reminded me of my own family with an occasional bit of confusion. Not a lot of students get along with their host family due to closed perceptions/minds, but everyone and each family is different. One just needs to learn to adapt. As a matter of fact, I adapted so much that I felt like a real Toulousain. I had to get comfortable with public transportation so that I could go to and from my school that was in the heart of the city of Toulouse. There had been occasions just like in NYC, transportation was down due to repairs or accidents. I had to learn how to navigate through a foreign city and deal and respond to these situations by communicating in a language that I am not a native to. Once while on my way home from school, I was on the bus standing next to a lady who suddenly collapsed and fainted. She was unresponsive for a couple of moments. I reacted calmly and asked others for help. One called the ambulance, the bus driver stopped, another was following the CPR procedures, and I offered her some water and snacks. She pulled through.

How can this program be improved?
Adding more interesting activities and afternoon events
Yes, I recommend
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CIEE was wonderful to work with. They did the groundwork for me. They found my placement, my housing, and took care of the work permit, almost everything. I was a volunteer. I don't think they find your housing if you are paid. In CIEE's pre-departure class, I felt like I learned as much as I did in my entire 2-year teaching credential degree at the university. In addition, it was FUN. My Spanish improved so much and I made lots of friends!

How can this program be improved?
CIEE did everything, so there's not much that could be improved on. The only suggestion I have, is that I did not find out about the post-teaching warm-down/reflection session until I'd already made my plane rickets, so I missed it. I would have enjoyed talking to the other volunteers about their experiences.
Yes, I recommend
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CIEE is pretty organized. They had very detailed pre arrival orientation. They picked us up from the airport when we arrived and took us to the hostel where we were staying. The first week was orientation with a lot of opportunities to get to know each other, I appreciated that. I felt supported throughout the semester. The CIEE Amsterdam staff are amazing. They had several events planned out for us. University of Amsterdam is great, I enjoyed the classes I took. It also has a beautiful campus.

How can this program be improved?
I wish we were housed in the student hotel in the city centre instead of the one in Amsterdam West, it was much more central. I also wish we were given travel passes for the Netherlands instead of just Amsterdam, this would make it a lot easier to travel the Netherlands, and explore more places. They should also give museum cards like IES. Otherwise, I loved the program. I liked that I lived with other CIEE students in the student hotel, I got to know them pretty well.
Yes, I recommend


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