Do you ever feel like you may know an embarrassingly small amount about China? Other than what you may have read or watched on the news, learned during a world history class in high school or college, or saw in the incredibly popular late-nineties Disney animated film, Mulan.

If so, and you're curious to learn more about China (or learn Chinese), doing a short-term study abroad program in China over your summer break is a great way to improve your knowledge of this emerging nation. So without further ado, I'm pleased to present to you our guide to summer study abroad in China.

Photo: You Yi.

Okay - so you've settled on heading to China next summer for study abroad. Now's the time to discern what type of program you would like to study abroad with. Here are the basic categories for you to consider:

Language Immersion

The bad news? You may not be able to pick up on 3000-4000 Mandarin Chinese characters in the span of a summer study abroad program. The great news? You'll walk away sure as heck knowing WAY more than when you came - especially if you commit to speaking in the target language whenever possible and truly make the effort to capitalize on this amazing learning opportunity. Some programs will even give you credit for an entire semester of Chinese language study if you spend enough daily hours studying Mandarin. If this is your ultimate goal, be sure to find a program that will bear such results!

Cultural and Language

If you're hoping to learn more about the Chinese culture while in China but are less keen on spending hours and hours a day re-writing hanzi or listening to language tapes, these more laid-back combo programs will be a better fit for you. These programs often include hoards of activities to compliment your studies: visits to tea houses with opera shows, cooking courses (xihongshi chaodan, anyone?), or treks along the Great Wall just to name a few.

The best part about studying abroad is that all the learning doesn't happen in the classroom. If you want to leave it up to the experts to show you a good time in China over the summer, find a program that offers a number of activities for you and your classmates. You won't regret it!

Subject Oriented

For those students wanting their study abroad experience to truly compliment their pre-established course of study, a subject specific study abroad program is ideal. For instance, business majors may want to find a program solely focused on trade relations in China. A student desiring to be a social worker may opt for a program committed to service learning and lots of face-to-face time with the locals. Discern what your goals are before choosing your ultimate study abroad program.

From what I’ve read about all of the best summer abroad areas, the best packing advice I can give you is to pack for a "New England Summer": mostly shorts, capris, and tee-shirts, but don’t forget a few pairs of jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and a few of your favorite hoodies!

Also - and this is SUPER important - bring your umbrella (you will get wet!). Bug spray is a must as well (darn those 'skeeters). Bring light pajamas, especially because it will be unlikely that your apartment or dorm or homestay will be equipped with a proper air conditioning.

Contributed by Caela Provost

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