China: Cultural Traditions in the North

Learn or advance your skills in Chinese, and experience China's rich history and ancient sites on a summer abroad for high school students.

Explore traditional and ancient sites in central and northern China on this high school summer abroad program as you travel from the bustling city of Beijing to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. Learn or expand upon your Chinese language skills through formal language classes and conversations with Chinese people you meet throughout the program. Experience contrasting Chinese-speaking Han communities, particularly during the program’s two very different homestays. Attend performances of Chinese folk music and acrobatics, buy fresh food in local markets, and prepare a Chinese meal.

Learn even more about China through close interaction with Chinese peers. The program begins in China’s capital city, Beijing, where you will immediately begin deepening your understanding of China’s history through visits to important cultural and historical sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Travel to Inner Mongolia, where you’ll meet herdsmen, enjoy Mongolian food, and learn about Mongolian culture. Your China Experiment continues in the city of Chengde, where you will have Chinese lessons and a weeklong homestay. Your group will then be joined by Chinese high school students for part of the program.

Gain new and entirely different perspectives on daily life in China during your stay in the Han rural village Buyang-zhuang, accompanied by your Chinese peers. Hike up nearby mountains and participate in farming activities such as plowing. Continue on to the historic city of Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, before saying goodbye to your new Chinese friends. The program concludes with three days of exploration and reflection in Shanghai, where you will visit a number of important sites such as Yuyuan Garden, Old City, Longhua Temple, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Nanjing Road, or The Bund.

US citizens require a visa for this program. Participants will work with The Experiment’s visa agency to acquire and pay for a visa.

Language Certificate: At the conclusion of this program, participants will earn a language certificate noting how many hours of language classes they completed.

Orientation: Beijing, 3–4 days
Homestays: Chengde,* 6–8 days; Buyang-zhuang,* 5 days
Other Accommodations: Hotels, hostels, and gers

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–3

Orientation in Beijing

  • Learn about the history and culture of Chinagroup
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities and group discussions
  • Begin Chinese language practice
  • Walk Beijing’s historic hutongs (narrow streets lined with traditional courtyard residences)
  • Visit sites of interest such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, Beihai Park, and the Temple of Heaven

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 4–8

Excursion to Inner Mongolia (Thematic Focus)

  • Ride an overnight train from Beijing to Inner Mongolia
  • Visit Mingsha Shan (“Singing-Sand Mountain”) and go sand skiing
  • Participate in discussions on modern Chinese history
  • Attend lectures on the history, religions, and culture of Inner Mongolia
  • Enjoy a dinner of Mongolian food and a bonfire party
  • Observe athletic events including horse racing, horseback riding, and wrestling

During this period, you and your group will stay in yurts.

Days 9–16

Urban Homestay

  • Do activities with your host family
  • Take Chinese language lessons
  • Practice Chinese language conversation with your host family

Thematic Focus

  • Participate in cultural exchange activities and play sports with Chinese students
  • Visit local markets and nearby villages
  • Assist in preparing a Chinese meal
  • Attend a concert of Chinese folk music
  • Bicycle to sites of interest such as small Potala Palace, Big Buddha Temple, Hammer Peak, and Pule Temple
  • Visit museums and parks

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample community: Chengde

Days 17–18

Travel in Beijing and Tai’an

  • Visit and have lunch at the Great Wall near Beijing
  • Travel to Tai’an and prepare for your rural homestay

During this period, you and your group will stay in centrally located hotels.

Days 19–23

Rural Homestay Accompanied by Chinese Students from the City

  • Do activities with your host family
  • Explore the village
  • Practice Chinese conversation
  • Learn about agrarian lifestyles and help village residents work in the fields
  • Visit a nearby mountain village
  • Play basketball with village students
  • Climb nearby mountains such as sacred Mt. Tai

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample community: Buyang-zhuang

Day 24

Excursion to Qufu Accompanied by Chinese Students (Thematic Focus)

  • Tour the city
  • Visit the free market
  • Visit Confucius Temple
  • Attend a concert of ancient Chinese music
  • Bicycle to Confucius Forest

During this period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 25–28

Reflection and Wrap-up in Shanghai

  • Meet with Experimenters from the China: Ethnic Minorities and Contemporary Culture program and share learning experiences
  • See an acrobatic show
  • See sites of interest such as Yuyuan Garden, Old City, Longhua Temple, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Nanjing Road (Shanghai’s main shopping street), The Bund (a famous waterfront area in central Shanghai), Xintiandi district, and Shanghai Zoo
  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

During the reflection period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hostel.

Day 29


Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

These are leader bios from summer 2014.

Emerson Gale

Emerson galeBorn to a family of traveling art teachers based in rural New York, Emerson Gale enjoyed the fruits of cultural discovery from a young age. Attending craft conventions across the US as he grew up, Emerson developed a fascination for multicultural education and leadership. After graduating high school, he studied political science and philosophy at Syracuse University. During his junior year, Emerson lived in China for six months as an international relations and Mandarin scholar as well as an English teacher for underprivileged migrant students in Beijing and Shanghai. He delivered his honors program thesis on education in China.

Also a citizen of the UK, Emerson then served a year with City Year London as a full-time mentor and tutor for high school students. After City Year, Emerson spent a year building living willow structures in partnership with local communities at schools and parks throughout the US. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the California Institute of Integral Studies. In addition to being very passionate about arts in education, Emerson delights in exploring the great outdoors, composing music with friends, and baking tasty treats with his mum.?

Julia Gooding

Julia GoodingRaised along the scenic coast of Maine, Julia graduated from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, with a degree in Asian studies and Spanish. Julia was then awarded a Fulbright scholarship to China, where she conducted research on contemporary Buddhist practice. She has since traveled between the US and Asia in various capacities. Julia worked at a Manhattan-based China labor rights NGO, ran educational exchanges in Taiwan and China, and consulted with American schools on international admissions and partnership programs. Returning to study at Harvard Graduate School of Education, she received an EdM in international education policy in 2012. Julia now runs an international student program at The Harvey School in Katonah, New York.

Julia’s passion for travel began as an Experimenter in Costa Rica in 2002. She then spent a gap year after high school in Latin America and India. Her extensive adventures in Latin America, Europe, and Asia include organic farming in Norway and Japan, a semester of study in Spain, and teaching English in a prison in Nicaragua. In addition to Julia’s global interests, she enjoys running, cooking, meditation, and adding maple syrup to everything.