China: Chinese Language & Culture

Language Training

Learn or improve your Chinese while exploring bustling cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Discover the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Experience rural China through homestays.


Community Service


Physical Activity

Rugged Travel



Program Description

This Experiment takes you to bustling Beijing, home to nearly 22 million people, to discover a vibrant culture. Explore the modern city’s ancient roots at the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven. You will experience cultural activities, sample from the thousands of dumpling variations in the local markets, and learn to prepare a typical Chinese meal.

Your Mandarin Chinese language skills will develop through 45+ hours of training through formal classes (20 hours), experiential learning activities, host family interactions, practice with your friends, and more. You’ll learn more about Chinese culture and language through new friendships with Chinese students who will join you for part of the program.

You will travel by overnight train to Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China, where you’ll meet herdsmen, watch the sun rise over the grasslands, taste Mongolian food, and learn about Mongolian culture.

Your Experiment continues in the city of Chengde, where you will begin your urban homestay.

Take Mandarin Chinese lessons and practice your language skills with Chinese host families while in Chengde, where you’ll also bike to nearby gardens, palaces, and temples. Then Chinese students from Chengde will join you for a rural homestay in a Han village in Buyang-zhuang. Together, you will hike scenic mountains and visit the historic city of Qufu, the hometown of Confucius.

Return to Shanghai to explore the sights such as the nearly 500-year-old Yuyuan Garden, Old City, and Longhua Buddhist Temple. Soak in the melting pot of Shanghai’s cultures, from architecture and technology to fashion and art, as you prepare for your journey back home.

At the conclusion of this program, you will earn a language certificate noting the number of hours of language training through formal classes and experiential learning completed.


Program Availability:

Not Yet Enrolling



Sample Itinerary

    Days 1–3

    Orientation in Beijing

    • Learn about the history and culture of China
    • Visit sites of interest such as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, Beihai Park, and the Temple of Heaven
    • 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)

    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
    • Sleep in a yurt, watch the sunrise of the Mongolian grasslands, meet traditional herding families.
    • Enjoy a dinner of Mongolian food and a bonfire party
    • Observe athletic events including traditional wrestling, horse racing, horseback riding.

    Excursion to Luoyang & Xian

    • Explore the western area of central China.
    • Take a day trip to Shaolin to learn about China’s famous martial arts culture.
    • Visit the White Horse temple and bike to Longmen grottoes.
    • Visit the Terra Cotta Warriors site, the Muslim Quarter,
    • Bike along the Xi’an wall visit cultural history museums, and a local drum tower.

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

    Days 9–15

    Urban Homestay and Thematic Focus

    • Become immersed in the daily lives of a Chinese family and community during you homestay with a local family.
    • Engage in a variety of activities with your host family to learn about their culture and share about yours.
    • Visit a local middle school for an English/Chinese language exchange.
    • Explore a local night market
    • Continue to expand your Chinese language skills by practicing with your host family, local teachers, and each other.
    • Speak to a local village head to learn more about life in the local community.
    • Participate in cultural exchange activities and play sports with Chinese students
    • 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.
    • Prepare a small performance with your group to thank your host families on the last night.

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

    Days 17–18

    Travel in Tai’an

    • Your group will be joined by local high school students who will travel as part of your group for the next week.
    • 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

    • Become immersed in the daily lives of a Chinese family and community during your homestay with a local family
    • Explore the village and learn about other traditional crafts and ways of living.
    • Practice Chinese conversation with your host family and your urban peer
    • Learn about agrarian lifestyles and help village residents work in the fields
    • Visit a nearby mountain village, and have lunch with members of the community
    • Have a field day with your Chinese peers.
    • Try your hand at traditional farming activities and visit the Leishan natural preserve.
    • Visit Paika Village to make a ‘lusheng’ (a bamboo reed musical pipe).
    • Climb nearby mountains such as sacred Mt. Tai

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

    Day 24

    Excursion to Qufu or Libo – Accompanied by Chinese Students (Thematic Focus)

    • Tour the city and explore different aspects of Chinese contemporary culture.
    • Explore the free market and sample local cuisines.
    • Reflect on your trip at the Confucius Temple and other historical sites.
    • Attend a concert of ancient Chinese music
    • Bicycle to Confucius Forest or visit the Seven-Arch Bridge.
    • Say goodbye to your Chinese peers.

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

    Days 25–28

    Reflection and Wrap-up in Shanghai

    • Have a vegetarian meal at the Longhua Buddhist temple
    • Spend a morning in the Yu Yuan Gardens, a 16th century classical garden.
    • See sites of interest such as, the Old City, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Nanjing Road (Shanghai’s main shopping street), Xintiandi district, and the Shanghai Zoo
    • Enjoy the city view from the The Bund (a famous waterfront area in central Shanghai) at night.
    • 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.

Itinerary is subject to change.

Past Group Leaders

  • Emerson Gale

    Born 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

    Raised 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.

Student Voices

  • Going to China was a desire of mine, and this summer I was able to entertain that desire in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, The Great Wall of China-you name it. In addition to fantastic sights, I indulged in Chinese immersion through language, food, culture, and community. I will never take for granted the trip to Asia that has forever changed my life, and I hope many people in the future will be able to say that as well.

    --Vei Vei
  • I loved exploring different parts of China and learning their way of life. It was so different from what I was used to, which is what made it so amazing. I enjoyed communicating with locals and learning about China’s extensive history from all the sites we visited. The host families I had were also so kind and welcoming and I am so glad I had the opportunity to make memories with them.

    -- Katie
  • Going to China and being offered to practice my Chinese speaking and listening comprehension with native speakers had improved my Chinese Immensely. We were also given many chances to take charge and choose where we wanted to visit in cities as well as some guided tours.