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CET Harbin: My Review


-葛亚辉-
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Well, I have now completed my summer in CET Harbin’s program, and I thought I’d take some time to write out my assessment of the various aspects of the program for anyone who is interested.

Classes: By and large, these were great. CET Harbin requires four classes, your one-on-one, one-on-two, and two electives. I found three of my four classes to be incredibly helpful and also enjoyable (the fourth, 口语/”Conversation” was helpful, but not particularly enjoyable). The one-on-one, which is CET Harbin’s most enticing special point, is a fantastic opportunity, and I loved my class and got a ton out of it. However, I would suggest taking some care when selecting your topic, and being very very specific about what kinds of things you want to study. The two-on-one class focuses pretty much entirely on pronunciation, and is also incredibly useful. I really have no complaints about CETs classes, except that the textbook we used for my Conversation class was pretty boring (although the vocab is all useful). No class was bigger than 6 people. A+ to CET Harbin on this one.

Language Pledge: Lots of Chinese programs have a language pledge in place, but from what I’ve heard, these pledges are often not well respected, especially in places like Beijing, where there are tons of English speakers. CET Harbin students (at least the ones in my session) were by and large very serious about the language pledge, and it was very rarely broken. Additionally, Harbin isn’t easy to get around using English, so the immersion enviornment is almost certainly better than in Beijing.

Chinese Roommates: Another CET specialty, the Chinese roommates were an integral part of our experience. As I expounded on earlier on this blog, learning culture is pretty important in understanding a language, and they were incredibly helpful to that end. They were also, on the whole, friendly and very willing to help people do the more difficult things (buy and activate a cell phone, etc.). Moreover, it’s incredibly satisfying when you realize that you’re having real conversations with Chinese college students, whether they be jokes over beers at Lijiang or late night discussions of cultural differences. And of course, by the time you leave, you’ll probably realize you’ve made some good Chinese friends.

Harbin Environment: If you’re not the sort of person who needs a big city like Beijing to have fun, Harbin is pretty much perfect. The Chinese spoken there is very standard, the only deviation being a slightly strange pronunciation of the “o” sound in “mo”, “po”, “fo”, etc. The area around Gongda is full of good restaurants large and small. There are plenty of things to do at night, bars, KTV, clubs, etc., and also a fair number of touristy sights, including the famous St. Sophia, Buddhist and Confucian Temples, Zhongyang Dajie, the Songhua River, Taiyang Island, etc. Some people didn’t like Harbin very much, but personally I loved it, and I plan to go back.

CET Facilities: The dorm rooms are large, comfortable, and decently equipped. In fact, given that they provide a TV and every room has a fan, my room was significantly better equipped than any college dorm room I’ve been in in the States. For classes, CET uses Gongda’s international student center, which is pretty unremarkable. The classrooms are equipped with air conditioners, although they don’t always cool rooms very fast.

Weekend Trips: By and large these were good, the highlights being Xianglu Shan and the three-day weekend trip to Dandong which you’ve already read about. Near the end of the program they got sort of lame, but that was actually something of a blessing as by that time many of us were familiar with Harbin and had a good idea of what we wanted to do with our free time on our own.

Overall: CET Harbin is an incredible experience. It’s not for everyone, and if you aren’t really serious about improving your Chinese or you’re looking for a relaxing touristy summer, I strongly advise you to stay away, but if you are serious about studying Chinese I think you might be hard pressed to find a better program for it. In all honesty, my biggest complaint about the whole thing was that the dialogues in one of my textbooks were a little boring, and I think that speaks to the quality of the program. The people who work at CET Harbin are very dedicated to improving your Chinese, and also appear to be constantly reviewing and revising their staff. Obviously, enrollment in a program like this doesn’t guarantee improvment, but if you invest yourself in their program and participate, you will see signficant improvements.

just my $0.02. happy to answer questions if anyone's got em.

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I'd also like to know the answer to this question. I've heard nothing but good things about CET, and, as I am already in Harbin, I'd like to look more into CET. The little research I've done suggests, however, that it is only for college students, and I've already graduated.

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  • 1 year later...

Kyle, I think you posted that years ago, haha, but as I'm back on the site again here, I should state that NO, CET is not just for college students. In fact, one of my classmates was a college professor who must have been at least 45. Probably about half of the students are current college students, the rest are mostly recent graduates but there are some older folk as well.

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