Before arriving in Harbin, my expectations for the program to be a little academically challenging study abroad program where you can have plenty of free time and can tour around every other day. But, I was wrong. I am in the classroom much more than I expected and I find myself studying most of the time. Also, it is definitely much more academically rigorous than I expected. The second I vowed to the language pledge, it all started to hit me. The moment after vowing to the pledge, all the CET students met with their teachers who they will be studying with for the next nine weeks. During this time, teachers assigned homework and textbook readings to prepare for the first class, all in Chinese. I was very lost at the time because I barely understood what they were assigning me because they were talking to me as if I were another person who can fluently speak Mandarin. If I did not understand something, I was forced to ask or reply back in Chinese because of the language pledge I just vowed to a few minutes before. Before coming to Harbin and especially at that moment, I was all for being able to speak to Chinese teacher in English to discuss discrepancies. Now looking back and all things considered, I have to give it to CET. I believe it’s a great way to elevate your proficiency and setting the tone for the language pledge for the program.
Fortunately, just like a regular college week at Pitt. I still have the weekends to relax, go out in Harbin and explore the city, but of course, I am only allowed to speak Mandarin. No spoken English is allowed even between other CET students. At the beginning of the program, this was probably the most frustrating part of the language pledge. For instance, if you wanted to tell someone that you are really excited about the weekend, but did not know how to say “excited.” You just lost the whole meaning of your sentence. Aside from personally exploring Harbin, every weekend CET provides a weekend activity and occasionally a class field trip. These activities can range from a wide variety of things. For example, a weekend they plan on taking us to the Muslim part of the Harbin and another weekend to Sun Island.
In short, the CET Harbin program is much more academically oriented program from what I previously expected. I still have some opportunities to venture out in Harbin. All in all, the program is specifically designed for you to take your Chinese to the next level.
More posts on the way.