Should teenagers go to China? This is a question frequently asked by both parents and high school kids. For some, it is merely a question regarding safety. Is it okay for my teenager to travel to a foreign place for weeks, sometimes even months, given their age? For others, it is a question of experience. Would a high schooler enjoy going to China? How well would my teenager be able to appreciate China’s culture and the language at that age? Some high schoolers might even wonder if they will look back on their trip with fondness?

To all of these questions I have but only one answer: Yes. I believe that China is a fantastic destination for almost all high schoolers to go. Whether you plan on just visiting for a brief vacation or a language immersion program for several weeks, China is a great place for high schoolers who want to learn about the other side of the world!

My Story. I myself did not initially come to China by choice. My family moved to Beijing when I was six-years-old due to my father’s job. We lived here for five years before moving again to another country in Asia. Because I was exposed to the language and culture of China at a much younger age, my brother and I are still coming back year-after-year to the same city. That says a lot about how enchanting a place China can be. And although I have been learning Chinese since a very young age, I still see a huge improvement in my Chinese fluency whenever I go back to China for a language program. To me, this is the biggest benefit for teenagers coming to China for a language program. It will either improve your Chinese or help you pick up the language faster than you would anywhere else!

Safety Issue. Let’s address the safety issue. Like every country, there are some aspects of China that are not entirely safe for a high schooler. But from my experience as a foreigner living in the capital city of Beijing, I find it to be completely safe nearly everywhere. Although I cannot vouch for the more rural areas, I can say that it is probably more safe for a foreigner visiting or living in China than for a native person.   Here are my three safety tips.

  • Be well informed about safe areas.
  • Avoid any unsafe activities.
  • Have a great language program looking out for you.

Culture Shock. Will a teenager enjoy going to a foreign country with a completely different language and culture? Yes. It is the very reason why you should come to China! You will get to see this incredibly special place, despite the language barrier. With a good set of handbooks and guides, you can get around quite well. If you’re a teenager who wants to have a good time doing a language program, I can assure that you’ll have plenty of that with Next Step China.

Choosing Programs. Although China is by far the best place for high schoolers to do Chinese language immersion programs, that doesn’t mean just any program will be the best one or be the right fit for your teenager. There are some things you must consider when selecting a program.

  • Is the program too relaxed? Consider how regimented a program’s schedule is.You may find programs that are too relaxed, where the students are just hanging out all the time with very few classes. And although a big part of China is doing things independently, it’s not helpful if the program doesn’t nudge you in the right direction.
  • Is the program too rigid? There are some programs that are so restricting you barely have any free time to explore places with friends or at your own pace, which is a huge part of doing a language program. These types of programs also might not allow you to learn what you want to learn. Although not every lesson needs to be customizable, it is far more interesting than having regimented lessons drilled into your head.
  • Find a halfway point between the two extremes. A program like Next Step China is a great halfway point between the two extremes. You have tutoring that is extremely flexible, excursions with your tutors and just the right amount of free time. Anything you want to change can be worked out with your tutor.
  • How long is the duration of the program? You are obviously going to get very different experiences if you only stay in a  Chinese city for a two-week course versus a two-month course. I cannot say what length of time is the right amount, but it’s an element to keep in mind when looking for the right language course.
  • There will be some type of “night life” in every city. Something more specific to teenagers is that there is some amount of night life in almost all Chinese cities. The drinking age is not nearly as strict as most countries. This is something that parents must be comfortable with and should check with their program on how strictly they enforce night life rules.

In conclusion, I hope this has been useful for parents and high schoolers in answering any questions or alleviating any worries about going to China. I also hope I’ve been able to illustrate that China is a great place for teenagers. You won’t find any other country quite like it in the world!

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