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36 Awesome Resources for Studying Abroad in China

Originally published on October 26th, 2012.

China remains the only non-European destination in the top 5 most popular study abroad destinations -- congratulations, you're contributing to a rising number of students looking for more unique opportunities abroad. You're at the forefront of a movement to better understand China's longstanding history and vibrant future.

Though not exactly necessary, it'll help you in the long run to have a handle on Mandarin prior to studying abroad in China.

Whether you prefer to study in popular Beijing or Shanghai, or instead pursue an opportunity in an inland city (Chengdu, Kunming, or dare-we-say, Tibet?!), it's our hope these websites will make your upcoming adventure all the more enjoyable.

Grab your chopsticks, turn on Mulan, and sift through these 35 amazing resources for studying abroad in China.

Visas, Budgeting, and Housing

From getting the proper Chinese visa to organizing your accommodation upon arrival, you'll soon find that navigating Chinese bureaucracies is no easy feat. These resources weill help you maintain your sanity.

  • China Embassy US, China Embassy UK, China Embassy Canada - Your go-to resource for any visa inquiries. It should be noted that students pursuing study programs that are less than 6 months long should apply for the F visa instead of the X.
  • Gov.cn - This is the Chinese government’s official website, presented in English, and provides a great deal of information on the country.
  • Numbeo - Is Shanghai really more expensive than Beijing? Consult the Numbeo website for more details on the cost of living in different cities across China.

Tools for Learning Chinese

Though not exactly necessary, it'll help you in the long run to have a handle on Mandarin prior to studying abroad in China. You’re in luck, as there are plenty of online dictionary and learning tools available to help you perfect your zhong wen. You may even find these tools useful for homework help!

  • LINE - Formally NCIKU, this English-Chinese dictionary is super helpful.
  • You Dao - This Chinese dictionary has more options for search terms than many other online language resources, including slang words. If you can’t find it elsewhere, you’re bound to come across it here.
  • POPjisyo - Quickly translate webpages in Chinese to English with this online tool.
  • E-Chinese Learning - This website offers students many Mandarin lessons, and gives users a platform for connecting with locals on Skype (great for perfecting your conversational skills!)
  • Mandarin Tools - If a large document of Chinese characters without pinyin frightens you, download this tool!
  • Zhonga - A new addition to this list, this is a full feature Chinese-English online dictionary.

Advice on Living in China

At the end of a China day, you may come to feel a bit bonkers. The food’s different, the people are different, the language is different. There’s no harm in being frustrated by your situation, but we encourage you to rise above it. Embrace the challenges and learn from them!

  • Lost Laowai - The expat section of this website is especially useful, as you can offer advice, rant, and learn the behavior of both “good” and “bad” laowai.
  • Cultural China - This website attempts to explain in lamemen’s terms China’s 5000+ year history.
  • The Beijing Reviewer - Practical advice from a long-term ESL teacher's perspective. If you're considering working while studying, this one's essential.
  • Adventures Around Asia - Richelle has been teaching and studying in China for several years, and blogging about her adventures throughout!

Things to Do in China

As a student in China, you’ll inevitably have some free time in need of filling. Whether you prefer to take in more cultural activities, taste local cuisines, or check out the local nightlife, these websites will point you in the right direction for upcoming events and activities.

  • City Weekend - No matter what Chinese city you are studying in, City Weekend is your go-to resource for what’s happening nearby.
  • The Beijinger - This website is always the first to know what’s happening in and around the capital city.
  • Shanghaiist - For students in Shanghai, check out this website to make your weekend plans.
  • Heyrobics - If you’re packing on the pounds from too many helpings of dumplings, check out this fun and colorful exercise club in Beijing.
  • Shanghai Highlights - A great resource for finding day/weekend trips outside the city - including nearby Hangzhou and Nanjing.

News and Media Outlets

Since your typical mainstays of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are not readily available, you may have to start looking elsewhere to get your local news. For those who are able to download a VPN to access all websites (we recommend using VPN Reviews to find a good provider), you may find stark contrasts in news stories...

  • China Daily - The only English language national newspaper in China.
  • SINA - Read both local and international news stories from this news portal.
  • CNN Go - The Asia chapter of CNN news - fun and interesting articles on China and surrounding regions.

Chinese Social Media

It’s no secret that Chinese people loooove the internet, especially the university crowds. If you want a jump start on making Chinese friends, familiarize yourself with the following platforms - they’ll love you for it!

  • Weibo - The “Chinese Twitter,” this website may provide more interesting insights into Chinese culture than any other. Another plus - no character limits!
  • WeChat - WeChat is like WhatsApp, but just about everyone uses it in lieu of regular text messages, and is the go-to social media in China.

Finding Discounts and Deals

Naturally, many websites are created to offer services to Chinese nationals and are written entirely in Mandarin. If you’re language savvy, you’ll learn how to navigate these websites to take advantage of the cheaper prices, which somehow don’t get translated onto their English-counterparts.

  • Tao Bao - Just about any product is at your fingertips with this online marketplace! Have a Chinese friend help you complete your order.
  • QuNar - Booking flights in or around China? Utilize this website instead of your typical Kayak, Air Asia, etc (your pocketbook will thank you!)
  • YouKu - Instead of buying your favorite tv shows and movies on iTunes, stream them from this free website - just be sure to double check the Chinese name first!
  • SkyScanner - Much like Kayak, Skyscanner will help you search through different airlines ticket prices and is especially good for looking for cheap flights in Asia. It now checks all budget airlines in China (win!)

Apps for your Smart Phone

We definitely recommend getting an unlocked smartphone before you leave for China. Instead of distracting you from your studies, it'll help you with your time overseas. Load your phone with a few apps that will complement your learning experience (and maybe make it more fun!).

  • QingWen Chinese Dictionary - This handy app allows you to create word lists where you can bookmark vocabulary into categories.
  • Chinese Pod - This app allows you to access an online library of Chinese language lessons and is especially helpful for improving your reading skills.
  • Pleco - The highlight of this app is its extensive tools for creating, customizing, and saving flashcards - perfect for when you get stuck on a long commute!
  • Duolingo - This app / website will help you memorize Chinese vocabulary on the go.

Learning About Chinese Culture

The Chinese culture is widespread and fascinating. Sometimes, though, there are some things that are just plain fun to know more about. Here are some of the quirkier elements of China's history that students should understand!

  • Chinese Superstitions - Read up on the most prevalent superstitions in Chinese society today (hint: don’t give a clock or a watch as a gift!)
  • Chinese Zodiac - Are you a rabbit, horse, or tiger? Find out the origins of these astrological signs and see if this is a lucky year for you!
  • Traditional Chinese Festivals - Learn how to celebrate all of China’s favorite holidays - some traditions may surprise you!
  • Marketing to China - Want to be a pro at Chinese business etiquette and practices? Tips and tricks for ways to up your guanxi and impress your coworkers.

So there you have it, some of the most essential online resources out there to help you make your time studying abroad in China easier.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo Credits: API Study Abroad, Christian Junker, La Priz, and keenangparker.
Megan Lee

Megan Lee is an international educator, traveler, and writer. She currently leads study abroad programs in China and the South Pacific. Keep up with her on Twitter @peglegmeg and Google+.