Studying abroad in Beijing has exploded in popularity in recent years. China is home to the world’s oldest continuous culture, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the capital city of Beijing. Students who study abroad in Beijing will gain an intimate insight into a culture that continues to shape our world today.
Beijing is home to some of the country’s most important landmarks: the Forbidden city, the great wall of China, and Tiananmen Square are all physical reminders of the great vitality present in the city and the country itself. Those who study abroad in Beijing will not only learn from their course work, but from the hundreds of years of history that surrounds them.
Culture and Immersion
Beijing has a far-less foreign influence than many of the other international cities China boasts. It’s strong governmental and more traditional influences mean that the city hasn’t lost touch with its cultural roots. Some things are more fun to witness (such as the elderly practicing taijichuan in the parks each morning) while others are slightly less pleasant (such as the babies without pants!).
Beijing has many surprises in the midst of modernization and it’s not uncommon to see street dogs and chickens running among men dressed in business suits and tall skyscrapers gleaming in the distance.
Generally speaking, living expenses in China do come out lower than what you’re most likely used to back home. However, personal habits and taste should be taken into consideration, as the reality is that China can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you want it to be. Beijing, in particular, is increasing in expenses but on a grand scale, is much more affordable than Shanghai or Hong Kong.
Public transit in Beijing will cost you 2RMB no matter where you’d like to go, with the exception of the airport (25RMB). A plate of dumplings at a corner eatery should range between 4-8RMB and a bowl of noodles will usually come in around 10RMB (depending on if you get vegetarian or beef).
Shopping for trinkets and souvenirs can be relatively inexpensive if you steer clear of expat filled areas and foreign franchises. Even still, if you’re a tough bargainer you should be able to snag a good deal at the Silk Market near Guomao or Yashou market in Sanlitun.
Good news is that beer can be as cheap as 3RMB for a 40oz bottle. Bad news is that coffee can cost as much as 30RMB a cup (and it will most likely be instant!). Hint: stick to green tea.
Culture Shock and Support
Depending on the study abroad program that you select for your time in China, you will have differing levels of support. Most programs, at the very least, will have a welcome orientation and other activities upon arrival to help you get better situated in your new environments. If you choose to forego a provider for you study abroad in China trip, you will find that once you get to there, you’re pretty much on your own.
Speaking from experience, I remember landing in Beijing Capital Airport and being like, “Now what?!” I had organized a hotel for my first night near the airport that included transportation, but of course the hotel failed to arrive. I then had a taxi drop me off at the university campus, but I had no idea where he should drop me off - turns out he couldn’t have picked a gate further away from my actual dorm (meaning I had to lug all of my suitcases all the way across campus). I arrived to my dormitory a little confused (and very winded) only to see my new roommate’s things thrown all over the room! Perhaps she wasn’t expecting me so early, but it was just another eye roll. My first few days are kind of a blur, as I tried to be adventurous and venture out around the university grounds for food and other essentials, but I’ll admit it was quite lonely.
Fast forward a few weeks and you’d think I’d been living in Beijing my whole life, but it definitely wasn’t the easiest transition. Sure, I learned a lot, but having the community that study abroad programs can offer (and the welcome of a friendly face) would have been worth the extra few hundred dollars!
There are plenty of fun things to do in and around Beijing to keep even the most social and active student busy. Living in Beijing on a budget is possible if you avoid the western food chains (tempting, I know!) and stick instead to enjoying the many parks that Beijing has to offer. For instance, Chaoyang Park has a multitude of activities to offer students, whether you just want to stroll along their many trails or glide on the lake in a rented boat. Chaoyang even has a small amusement park if you’re up for a hilarious adventure (just don’t forget your camera!).
The 798 Art District is fun and not difficult to get to, just take a bus from Dongzhimen. This public art space has a lot of interesting galleries, exhibits, cafes, and street artists to walk around and enjoy. Consider joining expat athletic clubs, such as Heyrobics, to socialize while breaking a sweat - little pink shorts encouraged (but not required!).
The nightlife in Wudaokou tends to be cheaper than what you’ll find in Sanlitun, Houhai, and Guomao. Be sure to check out Fubar in Gongti (it’s a bar hidden behind a wall in the back of a hot dog restaurant!).
If you’re going to fly all the way to China for study abroad, make it worth your time! A trip to Shanghai means a trip to a watered down America. Those who choose to study in Beijing will see it is a city of undeniable influence. The city is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural nucleus of the People’s Republic of China. Beijing is also noted as a center of international exchange- those who study abroad in Beijing will learn a valuable lesson in international politics and business. Students studying abroad in Beijing will have access to universities renowned both for their curriculum and teaching staff. Check out the variety of study abroad in Beijing programs below to choose the path that best suits you!
China is renowned for being a relatively inexpensive travel and study destination. It is not uncommon to spend a mere USD $5 and feel full for days (especially if you’re stocking up on dumplings!) The country uses the Ren Min Bi as its currency (also know as the Kuai or the Yuan), and typically runs on cash versus credit cards. Regardless, its always good to have extra pocket money. Here are some scholarships available for study in China:
- China’s University and College Admission System offers excellent student scholarships to individuals pursuing study abroad options as undergraduates, masters, or graduate students.
- The Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE) offers scholarships to CIEE program participants who are members of groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in study abroad.
- Many scholarships for study abroad are offered through the U.S. government, including the Freeman-Asia Program and the Gilman International Scholarship.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
Contributed by Megan Lee
Study Abroad Programs in Beijing
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