Let’s be honest: what’s not to love about Chengdu? It is smack dab in the middle of the “Land of Abundance” (according to famous Chinese poet Li Bing) and is chock full of teahouses, people shouting for vegetables across the markets, songbirds, incense, tradition, modernity - a splendid harmony.
As with many Chinese cities, Chengdu is a tug-of-war of old and new: you can share the road with BMW’s and roosters within the same drive. Unlike many Chinese cities typically chosen for study abroad, however, Chengdu retains a distinct Chinese feel. Bicycles outnumber vehicles and the residents are not accustomed to foreign dishes (they’d still rather eat hotpot - can’t blame ‘em!)
Photo Credit: Yi You
Though living costs are rising ever-so-quickly across China, Chengdu still remains a very affordable city for study abroad. As a student, you can comfortably survive on between USD$500-USD$700 per month - including your apartment, utilities, food costs, cell phone, and transportation fees. You may even have a few extra dollars to treat yourself to milk tea or a Tsingdao!
Chengdu can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. If you'd like to have a more budget-friendly lifestyle, imitate the locals: eat in smaller restaurants, purchase a bicycle, etc. Avoid western chains in lieu of a more culturally interesting shopping or dining experience. Your wallet will certainly thank you later!
China is renowned for being a relatively inexpensive travel and study destination. It is not uncommon to spend a mere US$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
Culture and Immersion
The capital of Sichuan province and home to firey cuisine, this city errs on the smaller side (relatively speaking). Besides, it only has 2 million or so residents. Because the city is smaller and located more inland, you will generally find less of a foreigner population here. This is a great opportunity for cultural immersion and really embracing the local way of living. It's hard to live, think, and breathe in Chinese if you're surrounded by other foreigners all the time and speak only in English - luckily, Chengdu is the city to counteract just that!
Culture Shock and Support
As Chengdu is further inland and home to less foreigners than Beijing or Shanghai, there is the potential for international students to struggle with culture shock while studying abroad. The good news is that because the expat population is so small, you will instantly feel part of a community - and will have quite a few people to turn to for support.
When choosing a study abroad program in Chengdu, decide realistically how much support you would like to have when navigating the likes of a foreign city in China. Think of the worst possible situation (a broken bone or sickness perhaps?) and consider if you'd like to resolve that situation independently or if you'd prefer some help. If it's the latter, we suggest studying abroad with a program provider - it may cost a bit more, but you can avoid logistics and bureaucracies and simply enjoy (and study, of course!).
Chengdu was once the head of the southern Silk Road: be sure to stock up on soft scarves and other silk products while you are studying there. Other Chengdu "must-du's" are the nearby panda research center, a night of Chengdu Opera, and many trips to hot pot restaurants. We promise the Chinese peppercorn (and accompany numbing feeling) become quite appetizing after a few meals!
Travel around Sichuan province and neighboring provinces to take advantage of Chengdu's central location. There are beautiful mountain ranges in all directions worth exploring. Consult your guidebook (or your handy program advisor!) for more info on all the cool places you can visit on your weekends!