Nestled along the Li River in the ancient mountains of Guangxi province, Guilin is a secret treasure of the Middle Kingdom where ancient China greets its modern future.
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The city was founded in 111 BC during the Han dynasty and is most famous for its land-before-time scenery. Guilin's trademark rounded limestone mountains that seem to sprout from the Earth at random, combined with the broad, snaking Li River are so beloved, in fact, that they are featured on China's twenty Yuan note. Today, though, the city is booming, enjoying the economic benefits of Western influence while never wavering from remaining uniquely Chinese.Photo: You Yi.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to studying Guilin is affordability. Not only is the dollar very strong compared to the Yuan, but students will experience reverse-sticker shock; unlike Shanghai and Beijing, everything in Guilin is remarkably cheap, often one half to a quarter of what the same item would cost in America. A big, hearty bowl of Guilin rice noodles will run you about 30 US cents.
A semester program in Guilin will run you from $6,000 to $9,000, and a 6-week immersion program will cost an average of $2,500.
Culture and Immersion
Guilin has managed to avoid the urban madness that has deterred many students from studying in some of China's more popular study abroad destinations like sprawling Shanghai and smog-choked Beijing. Instead, Guilin has decided to modernize upon the foundation of its own agricultural history. Many pharmaceutical companies produce drugs made from the bounty of Guilin's fields.
Just a two hour bus ride from the city are the world-famous Longsheng rice terraces, a verdant rolling valley etched with miles with terraced rice fields still plowed by water buffalo. Walk the streets and you’ll pass dozens of mom-and-pop gui lin mi fen, or Guilin rice noodle, shops, famous all over China. Looking for a coffee shop to kick back and read? We recommend Yumi Cafe near the San Li Dian traffic circle, or head to the Hongdou Café on the campus of Guangxi Normal University by the west gate. Hongdou is a popular meeting place for local university students and the friendly staff is happy to help you practice your Mandarin skills.
If you have an afternoon, take a boat cruise down the Li River to the village of Yangshuo, a mecca for rock climbers and host to international competitions. You can also go any time to nearby Seven Star Park, a public park with Chinese pandas, tigers and monkeys on display. More of a bargain hunter? Visit the Downtown Walking Street and browse lots of name-brand stores, and some that simply claim to be. Also check out the Underground Market: literally a market of shops and stalls accessed by stairway beneath the streets of downtown.
The best bet for nightlife is either one of the many karaoke clubs known as KTV, or Cats and Rabbits, a popular local bar that often hosts rock shows. Hungry? From lunchtime to late night, shao kao open-flame barbecue vendors sell every vegetable and meat under the sun grilled, seasoned, and served on a stick.
Culture Shock and Support
It is essential to understand that Chinese culture may be very different from that of the West, but it is a rich, proud one. Chinese culture has existed for millennia and was once the uncontested pinnacle of science, medicine and art. Today, poverty is a real issue, and one must have realistic expectations about creature comforts. China is also the most populous nation on Earth with nearly a billion and half citizens, so though Guilin is small among Chinese cities, buses and public places are often crowded.
Study abroad programs in Guilin, like the Chinese Language Institute, can help if things get overwhelming. With a staff of English-fluent Mandarin teachers, one-on-one lessons and a social hub revolving around in-house meals and a ping-pong/movie lounge, this language school is run by two American brothers and understands that sometimes, Westerners just need a little taste of the familiar.
Guilin is the perfect solution for students that want to study abroad in China, but want to skip out on the urban madness of the country’s megacities. We recommend saying “ni hao” to Guilin!
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