IES Abroad Beijing - Language Intensive

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Video and Photos

The old summer palace in Beijing
The hutongs(back alleys) in Beijing
The Great Wall!
My wonderful host mom (Ayi) and me!
My year 3 Chinese class!
View from school.


**UPDATE: Starting Fall 2015, the Beijing – Contemporary Issues in China Program will merge with the Beijing – Language Intensive Program to create one cohesive curriculum called Beijing – Contemporary China & Chinese Language. If you are interested in enrolling in Fall 2015 or beyond, please visit the Beijing – Contemporary China & Chinese Language program.**

Our Language Intensive Program is for students who have already started their Chinese language studies and want to rapidly expand their knowledge of written and spoken Chinese. Features of the program include the strong Chinese language component and English-taught area studies courses that utilize Beijing to discover Chinese cultural and social issues.


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Questions & Answers


9.5 Rating
based on 12 reviews
  • Academics 9.3
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.6
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 1 - 8 of 12
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Yes, I recommend this program

Fun in Beijing!

I absolutely loved being abroad. I also think this program made being abroad easier for its students. From picking us up at the airport when we first arrived to helping us with travel plans.

My goal was to see as much of China and learn as much as I could about China and the language as I could. This program definitely helped me achieve this. The courses were interesting and engaging, especially the Chinese language courses. In addition to having a main Chinese language course they also provided language electives for learning about Chinese slang, business Chinese language, and calligraphy. They even had a prep course for students who wanted to take the HSK test. My language skills improved greatly during this program.

In addition to just having a variety of courses the teachers and professors were incredibly engaging. It was easy to tell that they were excited to be there and help students through their courses. They all got to pick the material that they were teaching and I believe their freedom to do so probably contributed to how passionate they were about their classes.

The director and other staff were also amazing. They took all of us on a program field trip that was fun and a great way to bond. The director always made time to meet with students if they were having a problem whether it was with academics or a roommate. They even helped students with other travel plans to make sure students could travel to their hearts content.

Overall, it was just a great experience and there isn't a day I don't think about how much fun I had.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that it could be improved by adding even more time to travel.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Simply Amazing

There are almost no words to even describe it. While the courses were rigorous and the language pledge challenging, my Chinese ability improved a lot (as well as my study habits). We were in class four days a week, which left plenty of time for independent exploration. There were many outings and trips organized by IES, but we were also free to go do our own travel and explore as we pleased. That independence gave us all the ability to travel Beijing in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. It also allowed me to complete my own language research project which took me to all different parts of the city. One of the most awe-inspiring moments was our early-morning Great Wall hike. We got up at 3:30 and hiked to the highest point of the Great Wall to watch the sunrise. We were the only ones up there, and the mountains lay stretched out before us as the sun rose through a layer of morning fog. It’s a grueling hike, but all of the exhaustion melts away as you take in the beautiful site before you. All in all, this trip was life changing, and I’ve grown so much from my experiences. The language pledge really helps to improve your Chinese, as you’re essentially not allowed to speak English (unless you’re a beginning student or don’t know a certain word), and it took my Chinese to the next level!

What would you improve about this program?
I wish they had put us with Chinese roommates, as it would have provided a great way to practice Chinese and also to engage in intercultural activities and a place to ask questions.
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Yes, I recommend this program

IES Abroad Beijing

This past summer, I studied abroad in Beijing, China through IES Abroad. Studying abroad was one of the most challenging experiences I have faced, but it was also extremely rewarding. I had a really great time immersing myself in Chinese culture (everything from food to shopping to museums). I also really enjoyed taking Chinese language classes, an elective course (Business in China) and a calligraphy class. I think the classes I took complemented what I was learning by simply exploring the city with my friends.
Study abroad has definitely changed my life in many ways. It has made me more self-aware and more confident in my abilities to problem solve and adapt to any situation. It has also helped me create lifelong friendships with people throughout the US. It has given me a greater awareness of my own lifestyle and what life is like on the other side of the world. It has also taught me how to persevere when times are tough. I won’t lie. There were definitely bumps and challenges during my time in Beijing, but I was able to push through them and I think I am a better, wiser person because of my experiences. I would recommend studying abroad to everyone because I think it is a great way to learn more about yourself and the world. You grow so much in such a short period of time and you can take those skills and experiences and apply them anywhere in the future!

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Yes, I recommend this program

IES Beijing is Amazing

If you're looking to dramatically improve your language skills, this is the program for you. The staff at IES were helpful and friendly throughout my semester there, and the support network that IES provides is great for acclimating to Beijing.

What would you improve about this program?
They've actually changed it now, but during my semester I thought we were in class for slightly too long. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday we had four hours of Chinese class from 8-12 and one hour of one-on-one tutoring on each of those days as well.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Intensive Chinese Language Immersion Experience

In China, the website, Facebook, is blocked by government censorship. While many Americans have the, I think, false assumption that Chinese people are limited in this way and have no connection to the "outside world", in fact Chinese people are, in my experience, very connected to each other, their families and communities through other means. One of those means is the Chinese cell phone app, WeChat. The app is used to send messages, recordings, pictures and videos, as well as update to something like a "wall" or newsfeed. It is used in much the same capacity that Facebook might be in other countries.

However, similar to Facebook, WeChat is sometimes difficult for the older generation to grasp, despite the younger generation's prowess. My host parents, well into their 60s, graying, sweet and masterful cooks, were among the people for whom WeChat proved to be a challenge. One night, my host mom was complaining about how she couldn't get WeChat to work on her phone and I helped her download it, create an account, and find some of her first friends. That night she connected with some people from her hometown whom she hadn't seen for years. She was up for several hours, laughing and talking at length in the living room on video-chats with her old friends. It was such a wonderful moment because, although I couldn't understand the finer points of her conversation, it made me feel proud and happy to have helped her use a Chinese technology to connect with some of her old friends in a way that was distinctly hers.

What would you improve about this program?
I would want there to be a more standardized way for us to interface with some of the students at the university where we were studying. The only students we could really hang out with (especially as homestay students) was through our conversation partners. Students living in the dorm were able to have a Chinese roommate, but I would prefer for there to be more ways to interact or get involved in campus activities with Chinese people.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A good blend of challenging and exciting

Being a language-intensive program, the Chinese classes were structured and challenging. Teachers were phenomenal and very willing to accommodate you no matter what your level of Mandarin was; they also incorporated a lot of fun activities and field trips into class time, which made learning interactive. And the teachings weren't just on formal grammar patterns but included a lot of colloquial terms/phrases that you could use to impress the locals with.

The better thing, however, was how you could use that Chinese with your peers and, of course, in the greater city. Classes can take up a good portion of your day, but most students usually have Wednesdays free; it's a great day to enjoy the city and use what you've learned in class.

What would you improve about this program?
Sometimes I feel that too much of our day was spent in classes. Most students had Wednesdays free, but others (like myself) had internships, which meant only the weekends were free (and it's harder to avoid large crowds on weekends compared to weekdays).

Also for those living in dorms, we had Chinese roommates. I think it would be nice if there were more activities to get to know them.
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Yes, I recommend this program

One of a Kind Abroad Experience that Furthers your Chinese Language Abilities

I didn't know what to expect when I stepped off the plane in Beijing, signaling the start of my study abroad experience, but IES Beijing made the transition smooth and easy and created one of the most exciting experiences of my life to date. The week-long orientation was not only extremely helpful in adjusting (especially with jet lag), but also allowed students to meet and interact before we would be busy with classwork.

IES is especially superb in the way that they merge the excitement of living in China with learning and hard work. I came into the program looking to vastly improve my Chinese and the intensive language program that I signed up for certainly met and exceeded my expectations. With a language pledge and close to 20 hours of Chinese language learning a week, comprised of classes and a one-on-one tutoring session, I saw all aspects of my Chinese improve, especially my conversational skills. Although it may seem intimidating on paper, know that all of the professors and IES staff are very helpful and the hard work definitely pays off at the end.

Aside from language classes I also took a Modern Chinese History class and a Chinese Calligraphy class. Both were also extremely engaging. IES makes use of the city itself by incorporating fieldtrips into the courses which not only introduce the students to aspects of Beijing that they may not visit on their own, but also introduces more of the unique Chinese culture.

With IES Abroad Beijing, you also have the choice of living with a homestay or with a Chinese roommate in the dorms. I opted to live in a homestay and I can't recommend it enough; it was one of the best aspects of my stay in Beijing. My homestay family was extremely welcoming and were always eager to take me to see interesting sites and aspects of the city that only a native would know about. It was also nice to have homemade Chinese meals every day. Living with a homestay also significantly improved my Chinese. While I'm sure living with a Chinese roommate would be an invaluable experience as well, I know that the homestay was the right choice for me and I can't recommend it enough!

One last aspect of the IES Abroad program that is unique is the "Mobile Learning Trip". This was a two week excursion into different parts of China, for me northeastern China, in which we not only furthered our Chinese language studies, but also got to interact with the many different ethnic groups of China. It was a chance for us to travel beyond Beijing, as it is easy to spend all of your time in the big city. This was something unique to IES and just another way that they make the study abroad experience truly one of a kind.

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Yes, I recommend this program

If you want to improve your Chinese, this is the program for you

To summarize this program in one word, IES-Beijing Language Intensive was fantastic. From the immersion to the language studies and the travel, there is no better study abroad program if you looking at Beijing.

There was a lot of studying involved, but it was never unmanageable--probably at most 3 hours per night. But the amount of Chinese I learned mad the studying enjoyable, since you knew you would be using the very same vocab and grammar the next day in class, or on the street talking with a friend or stranger. Plus, the largest language class I was in only had 6 students, so there was a ton of individual attention.

Outside of the language classes, I chose to take two area studies courses, both in the Political Science area. One class was Politics and Government of China, taught by a visiting professor from Australia, and the other was Social Movements and Labor Change in China, taught by a Chinese professor who works daily in that field. I have to say both classes were fascinating, the work load was never more than a few hours per week, and both professors kept small classes. The larger of the two only had 12 students. Plus the best part about classes--and this includes the Chinese language ones as well--is that they only met 4 times per week, since we had no class on Wednesdays.

In terms of housing, I lived in a dormitory owned by IES on the campus of Beijing Foreign Studies University. The dorms were nice, although the room are a lot smaller than most American college students will be used to. I also lived with a Chinese roommate, who was a student at the university. The best part about the dorm was that our classrooms were located right down the hall from our dorm rooms, since we didn't take classes directly with the university. But the halls and bathrooms were cleaned every day, the building was air conditioned for the warm months, and it became a very cozy and comfortable place to relax and unwind.

The one thing I will say about Beijing, and maybe China in general, is that if you are not the type of person that can laugh at yourself, you won't last long in Beijing. I once spent 20 minutes explaining with hand gestures that I wanted a napkin, but because I didn't know the word for it, I pretty much looked like a monkey in a zoo. The waitresses just laughed in my face, but I was fine with it since I knew I looked like a buffoon. If you don't have patience for these kinds of things, you'll find Beijing is a very tough place.

What would you improve about this program?
For the students who decide to stay in the dorms, you should be allowed to see the profiles of the potential Chinese roommates, so that we can have a say in the choosing process. My roommate was a great guy, and we got along pretty well, but we had virtually nothing in common, so it was tough for us to find mutual things to do.

Also, while the city itself offers much to do in terms of a social scene, it would have been nice if the program offered more activities, rather than just the occasional trip to the market. I would have enjoyed so more organized activities to complement the free time given.