5 Best Cities for Study Abroad in China

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Where should I study abroad in China? 🤔 

Congratulations, you’re done with the easy part! You’ve decided to study abroad in China, and clicked on an article that will help inform your decision of which city to select for your program — because, let's face it: not all Chinese cities are created equal when it comes to studying in China.

lanterns in china
No matter where you choose to study in China, there's bound to be beautiful lanterns. YAY! 

First off, China is an absolutely massive nation, with nearly 1.4 billion citizens, is the second largest land area of any country on earth, and has has over 100 cities with a population exceeding one million people. Yowza! Internally, it is also as remarkably diverse in terms of geography, ethnicities, and languages spoken, as anywhere else in the world. 

So understandably, it's going to take a bit to decide the best place to study abroad in China for you (not to mention the best China study abroad programs there!). While this article will not claim to survey all of the options, and thus additional research may be needed, we hope it will set you on the right path by highlighting the cream of the crop. 

Read on to learn the nitty gritty details of the five best cities to study abroad in China (wu五hoo!). 

Top Chinese cities for international students

5. Shanghai 

Shanghai cityscape
Study in China's behemoth megacity, Shanghai

Starting with the biggest. With a population quickly approaching 30 million, Shanghai is the largest city in China and its most important center of trade, finance, and commercial activity. Sitting impressively on the Yangtze River Delta leading into the Pacific Ocean, Shanghai is an architectural wonder, which also boasts the busiest container port in the whole world. Simply stated, Shanghai is kind of a big deal.

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Students who are intrigued by the face of modern China should consider study abroad programs in Shanghai as the premier option. With an Alpha+ global city rating, it is undoubtedly the anchor or China’s booming industrial sector, and also one of the most influential economic nodes on the planet. It’s not all business though; Shanghai is also world renowned for its prestigious museums, beautiful historical landmarks, and cultural integrity.

Recommended China study abroad programs in Shanghai:

4. Beijing 

Tower Telecom, Beijing

Studying in Beijing is the perfect mix of old and new China.

If Shanghai is China’s largest and most industrious city, then Beijing thrives no less importantly as its political command center. From the days of imperial China, when the city was known as Peking, Beijing has for centuries been the seat of Chinese governance. In fact the entire metropolis is built sprawling around the ancient Forbidden City, former home to the imperial family, which remains standing remarkably intact at the city’s center.

History breathes life into the streets of Beijing, where the new is locked in eternal struggle with the old. The city boasts an impressive number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, seven to be exact, and is even within short distance travel from the Great Wall of China. At the same time Beijing also features many skyscrapers and modern architectural wonders, such as the National Center for the Performing Arts, and has one of the most efficient subway systems in the world too.

Recommended programs for studying in Beijing:

3. Hangzhou 

Lake in Hangzhou
Fall in love with Hangzhou as you study in China

Hangzhou may be known mostly for its scenic beauty, romantically settled on the southern mouth of China’s Grand Canal, but it has also been one of the most prosperous cities in China for a long time. Hangzhou’s infrastructure is exceedingly well maintained, it enjoys a very high GDP per capita, and it is home to China’s fourth ranked school of higher learning, Zhejiang University.

[How to Study in China in English]

Despite its laid back feel, Hangzhou actually forms the core of China’s fourth largest metropolitan area, and so carries a weight of importance beyond its bevy of natural and historic attractions. One of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China, it has always been a highly influential city in the region, and therefore it has made it on our list of best cities to study abroad in China.

Recommended programs for studying in Hangzhou:

2. Chengdu

Chengdu night skyline

Just Cheng-du it!

Chengdu is a bit of an anomaly on this list of best places to study abroad in China, and indeed for China itself, because of its seemingly inauspicious geographical location. As the capital of the Sichuan Province, in western China, it stands out as perhaps the most influential city in the country, which is not located near the eastern seaboard. Settled on the fertile plains of Central Asia, within easy access of some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes you will ever see, it is a very unique destination for study abroad in China. 

It is not just its location that makes Chengdu so great though. It is a highly modern city with a young pulse, is growing rapidly, and serves as one of the most important globally connected outposts in the western provinces of China. Sichuan food is also renowned as being some of the best in China — be sure to try the (extra spicy!) hot pots and pet the locals (pandas... don't be weird). ;-)

Recommended programs for studying in Chengdu:

1. Hong Kong 

Hong Kong Ferries
High tail it to Hong Kong, one of the best cities for study abroad in China

Oh Hong Kong, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. A British colony since its inception in the nineteenth century, Hong Kong actually only became an autonomous province of China as recently as 1997. A global city in the truest sense of the word, Hong Kong enjoys the freest economy in the world, complete with the highest number of skyscrapers to match. Throw in expansive parks and museums, great restaurants and theaters, and an exhilarating nightlife, and you have yourself a winning destination for study abroad in China.

Hong Kong has a much different feel than the rest of China, and is a tremendously fun and fascinating place to study abroad. It even has its own currency, the Hong Kong Dollar, which is the thirteenth most traded currency in the world. From offbeat marketplaces and hole-in-the wall apartments to massive megamalls and mansions on Victoria Peak, Hong Kong is one of the most diverse and distinctive cities you can find in our modern age, making it a one of a kind place to study abroad in China.

Recommended programs for studying in Hong Kong:

Find scholarships to study in China

Who doesn't love free money to put towards a meaningful experience that helps you achieve your goals? Everyone loves it, which is why we're bringing you this shortlist of scholarships for studying abroad in China.

There's plenty more scholarships for studying in China where that came from! Read the article below:

[45 Scholarships for Study Abroad Around the World]

You're ready to study in China!

yangzhou china
Study abroad programs in China rarely disappoint. 

With dozens of options with numerous flavors (reminds us of dumplings!), find hope in knowing the perfect program for studying in China is out there. The best cities to study in China is a great place to start, but be sure to fully understand your goals, budget, timeline, and interests. Don't force yourself to study in Hong Kong if you want to be in the mainland—or vice versa. Have a think, research your options, then 走吧 (go!).

Peace, love, & chopsticks,

Your friends at GoAbroad

NEXT: 5 Signs of a GREAT Study Abroad Program


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