Study Abroad in China

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in China

Why NOT study abroad in China? China has thrived as the great counterweight to Western influence for thousands of years. In the wake of a tumultuous twentieth century, which witnessed the gradual overthrow of dynastic rule by a communist regime, China has once again rapidly developed into a world superpower. Standing tall with the world’s largest population, second largest land area as well as economy, China is indisputably the most important player in modern global affairs, and an incredibly valuable place to study abroad. But more than that it is an ancient empire rich with cultural integrity, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and an infinitely fascinating history to be enlightened by.


Following a massive urbanization movement, China currently boasts 20 cities with over three million inhabitants, including seven cities with over 10 million people. Specialized study abroad programs sometimes offer locations outside of the big cities in smaller towns or rural areas, but Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong remain the most popular study abroad destinations. And for good reason.

Shanghai is the country’s largest city by population (22 million) and has historically developed as the main commercial and financial life vein of mainland China.

Beijing is the country’s capital and has served as China’s political center for hundreds of years (the royal Forbidden City, built at the beginning of the fifteenth century, still remains impressively intact at the city’s center).

Hong Kong, a former British colony and current Special Administrative Region of China, is ranked as the world’s third most important international city and over the past two centuries has developed as a beacon of modern globalization.

Other popular study abroad locations in China include Chengdu, Tianjin, and Kunming, among others. China is a huge country which governs over 22 provinces and five autonomous regions, many with their own distinct culture, dialect, and way of life. Anywhere you go will offer something unique and different - so research carefully, choose wisely, and travel a lot while you study abroad in China!

Subjects & Courses

The language barrier can be a very real obstacle to breaching China’s increasingly prominent national university system. While world-class institutions like Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Fudan University are the crown jewel in the eye of every Chinese national student, most classes are generally taught in Mandarin, which make enrollment a challenge for international students not studying Chinese. However many of these schools do reach out with international programs to attract foreign students, and some subject areas, such as international business, are often taught in English.

Study abroad in China is often possible both through independent program providers and through international partnerships between universities in different countries. Programs available in major Chinese cities usually combine academic study with a variety of intensive language lessons and culturally immersive opportunities. Studying abroad through international program providers allows students to experience a program tailored to the students and taught in a smaller class size. Partnered institutions, on the other hand, allow study abroad students to take classes at larger, local universities.

Common academic areas of study in China include math and economics, engineering, political science, urban development, and, of course, Mandarin. The Chinese school year typically is divided into semesters lasting from September-January and February-July. Chinese summers can be exceptionally hot and muggy in the big cities, so plan accordingly!

Scholarships & Costs

Although China boasts the world’s second largest economy, it is still very much a developing nation, and so the cost of living is quite cheap compared to most Western countries. Meals will generally only run you a few dollars and many prices are up to negotiation. Prices are lower in rural areas than in the cities, and informal market places are cheaper than recognizable Western businesses. Be wary while studying in China - as a tourist you will have a target on your back so be careful of scams and artificially marked-up prices. These pitfalls quickly become recognizable though, and you will come to find the Chinese people unendingly hospitable and sincerely interested in Western culture.

There are many scholarships made available for study in China, from Western and Chinese institutions alike. Be sure to take advantage of these by consulting GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory, for those who choose to study in in China, to find out more information on opportunities and eligibility requirements.

Accommodations & Visas

Standard housing options are made available through most study abroad programs in China - apartment, homestays, or dormitory style living being most common. Apartment living is good for the independently minded student who likes their own space and individual liberty. Homestays are great for the student who is interested in a more culturally immersive glimpse into the Chinese household and family life (and frequent home cooked meals), and an amazing chance to practice and learn Mandarin. Dormitory style living, especially at larger Chinese universities, offers an inside experience into the life of Chinese students and are a great way to break cultural boundaries and make lifelong friends.

F Visas are required for students who plan to study in China for less than six months, while X visas are required to studying China for over six months. Even though China is a somewhat closed country, obtaining a visa to study abroad is a fairly simple process, which most programs will help guide you through. Just be sure to allot yourself plenty of time, consult your specific program provider, and check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to locate a Chinese embassy near to you, for more details about the visa policy for your home country.

Benefits & Challenges

Hugely chaotic crowds of people, inescapable urban pollution, and a spoken language which could not differ more from English, all make studying abroad in China a daunting prospect to even the most adventurous of students. Indeed moving from a Western society which prizes individualism and creative freedom to an Eastern society which values hard work, disciplined obedience, and the observance of propriety will inevitably bring about a healthy dose of culture shock. Yet growth comes from breaking out and experiencing new things.

China is an entirely different world, continuously developed in parallel with the West. Come to explore its mystery, and leave a more well-rounded student and human being.

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A Guide To
Studying Abroad in China


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