Summer Study Abroad in China

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A Guide to Summer Study Abroad in China

You could spend another summer at home watching “Mulan,” or you could grab this break by the dragon tail and take it for a ride to the far east! Sign up for summer programs in China and get ahead with your studies while exploring landmarks — nothing like cruising on the Yangtze River for a field trip. Take a peek into the past when you visit historical sites like the Yonghe Temple, then glimpse into the future as you view Shanghai from the top of the #supermod Pearl Tower. Guess what your Chinese astrological sign is telling you to do? It’s telling you to put on some red because it’s your lucky day — you’re spending a summer in China!

Why Spend Summer in China

China has become one of, nay, THE forefront country in industrialization and a leader of the global economy. If your four-year college plan cannot endure a full semester abroad, then a summer China program is the perfect time for you to fulfill some degree requirements. You’re sure to find courses in your field that will offer you new points of view from business to arts to health sciences. When you’re not hitting the books, get your fill with water activities, like kiteboarding, surfing, and drifting, or by savoring summery sweets, like snowflake cakes and red bean buns!

While you can find programs that offer the choice of taking courses in English, why not grasp this opportunity to study Chinese in China? Chinese language summer programs are some of the most popular out there, no doubt because Chinese is the #1 most spoken language in the world. A plethora of Chinese summer programs help you get that competitive edge. You’ll have your panda’s share of chances to order your preferred tea – in Mandarin – wherever you go.


From numerous mountain ranges to forests to coastlines, the blend of modern and ancient buildings paints the late Confucius's homeland with a sense of awe and wonder. Whether you’re a student who loves the country or the city, nature or culture — or heck, both — you’ll never want to nap during summer programs in China.

Beijing. Surround yourself in early history and mountains in northern China. Class excursions often include strolling in Tiananmen Square, trekking along the Great Wall, and exploring the Temple of Heaven. Relax and unwind with a cup (or two) of milk tea on a nearby rooftop terrace that overlook the windy hutong alleys. With the stifling summer heat, you’ll want to cool your brow (and step back in time with ancient relics and ceramics.) in the National Museum of China, one of the world’s largest museums in the world.

Shanghai. Immerse yourself in this cosmopolitan city on the east coast of China. Love the beach? Perfect! Soak in the sun at a beach on the Bund against the Pudong skyline. Practice your Mandarin as you attend a local performance at the Chenghuang Temple and browse the 50,000 plants at the Shanghai Botanical Garden. Get some relief from the heat by catching the breeze on a sightseeing bus tour where you can learn a thing or two about the city and later dive with sharks at the Changfeng Aquarium’s shark tank.

Kunming. Further inland in southwest China lies Spring City, one of China’s most liveable cities with a fairly temperate summer climate (trust us, you’ll want to strongly consider this option for your summer in China!). With fewer foreigners in this city, you’ll have several opportunities to practice your chopsticking skills. Kunming is a nature-lover’s dream, with Himalayas to the west and tropical rainforests to the south — biking along the countryside or strolling to Green Lake is a must to get your mind off your studies. Discover the temples and relax in one of the parks, especially the legendary Stone Forest. 

Tips for Summer Study in China

Whoa, slow down there, tiger! Before you pack your whole closet, here’s a few tips for attending Chinese language summer programs. The summers in the coastal cities are often hot and humid, so be sure to pack lightly with shorts and T-shirts. You’re bound to experience downpours — umbrellas are a necessity! Be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes for your modern day explorations. Oh, and don’t forget bug spray for those pesky ‘skeeters!

If you happen to be in the Middle Kingdom at the beginning of summer break, don’t forget to check out the Dragon Boat Festival. This annual tradition is over 2,000 years old and honors Qu Yuan. Celebrate this festivity by drinking lots of realgar wine and eating plenty of zongzi (sticky rice cones). The best part is watching wooden boats — decorated like dragons — race each other to the sound of beating drums!

You’ll come head-to-head with a language barrier in China, so it’s highly recommended you make an effort to learn Mandarin during your Chinese summer programs. While you can get by with some English in the cities, you’ll find that you’ll be able to navigate the areas more smoothly with some conversational Chinese (particularly helpful when asking for directions and reading traffic signs), not to mention when you’re picking the flavor of your hot pot broth!

Summer Abroad Scholarships in China

May to August is a peak tourist season in China, so costs like accommodation and activities may be higher than usual. You’re in luck though because scholarships for summer study abroad in China run wild like bamboo. With a scholarship or two for your travels, you’ll be able to shāo qián — burn money — left and right right on that dim sum! Get your yuan on with a couple of these scholarships: 

  • TEAN Abroad offers a full ride scholarship for summer term with a value of up to $26,000! Applicants will need to meet the GPA of the program they’re in, and submit a one-page essay. The deadline for this scholarship is March 1st! 
  • IES Abroad provides summer study abroad scholarship of $1000! Applicants will need to be attending a university that is a member of the ISA Consortium and submit an application with a personal essay and a profile. 
  • API awards thousands of dollars every year to students from all backgrounds. The scope of API’s scholarships range from $200 to $750. 

The list for summer scholarships for summer programs in China may seem endless, so feel free to contact the program coordinator for recommendations. Apply early and often for scholarships you qualify for to meet the deadlines, and submit all of the required materials. To view a plethora of available summer scholarships in China, visit’s Scholarship Directory.

Benefits & Challenges

In your short time in China, you’ll pick up some Chinese phrases, develop international skills, and gain new perspectives. After taking a look at your resume, employers in every field will be impressed that you’re a productive person who spent a summer studying abroad in China, an influential country in global affairs, and learned how to speak Chinese. Plus, you might just become one with yourself (or the way) after learning some Chinese philosophy.

You’ll no doubt experience some culture shock when you go to China. While greeting people with a handshake will feel familiar, respect is highly valued, so address adults with their proper titles and avoid discussing sensitive political topics. Make sure your table manners are up to par while you’re there, as you don’t want to lose face (guān xi) while chowing down around those lazy-susan communal dinner tables!

While you might be left wondering why they still drink boiling-hot tea during the summer months, the list of super-fun activities for your summer in China exceeds the number of Chinese characters that exist. As Lao Tzu once (basically) said — a study abroad journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

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A Guide To
Summer Study Abroad in China


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