Xi’an was China’s ancient capital when the Qin Emperor first unified China in 221 BC. He built a mausoleum with an army of warriors sculpted out of terracotta to keep him company in the afterlife. Today, the Army of Terracotta Warriors is a must-see (easily accessible by tour bus about an hour outside the city). With its long history — numerous temples, pagodas, palaces, and museums — modern conveniences, and highly respected universities, students will be making an excellent choice to study abroad in Xi’an.
How to Study Abroad in Xi’an
Xi’an is a good base for looking at China’s Western region policies and challenges and the increasing economic and political links with Eurasia. The magnificent Shaanxi History Museum as well as the amazing Terracotta Warriors Museum can play important roles in a study-abroad program in Xi’an.
Popular Subjects to Study. Students can choose to take courses in Xi’an in everything from business to liberal arts. The city’s long history — including as the capital in the Tang Dynasty (a period of high culture in 618-907 AD) — makes studying Mandarin, Chinese history, and Chinese culture great subjects for interacting with the city’s resources. Most of the programs are immersive and experiential, so you’ll have several opportunities to visit companies and landmarks.
Short Term vs. Summer vs. Long Term Programs. You can choose to study in Xi’an as short as a spring break and May term and as long as a full academic year — which is ideal for those who want to learn to speak Chinese. Many programs are also offered in the fall (best time to visit Cuihua Mountain) or spring (visit Mount Huashan for amazing views). U.S.-based universities often arrange their own faculty-led study-abroad programs in Xi’an for the summer, or (less commonly) the winter sessions.
Attending Universities vs. Other Program Types. Programs for international students can be found either directly through their own university or specially enhanced by third-party providers. Some students might choose to directly enroll in Xi’an Jiaotong University or one of its many other higher education institutions. Talk to your university study abroad advisor to help you determine your goals and credit needs before choosing a study abroad Xi’an program that will be the right fit for you.
Student Life in Xi'an
The Xi’an urban area has 8.5 million residents and is one of the few complete city walls left in a major Chinese city — in fact, it’s possible to cycle right around the top of the wall. The inner city is busy and relatively compact with many bus routes and the first stage of the new metro system in operation. Modern Xi’an has a newly refurbished international airport and, apart from agriculture and tourism as its major industries, its location at the start of the Silk Road in China has helped it to develop as a hi-tech and aeronautic center.
Although entrance to several major museums is free, it’s recommended to see more than just Xi’an. Students can travel farther West into the heavily agricultural-based Gansu Province, explore the Hexi Corridor, head South to Chengdu and the famous Panda Reserve in Sichuan Province, or head east to Beijing to compare historic capitals. Overnight sleeper trains provide good value. It’s always advisable to check if such travel opportunities are included in your Xi’an study-abroad program.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
As it is a provincial capital, Xi’an has lower costs of living than do the Eastern municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai. This is reflected in restaurant prices, taxi fares, and hotel costs. Taxis can be a bit of a hassle at first, but they’re the best way to get to where you need to go in the fastest amount of time. The pace of life will seem a little slower than in the China megacities, and there is a limited late-night life.
Food in and around university campuses is inexpensive, and local students often dine from perfectly acceptable street food carts and stalls. You won’t want to skip out on eating jianbing guozi (fried cake) at one of the street vendors for a delicious breakfast! Not to mention trying biangbiang noodles, baijiu ancient liquor, and handmade mooncakes. There are street markets, supermarkets, and famous cuisine such as the Xi’an-style hotpot and “dumpling banquets” — some of the latter are aimed at tourists with a bigger budget.
From marveling at the fountain show at the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda to exploring the temple at Mount Li, the ancient historical vibes of China will give you goosebumps and send shivers of delight down your spine. Whether you’re cooling off with lianpi cold rice noodles or snapping pics of snow-covered architecture, you’ll never run out of things to do and see in Xi’an no matter what time of year you visit. Studying in Xi’an is an excellent opportunity to pick up skills in speaking Mandarin, trying out calligraphy, and learning about ancient architecture.