Is it required to know or have studied Chinese to be in the Study Abroad in China program?

No, there are no Chinese language prerequisites to study abroad at TBC. However all students must be enrolled in a Chinese language course while attending TBC’s study abroad in China program.

How many students participate in the program each semester?

The Beijing Center typically enrolls 20-40 students each semester. Students come from colleges and universities in the US and China, as well as some international institutions.

How do I get my courses approved?

All visiting students should speak to their home institution’s study abroad office or review their website to learn the procedure for course approvals. Usually, you will need to provide a course description or syllabus to a faculty member or Dean for approval. If this is the case you will find syllabi for all our courses on the Courses webpage.

Are there any volunteer or service opportunities in Beijing?

Over the years, volunteer opportunities have been an important part of the TBC experience. Volunteering and service allow a deeper immersion experience and the opportunity to give back to the community. Examples of past options include: teaching English to rural migrant children, leading play sessions with the children at an orphanage, or visiting with young children affected by cerebral palsy.

Is Beijing a safe city?

Beijing is a very safe city; however, as with all destinations, students should always be aware of their surroundings and personal belongings. Citizens are not allowed to own guns, and violent crime is not a common occurrence. All students are expected to register with their home embassy to receive news and safety alerts. TBC operates an emergency response plan for emergencies/crises.

Is the air pollution really that bad?

Beijing’s air quality is often reported in the news as very low quality. The pollution in Beijing can be difficult to work with but an important thing to note is that when there are “bad” air quality days they generally only last 3-4 days at a time. There are many days and weeks, throughout the semester, that the air is clear and there are few issues with quality. All TBC students are provided with masks in Beijing to help with the pollution on days when it reaches high levels. Additionally in 2016, TBC invested in a high-tech remotely-controlled air filtration system throughout all of our public spaces (classrooms, library, student lounges and staff offices), as well as an upgrading and sealing of windows, doors and air-conditioning systems. With this system, TBC’s public spaces will conform to the strictest World Health Organization standards of keeping harmful “PM2.5” (microscopic and harmful particulate matter which can enter the bloodstream) under 10 µg/m3. This is far lower than China’s own interim goal of PM2.5 of 35 µg/m3 and the US standard of 12 µg/m3, and is considered a world-wide safe level. During our on-site orientation students are given all the necessary tools and information for how to cope with the pollution in Beijing.

Keep in mind, millions of people live in Beijing and work through the air quality issues their entire lives, so four months of study in Beijing is manageable for all of our students. We have had students with allergies and asthma, as well as other respiratory issues attend the program without any major issues or health conflicts. If you have severe respiratory issues of a history of chronic breathing issues you should speak to your doctor for a recommendation on study abroad in Beijing.

What is it like to live in a Communist country?

Living in a communist country doesn’t necessarily feel very different than living in a country with a democratic political system. People go to work, spend time with their family, go out to eat with friends, go on a date at the cinema, etc. One of the more obvious differences is Internet censorship, which is enforced through “The Great Firewall” (and can be managed with a good VPN). In other aspects of your life in China, you may feel the difference in subtle ways: laws are often closely followed, many businesses are state-owned, and loyalty to country is a way of life. All in all China is an extremely safe and easy place to live, especially for law-abiding foreigners.

How is the food and water quality in Beijing?

Many restaurants do not rely on refrigeration so food is fresh and cooked daily, with ingredients often gathered daily from local markets. Tap water is not drinkable, for locals and foreigners alike, thus you will not have to worry about it being served in a restaurant. Bottled water is very cheap and available everywhere. Water is provided for students during office hours in the Student Life office.

Will I be able to attend religious services?

For many students, studying abroad in China will not only be a time for intellectual growth, but for spiritual growth as well. TBC is well prepared to provide students spiritual direction, guidance, the sacrament of reconciliation, and to celebrate mass. We offer a weekly Catholic mass service in English open only to members of the TBC community. You will also find several Protestant churches, Buddhist, Jewish and Taoist temples, and Muslim mosques. Check with the Counselor, your embassy, or in any of the expat magazines for addresses and service schedules.

Do I need to get any vaccines?

No vaccines are required for China; however several are recommended: Hepatitis A vaccine for all students and the Typhoid vaccine for students studying in the spring semester. Normally you will not need malaria or rabies vaccine where the group travels but it is best to check with your doctor or the Center for Disease Control for the most recent updates.

Will I have time to travel independently?

TBC includes two weeks of travel during the Academic Excursion at the beginning of each semester. There will be short periods of time each semester during the national holidays when students can travel independently. Travel around China has become increasingly easier with new bullet trains. It is important to note that students who wish to leave mainland China during the semester must purchase another visa entry to return to China.

How much money should I plan on bringing with me and in what form?

Budgeting money for a semester in China depends largely on personal preferences. Our students average spending falls into 1000-3000 USD per semester. U.S. amenities and restaurants can be found all over Beijing, but come with a premium price tag. We encourage our students to find a balance between the comforts of home and exploring the local Chinese options, which are less expensive. Please see our estimated living expenses for a sample budget.

In order to bring money to China many students bring their U.S. debit cards and withdraw Chinese money from ATMs in China. There are several ATMs on UIBE’s campus. Credit cards use is increasing in China but many places are still cash only establishments. Be sure to alert your bank that you are traveling internationally and are aware of the types of fees that your bank charges for foreign ATM use and transaction fees.

How do I apply?

All students who wish to attend The Beijing Center should complete our online application. For information about application requirements, deadlines please visit our Admission page.

I heard that certain websites are blocked in China, how will I be able to talk with my friends and family back home?

This is true that certain websites like Gmail and Facebook are blocked. We recommend that you download a VPN before you leave your home country. These are usually paid subscriptions for your computer. Some VPN apps are available for free on phones.

WeChat is a social media app that is very popular in China. It is the primary source of communication, and can be used for a variety of things such as purchasing train tickets, ordering taxis, and much, much more. We recommend that you wait to download it until you arrive and have a Chinese phone number because creating an account with a non-Chinese phone number will limit its functionality. You may want to have your family and friends download it for the smoothest possible communication.

Will I be able to use my phone?

Each phone carrier is different so you need to check with them. We do recommend purchasing a Chinese SIM card once you arrive (Student Life will assist with this during orientation week). If you have a GSM phone, you can easily switch the SIM card. Phone usage prices are relatively cheap in China, and if you have an iPhone, iMessage is a good way to communicate with people back home who do not have WeChat.