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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
You will register for your courses after arrival at your host institution and online through MyEAP. Registration processes will be covered by the Study Center during your on-site orientation.
The courses offered at the host institution vary each term and year. Online preregistration for classes in China is not possible for international (non‑degree) students. There are limited published course catalogs, but university departments increasingly have listings of their courses online. There is no universal standard of accuracy or thoroughness in this regard, and it is rare to find published schedules of classes much in advance of any given term.
At the beginning of each term, lists of courses are available in the individual departments. You must consult the list at the department; unless you are registered in that department, you may not duplicate or purchase it.
Detailed host university course information is not available in advance; therefore, if you want to take regular host university courses, you will need to wait until after arrival to get approval for your UC major or other requirements. Be patient and flexible with your course choices.
The Study Center can arrange for Chinese student tutors to provide assistance with homework. The tutor can answer questions, correct your writing, and serve as a general resource. The tutors are usually graduate students from the Chinese or English Departments. You must be proactive when working with a tutor; tutors are prepared to help explain what you do not understand, but they are not responsible for re-teaching course material. Past students have found their tutors to be helpful both with academic work and as a connection with Chinese society.
Host University vs. UC Courses
Make a special effort to adapt to the teaching style and requirements of your classes and do not assume that they will be as they are at UC. Approaches vary from teacher to teacher. The most common difference is that students have fewer opportunities for classroom participation; however, this is changing as increasing numbers of the faculty have spent periods of study or research abroad. Teachers generally assume that American students will raise issues; in some cases instructors even require student participation. Be sensitive to the cultural norms of Chinese teaching and the individual attitudes of instructors.
Even if you have a high level of Chinese language ability, expect to have some difficulty understanding Chinese university instructors, some of whom have regional accents, speak rapidly, or use specialized terminology. Approaching this situation as a challenge rather than a frustration will enhance your success and enjoyment in China.
In the language courses, you may find the Chinese teaching methodology different from UC. In some courses, there is more focus on memorizing conversations and reading drills than there is on freestyle speaking and conversations. The majority of the courses are also heavily focused on learning characters.
Exercise self-discipline and initiative, and organize your time and activities to give priority to your academic work. Your academic experience will depend on the interest and diligence you put into it. Be prepared to independently invest time and thought in each class. The course materials are likely to be less structured and less clearly outlined than in UC courses. Week-by-week syllabi with specific reading assignments are rare.
You must enroll in a minimum of 18 UC quarter units each semester.
The following tiers of language coursework are offered. Placement is based on the results of a test administered at the beginning of the semester.
If you have limited Chinese, you will take standard Chinese language classes through the International College for Chinese Language Studies (Hanyu Xueyuan). Classes are designed to improve spoken and written Chinese and teach Chinese culture and society. You have the option of taking only two courses, one in written Chinese (hanyu ke), and one in oral-aural Chinese (kouyuke), for a variable number of hours per week depending on the level. You may also enroll in Hanyu Xueyuan elective courses. In consultation with the Study Center, and with the assistance of the Foreign Student Office, UCEAP students studying in the Hanyu Xueyuan second term may be allowed to take up to three courses in other departments, centers, or colleges. Exercise caution if your level of Chinese is not advanced.
Placement in regular courses depends on the willingness of the department, center, or college to accept you, and on the availability of space in the desired courses.
The following courses are usually offered at various levels (through the Hanyu Xueyuan or the Chinese Department’s special courses for foreign students):
- Spoken Chinese: numerous levels from beginning to advanced; stresses practical and elevated fluency; classroom teaching is supplemented by experiential learning assignments
- Written Chinese: numerous levels from beginning to advanced; emphasis on fluency in reading contemporary materials
- Newspaper Chinese: selected readings on contemporary issues; intermediate and advanced levels
- Modern Literature (1911 to 1949): surveys and select readings
- Contemporary Literature (1949 to present): emphasis on short stories
- Classical Chinese: selected readings in literature from the pre-Qin period (about 200 BCE) to the 19th century, as well as the study of phonological and grammatical systems of classical and literary Chinese
- History of Chinese Literature: for students majoring in literature; course divided into ancient, modern, and contemporary periods
- Selected Readings in Chinese Literature: parallel course to the History of Chinese Literature; includes important literary works; emphasis on comprehension of texts with a brief account of authorship, as well as the historical and social background of the works
Additional courses on a variety of subjects may be available.
If you have Chinese language skills above the level offered by the International College for Chinese Language Studies (Hanyu Xueyuan) you can take courses through Peking University’s Chinese Department. Some courses are designed for foreigners and are taught in Chinese at a level more easily understood than regular university offerings.
Once your language ability is adequate (particularly by the second semester), you are encouraged to take regular university classes and conduct independent study projects.
If you have native or near-native Chinese ability or have approximately four years of university-level language study and high achievement scores on the language test, you are encouraged to take courses from the university’s regular offerings. (UCEAP requires only one year of Chinese because most students will be studying Chinese.) Past students have taken courses in the departments of Art, Biology, Chinese, Economics, History, Law, Literature, Philosophy, and Political Science. All courses are taught in standard Chinese. The Study Center hires local students as tutors to help with regular university courses.
By the end of each semester, the course list and information for the following term will be posted online by departments. You can register for regular courses only after you pass the language placement test at the beginning of the semester. If you pass this test, you can obtain an introduction letter from the Foreign Students Office to the department or college to which you apply. You can then get course information from the department or college to which you are accepted. In general, you can take courses in only one department or one college, plus some “public” electives open to all PKU students. Those who study in regular departments or colleges may enroll in one or two courses offered by the International College for Chinese Language Studies (Hanyu Xueyuan), space permitting.
Coursework in English
There are a limited number of courses taught in English that you may take with the instructor’s permission. Information on courses taught in English is usually not available until after arrival.
Internships for academic credit, called UCEAP Special Study Projects, require a substantial academic component in addition to the work with the sponsoring organization.
Volunteer, non-credit (and usually non-paid) internships may be arranged by enterprising students. If you are interested in seeking an internship, set aside time to research the Internet on possible options before leaving the U.S., and be sure to bring your résumé to distribute. Many organizations (with the possible exception of those with English-teaching positions) are looking for students with Chinese language ability who will be in Beijing more than a few months. Thus, students on the year programs may have an easier time finding internships.
UCEAP students have worked at such high-profile Beijing organizations as CNN, the U.S. Embassy, Disney, and Beijing Television, or with such non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as UNESCO and the United Nations World Food Program. In the past, the U.S. Commercial Service office in Beijing has sought interns to conduct market research reports, to research specific industries, and to work on other projects as needed. Some students find opportunities to teach English at various schools and professional language training centers. The UCEAP Study Center may be able to suggest appropriate possibilities based on previous internships held by UC students and a list of American firms operating in Beijing.
At Peking University, if you miss more than 25 percent of a language course, you will not be permitted to take the final exam and will not receive credit for the course, thereby receiving an “F” grade.
Although practices vary, regular university courses usually have one midterm exam and one final exam or written report. Most instructors do not give frequent short quizzes, although some do. Homework may or may not be graded, but you will be penalized if you miss assignments or submit poor or incomplete homework.
Attendance is taken in Chinese language classes, and absences result in a lower or failing grade. Attendance policies are determined by the school and the instructor; it is your responsibility to know the policy for each course.
Exams in the language curriculum often are made up by staff, not necessarily in close consultation with the teacher. Tests are standardized for each level and may not always cover material exactly as it was provided in class.
In regular university courses outside the language curriculum, the tests are made up by the instructor. The instructor may permit an international student to do a term paper in lieu of the final exam or allow a longer period for writing the exam. At the beginning of classes, inform your instructors about your status as an exchange student. In general, tests require more rote memorization than UC exams.
Exam dates are not negotiable; they cannot be changed.
Questioning an instructor about your test scores or grades in China must be done very delicately if at all. First discuss your concerns and questions with the UCEAP Study Center.
Final grades for this program are usually available in late September.
For more information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Improve Your Language Skills
The more standard Chinese (Putonghua) you know before departure for China, the more rewarding your time abroad will be.
- Get familiar with pinyin Romanization and simplified characters.
- Look at textbooks used in China—such as Elementary Chinese Reader or Intermediate Hanyu Duben—to study simplified characters.
- Spend 45 minutes a day or at least five sessions a week working to improve your written and spoken Chinese.
- Read aloud anything in Chinese for 20 minutes at a time. Read progressively faster, striving for correct pronunciation.
- Watch Chinese movies and listen to Chinese music.
- Find Chinese-speaking language partners and practice speaking with them.
- Keep a diary in Chinese.
- Keep a journal of Chinese phrases, expressions, whole sentences, and a collection of structures.
- Practice Chinese phrases picked up from conversation and reading.
- Read Chinese newspapers and magazines using a dictionary.
- Read two books in Chinese, one fiction and one non-fiction.
- Read a book in Chinese in your major.
- Practice writing about your major field in Chinese, using simplified characters.
"Switching from complex characters to simplified characters took time and effort. But once I made the effort, it all fell into place and I now think the simplified characters are easier to read and write." - UCEAP Student
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
Travel to Your Host Country
There is no UCEAP group flight to China. You must book your own flight and any other travel arrangements. You are strongly urged to purchase changeable airline tickets. Standby tickets are not appropriate for UCEAP students. Even if you are on full financial aid, you are responsible for reserving and purchasing your plane ticket to China. The Financial Aid Office will not make these reservations or payments for you. When traveling always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money with you. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Student Budget for the program. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student fare to your host country. If your independent travel costs are greater than the airfare estimate in the UCEAP Student Budget, notify your financial aid counselors. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid Office can guarantee that the additional cost will be funded by financial aid.
The duration of the “X2” visa can be up to 180 days, at the discretion of the consulate. It does not require a physical health exam at the time of application.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
If you do not make round-trip arrangements, be sure to book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase a ticket that allows changes to the return date.
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
At PKU, there is an ATM in the lobby of the hotel in Building 1 of Zhongguan Xin Yuan, a two-minute walk from the dorms in Buildings 4 and 6. On campus, there is a Bank of China international ATM beside the underground supermarket “WuMei” on campus, which is south of Shaoyuan. Off campus, HSBC ATMs can be found in the Carrefour supermarket, south of the campus.
UCEAP students strongly recommend that you take your laptop to China. Chinese software can be purchased easily in China.
Laptops usually come with a transformer that works on either 120V or 220V without modification. If you need to buy a transformer; a good one will cost about $50.
Be aware that the Chinese government restricts access to a range of Internet sites, including common ones such as YouTube, Facebook, and Blogger, among others. The list of blocked sites changes frequently.
Every PKU international student dorm room has Internet access if you bring a computer. Wireless Internet services are available on campus. You will need a WiFi enabled laptop to access the wireless network. The Internet fee is a flat rate of RMB 90 per month.
You are required to register with local authorities within 24 hours whenever your housing changes, even if you are sleeping on a friend’s sofa for two weeks. If you do not follow proper registration requirements, you may experience difficulties with local police or other authorities and you may be fined. UCEAP will not assist you in this matter.
You will have your own bedroom in Zhongguan Xin Yuan (ZGXY), an international students’ dormitory across the street from PKU. Each suite has a telephone, Internet access, air-conditioning, a closet, a small shared sitting room with a color TV and dining table, and a shared bathroom. Two sets of bedding will be provided. A housing application will be included in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist.
You are responsible for paying a deposit and the total cost of the room to ZGXY upon arrival. Payment can be made in cash (RMB) or by credit card (Discover, MasterCard, Visa). You may be allowed a three-day grace period to submit the full payment. If you move out early, you can obtain an immediate cash refund for unused days if you originally paid in cash; if you paid by credit card, it may take up to one month for the refund.
Financial aid will not make housing payments on your behalf. Financial aid offices report financial aid commitments to UCEAP. These funds are applied to the UCEAP student account. If there is a credit balance, UCEAP will request a disbursement based on the UCEAP financial aid disbursement schedule.
Be cautious when using “private” agents to help you find housing. UCEAP recommends that you consult with the Study Center before making a deposit or entering into any agreement to avoid scams.
Under most circumstances, the fuwuyuan (service people, including desk clerks at dorm entrances, janitors, and other dorm personnel) do not enter the students’ rooms except to clean. Break-ins are rare, but do happen, and are often the result of people neglecting to lock their doors. Some desks have locking drawers in which to keep valuables. Remember to lock your valuables, including passports and residence permits. You are advised to take a lock or two for extra security. A hard-side suitcase with locks is another good way to protect your valuables. UCEAP recommends that you travel with copies of your important documents and leave the originals locked up safely.
A limited but comfortable wardrobe is most practical in China. Laundry detergent has improved in China, and Tide with bleach is available. Without bleach, white clothing looks gray after a few washes. Delicate items can often be ruined in washing machines or dryers, so you may want to hand-wash special items. Dry cleaning is not up to international standards, although it is acceptable.
Each dorm has laundry rooms with coin- or card-operated washing machines. Since the air in the rooms is dry during the winter, clothes hung in the room can dry overnight. Summer is humid and drying takes longer.
At ZGXY, there is a laundry room with washers and dryers on most floors.
Do not drink tap water. Take (or buy after arrival) a heavy duty bottle that can hold boiling water without melting. Hot water usually is available in the dorms from 6 a.m. until midnight. Boiled water for drinking is not available before 8 a.m., so be sure to fill a thermos the night before. In some dormitories, hot water is provided in thermoses and refilled daily.
Bottled water is available everywhere, and past students have purchased an office-type water cooler (with five-gallon bottles and a water delivery service) to share at inexpensive prices.
In addition to Chinese and international student cafeterias where students take most of their meals, there are many small eateries both on and off campus that serve Chinese meals for a reasonable price. In Beijing, Western, Japanese, Korean, and American fast food (KFC, California Noodle King, McDonald’s, and Napoli Pizza) are available.
An array of fresh produce, meat, and vegetables is available at several local markets. While produce prices are sometimes marked on the stalls, this should not deter you from bargaining; at any rate, never pay more than the stipulated price. Often, those who do not speak Chinese well or who appear to be foreign will be charged more—but you should bargain. You can find a large variety of staples, including grains and spices, at various markets.
There are several student cafeterias on campus and countless food stalls and restaurants in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. Although cooking in the rooms is prohibited, many students cook on hot plates in specially provided rooms on each floor. You must be careful to not leave anything in the cooking rooms unattended. Pots, pans, spoons, ingredients, and anything else left unattended will be stolen. Many students in the cheaper dorms keep refrigerators outside their rooms.
There are six large Chinese student cafeterias on campus. With your student ID, you can obtain a cafeteria IC card, which permits use of the student cafeterias but charges a 15 percent service fee. For those who want Western food, there are KFCs, Pizza Huts, and McDonald’s all around campus. There are also Korean, Japanese, and American restaurants within walking distance to campus.
There are two big gymnasiums (Wu Si and Er Ti) and many outdoor sports facilities on campus. The tennis court is just opposite Shaoyuan Building 7. Make a reservation using your student ID each time. The newly opened underground fitness center inside the Science Building Complex is excellent. The gym card costs about RMB 90 per month with your student discount. There is a large swimming pool on campus at the southeast corner of the university. West of campus, there is a gym and a swimming pool at Haidian gymnasium (Haidian Tiyu Guan). There are also many gyms around PKU and Wudaokou. They offer a monthly membership.
Students with Disabilities
Homosexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are not generally addressed under current Chinese laws. Homosexuality was decriminalized in China in 1997, but there are no civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Prejudices and discrimination still exist in many parts of the country. Same sex marriages are not legally recognized in China and local authorities will not provide marriage certificates to same sex couples. There are growing LGBT communities in some of China’s largest cities and violence against LGBT individuals in China is relatively rare.
For information on LGBTIQ Travel, access the U.S. Department of State, LGBT Travelers page and the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Diversity section.
BNU, PKU, and Tsinghua have clinics that handle normal maladies and routine emergencies. PKU has a hospital by the northeast corner of the campus. Tsinghua University Hospital is located on the far west side of campus (about one mile southwest of the dorms) and provides both outpatient clinic and hospitalization services to the faculty, staff and students.
UCEAP strongly recommends that you have an emergency credit card on hand or quick access to cash in case of an emergency.
Speak with returnees and gather as much information as possible before you leave for China. If you are currently seeing a specialist for a psychological health condition, meet with the specialist to make sure that you have a plan in place if you need to reach out to local resources.
"It’s a huge culture shock and you have to be open-minded in order to get the most out of your experience here. Don’t hesitate to ask people for help, even if your Chinese is horrible." - UCEAP Student
Living abroad can be stressful. Do not be surprised to think, “It’s not what I expected.” Expect the unexpected and beware of romanticized preconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Life in China, fast-paced as it is, involves crowds, noise, and a foreign surrounding. Ask for insight from locals, acknowledge this as a valuable learning experience, and be open and accepting of the differences you encounter. You will grow to understand and appreciate China more, and it will make your stay more enjoyable as you begin to adapt to your new environment.
"Be prepared to be shocked. China is not for the weak. Expect to grow up a lot, to learn about the world and other people." - UCEAP Student
You may expect to quickly adapt to the new culture—and you need to adjust rapidly to effectively meet the academic demands of the program. However, the many cultural differences that seem exciting to you at first can also be distressing and quickly lead to feelings of misunderstanding, loneliness, and culture shock. Culture shock and homesick feelings are normal. They are usually transitory—lasting a couple of weeks—and do not imply mental illness or an inability to cope. Most students who experience culture shock function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life. It is easy to become worn down from physical and mental stress due to the vastly different environment. To counter this, adjust your expectations, eat well and drink plenty of water, get plenty of rest, and share any concerns with the Study Center.
For diversion, students find that some sort of regular activity, whether with an interest group like a chorus or hiking club, or study of traditional dance or calligraphy, offers an outlet for practicing Chinese and getting a break from textbooks.
The UCEAP Insurance Plan
covers outpatient visits as any other illness up to $500,000; there is no co-pay or deductible, and you can make an appointment with any doctor.
If you wear contact lenses, take the prescription and a pair of glasses with you in case the heat or the city environment makes contacts uncomfortable. If you find you can wear contacts in China, they are readily available at half the U.S. price in all brands and colors. Various brands of saline solutions, daily cleaners, and enzyme removers are also available.
"If you wear contact lenses, take a pair of glasses with you." - UCEAP Student
Dehydration can be a particular problem during travel. Listen to your body and learn to recognize the signs that you are not getting enough fluids.
China’s water supplies are often inadequate and many are polluted. All water in China must be boiled or treated before drinking. Most dorms and hotels have boiled water available for drinking (for tea, or plain, after it cools).
Do not consume tap water, fountain drinks, or ice cubes. Never drink unboiled water. Boiled water or bottled water is the best choice. Take (or buy after arrival) a heavy duty water bottle that can hold boiling water without melting. Cholera is active throughout the country. You must observe precautions.
There are steps you can take to manage or minimize risk. Stop and think. Inform yourself of risks you can encounter while traveling.Talk to returnees and learn firsthand the things to avoid. Follow the Study Center staff advice. Remain aware of your surroundings.Cell phones and Ipods can be distracting. When you remain aware of your surroundings your instinct will alert you to conditions or persons that are potentially unsafe. Trust your instincts.
Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China. Cab drivers and businesses have given many people, not just tourists, counterfeit currency. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you.
Some merchants will switch a large bill with a counterfeit bill and return it to you, claiming that you passed them the counterfeit bill. If you must pay with RMB 100 bills, it may be useful to note the last few serial numbers before paying in case they get switched. There have been cases of people receiving counterfeit bills from free-standing ATMs. Use only ATMs at financial institutions or those recommended by the Study Center.
There are strictly enforced laws which prohibit demonstrations without prior approval from the government. If arrested, you could be jailed or deported.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Develop sound emergency exit procedures for your dorm and other public buildings. For student protection, outside doors may be locked overnight and first floor windows often have bars over them. There are building staff on duty both day and night who will unlock doors and help to evacuate people in case of an emergency. However, you must survey the situation in your own dorm area regularly and develop at least two workable exit routes.
Many locals do not speak English, so it is important to have a good phrase book and dictionary. Keep a card with your local contact information written in Chinese. This will help direct non-English speaking taxi drivers to the right location. It can also be useful to have other pertinent information translated to keep with you: places you plan to visit and information for local contacts, and emergency contact information.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP officials.
Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Warning after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override any host institution, or local US Embassy voluntary departure on U.S. government-arranged flights, that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP, is covered by UCEAP insurance (there is no cost to the student). UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
Natural disasters are common in China. The tropical cyclone season in China normally runs from May to November, affecting the south eastern coastal regions of China. The Japan Meteorological Agency
and the China Meteorological Administration
provide information and forecasts (in English) about approaching storms in the region. Areas along the Yangtze River occasionally flood, with large losses of life and property. The North China area around Beijing and Tianjin is subject to earthquakes.
China is a seismically active country, and earthquakes occur throughout the country.
Parts of central, southern and western China, particularly those bordering the Yangtze River experienced severe flooding in June 2011. Heavy rains also triggered landslides in Zhejiang and Hubei provinces. If travelling to the area monitor local weather reports and follow any evacuation orders issued by the local authorities.
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Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.