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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.
The spring program at Tsinghua University offers coursework taught in English or Chinese in a variety of disciplines but primarily in the fields of engineering, economics, and business.
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 vary each 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
Under this new program, you may conduct guided research work in Tsinghua laboratories, primarily those associated with the life sciences and electronic engineering departments. You may also attend courses in the Tsinghua School of Business.
If you want to take Chinese language courses you will be placed in courses provided by the Department of Chinese Language and Literature. Those who wish to focus exclusively on Chinese language study will be placed in the International Center for Chinese Language and Culture of Tsinghua.
Internships for academic credit, called UCEAP Special Study Projects, require a substantial academic component in addition to the work with the sponsoring organization. See the Academic Information chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
for additional details on academic internships.
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.
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. The Beijing Study Center provides you with a “Things You Want the Director to Know,” form on which you may record information about the courses. The form is later used to notify the Study Center Director about special circumstances that may affect your performance and grade. If there is a problem, you may need to show the Study Center your tests, homework, textbooks, and other evidence.
Grades for this program were received in mid-August for its first year. We would expect to recieve them around the same time.
For more information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Drugs and Alcohol
Never feel pressured to drink. The Study Center can help you to devise polite and friendly ways to avoid drinking without avoiding the camaraderie associated with drinking. Being under the influence of alcohol is the single biggest risk to your safety while here, as it can lead you to make poor decisions.
If you are of legal age and choose to drink, you are advised to use good judgment; do not display any intoxicated behavior in public places. If you abuse alcohol, behave in a disorderly manner, or cause problems for your housing or host university, you will face disciplinary action by UCEAP.
“Giving face” (i.e., giving due respect) is a very important concept in China. You must give others the appropriate respect according to rank and seniority. Chinese people show great respect for others. In practice this means that they do not speak loudly or play radios, stereos, TV, or musical instruments so loud as to disturb neighbors. A useful rule of thumb to follow is that if noise can be heard outside of the walls of your room, it is too loud.
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
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
At Tsinghua, ATMs can be found on campus at the Zijingyuan Dinning Hall, Taoliyuan Dinning Hall, Tingtaoyuan Dining Hall, Guanchouyuan Dining Plaza, Zijing Student Apartment Buildings No.4, 5 and 6, the Post Office, and all four banking facilities. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, and the Bank of Beijing, are located in Zhaolanyuan Shopping Center in the southern part of campus. The Bank of China, located in the Zijing Student Service Center (Building C), provides services for deposit and exchange of foreign currencies.
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.
International student dorm rooms on campus have Internet access. Students can apply for an internet account after registration and will need a computer with a network card and cable to connect to the Internet. There is a RMB 90 fee for unlimited internet access.
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.
International students live on campus in the Zijing Apartments. There are three types of rooms available: single (private room and private bathroom), AB (shared room and shared bathroom), and double (shared room and communal bathroom). Each room is furnished and includes a television, telephone, bedding, and Internet access.
A housing application will be included in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist. Room assignments are subject to availability.
You are responsible for paying a deposit and the total cost of the room to Zijing upon arrival. Payment can be made in cash (RMB) or by credit card (MasterCard, Visa).
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 Tsinghua, communal laundry facilities are available on each floor of the dorms. Dry cleaners can be found in the Zhaolanyuan Shopping Center located at the southern part of campus and outside the East Gate in Wudaokou.
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 over ten student cafeterias on campus that are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Both Chinese and western cuisines are available. After you arrive at Tsinghua, you can apply for a dining card at the Food & Beverage Service Center. The dining card is the only form of payment accepted at most student cafeterias and can be reloaded. There is a 15 percent service fee.
Various sports facilities are available on campus, including an indoor swimming and diving gymnasium, West Lake outdoor swimming pool, comprehensive gymnasium (badminton, table tennis, basketball, and gymnastics), West gymnasium (badminton, basketball, volleyball, and billiards), West Sports Field, East Sports Field, and Zijing Sports Complex (basketball, tennis, volleyball, and soccer). A fee is charged for certain locations.
Students with Disabilities
On a student visa, exchange students are not permitted to work in China. Working illegally is not endorsed or supported by UCEAP and can result in your arrest and prosecution for breaking the law. However, many students find unpaid or academic internships, which provide interesting résumé-building experiences.
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.
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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.