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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 year program at Peking University (PKU) begins with a required summer intenstive language program (ILP) at Beijing Normal university (BNU).
Summer Intensive Language Program (ILP)
The purpose of the ILP is to raise your language skills to a level at which you can best take advantage of the course offerings during the academic year. Writing and conversational courses are offered at several levels of elementary, intermediate, and advanced Chinese language. You will take a language proficiency test at the beginning of the ILP administered by BNU’s College of Chinese Language and Culture. The test assesses listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and determines placement. You may place into different levels for writing and conversation.
- Language placement text
- 12 UC quarter/8 UC semester units (two courses worth 6 UC quarter units each)
- Letter grades for both courses; the pass/no pass option is not permitted
You may use the variable unit option to reduce units (with no reduction in course load) to no fewer than 3 UC quarter units.
Cultural activities and excursions supplement the classes. Non-credit elective courses are usually available in such areas as calligraphy, Wushu (martial arts), and Chinese cooking. Weekend excursions scheduled by the Study Center may include a weekend trip outside Beijing and various cultural activities around Beijing.
Following the ILP you have a one- to two-week break before the fall semester at Peking University begins.
The year program offers several tiers of coursework in either Chinese language study or regular PKU courses taught in Chinese. Placement in a specific tier is based on the results of a test as the beginning of the semester after the ILP. See the course information section below for information about the individual tiers.
- Language placement exam
- 18 UC quarter units/12 UC semester units per term. The number of courses will vary depending on your tier.
The Study Center can arrange for Chinese student tutors to provide assistance with both Chinese language or regular PKU courses. 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.
Chinese in mainland China is taught using pinyin Romanization and standard simplified Chinese characters. Placement exams, texts, newspapers, and signage are in simplified characters. If your background is in traditional script (complex characters), you are urged to prepare for this adjustment.
- You will attend classes with UC BNU fall and Peking year students.
- Classes are with UC students only.
- Class size averages between 10 and 20 students.
- Classes meet in the mornings for four hours per day, five days a week over the six weeks for a total of 120 hours.
- One class focuses on conversation and listening; the other on reading and writing.
- Tutors provide individual or group tutoring in the afternoons or evenings.
The following tiers of language coursework are offered.
If you have limited Chinese (less than two years), 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Do not expect to have enough free time to pursue an internship during the summer ILP.
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.
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
"Try to leave behind your Western notions of the world and try to think of new behaviors in Chinese terms. It will make you more understanding and tolerant." - UCEAP Student
Improve Your Language Skills
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
Travel to Your Host Country
All PKU year students will apply for a residence permit in China after arrival. However, you must first apply for either the “X” or the “F” visa in the U.S. prior to departure.
To receive the Residence Permit, students must complete and the pass the physical health exam
required by the Chinese government. The Residence Permit process costs about RMB 400-900 and takes 2-3 weeks to process. With a Residence Permit, you can leave China and re-enter as long as your Residence Permit is valid, with no need for a re-entry permit.
The “X” visa is granted for one year at a time and requires completion of a physical health exam in the U.S. prior to submitting your visa application to the Chinese Consulate. You must report to the Visa Section of the Public Security Bureau within the first 30 days in China to apply for a Residence Permit.
The duration of the “F” 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. Students that apply for the “F” visa must switch to the “X” visa, complete a physical health exam, and apply for a Residence Permit in China at the start of the fall term.
The Chinese Consulate will be inclined to give you the “X” visa based on the program dates listed on your acceptance documents. If they will not give you the “F” visa, there is nothing UCEAP can do to help. You will need to obtain the “X” visa and complete the physical health exam in the U.S. If you have health insurance (ex. SHIP), pay attention to when your coverage ends and check appointment availability.
You cannot leave the academic program before your exams are officially over. Remember that Christmas is not a national holiday in China. You are not permitted to ask for a change in exam dates to accommodate your holiday travel schedule or because of non-refundable plane tickets. Year students may travel only after first semester exams are officially over and must return to Beijing for spring term according to dates set by the Study Center. See the program calendar on the UCEAP website
for departure dates.
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
At BNU, there is a Bank of China international ATM south of the Lanhui Gongyu dorm. There is another ATM beside the east gate of BNU (on campus). You can find HSBC ATMs about four to five blocks from the BNU campus (near Carrefour). Other international ATMs are located wherever foreigners frequent, such as the Lufthansa Center or the China World Hotel.
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.
Each BNU dorm room for international students has Internet access. If you take a laptop, you can open an Internet account with your student ID for a monthly fee of about RMB 60. There are also two computer labs on the BNU campus available for an hourly fee. The Beijing Study Center will help you set up a BNU Internet account upon arrival. It takes about a week to complete the process.
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.
Card-activated telephones are located in the BNU and PKU dorm rooms. Cards can be bought in many places both on and around campus, and students should look for cards with better deals. You can always buy the IP cards for less than their printed value. Most students buy cell phones after arrival.
Summer Intensive Language Program (ILP)
During the summer, you will live at BNU in an on-campus dormitory for international students in double rooms (two UC students to a room). The newly renovated Lanhui Gongyu dorm offers a daily cleaning service, frequent sheet laundry, and all bedding and sheets are provided. Rooms have private bathrooms with a shower and toilet, TV, air-conditioning, and a small safe for storing valuables. Each room in the Lanhui Gongyu has two beds, two desks and lamps, a small refrigerator, bookshelf space, and a wardrobe closet. There is a card-activated telephone in each room that you can use to make off-campus calls within the city. With a calling card purchased in China (such as the IP card), you can also use the room phone to make international calls. Most students buy cell phones after arrival. You cannot cook in the rooms in the Lanhui Gongyu.
All UC students are housed in the same dorm (often with entire floors dedicated to UC students). UC students are assigned other UC students as roommates. Since there is no housing application for the summer, it is not possible to request a specific roommate. However, if you arrive at the same time as a friend on the program, you can request to live together, or you may ask for specific UC roommate assignments during check-in.
You are responsible for paying a deposit and the total cost of the room to Lanhui Gongyu in cash (RMB) immediately upon arrival at check-in or within five business days after the check-in. Travelers checks and credit cards are not accepted. The amount you need to pay will be given in the UCEAP Predeparture Checklist in the spring.
You will live in a foreign student dorm on or off campus. The housing options form will be provided by the Study Center for you to fill out during the summer. Since Peking University cannot accommodate all students in their first choice dormitories, flexibility is a must. In the dormitories, you may room with students from other countries, or, depending on the dorm, pay extra for a single room.
When it comes to housing at PKU, you get what you pay for. The most inexpensive rooms contain two beds, two desks, two bookshelves, closet space for each person, and Internet access, but they do not have air-conditioning. Bed linens are provided and are regularly changed. There are card-activated telephones in each room. The rooms are slightly dark and plain, with plaster walls and polished concrete floors. Rooms are heated in the winter starting in early November.
Many of the more expensive rooms are better furnished and resemble hotels, offering private rooms with Internet connections, private bathroom, and living room. The rooms are furnished with basic necessities (bed, desk, bookshelves). Unfortunately, it is very difficult to reserve a room in these dorms; space is limited and demand is high. There is a restaurant in the more expensive dorm building as well as a convenience store and laundry facilities.
In Buildings 6 and 8 at Shaoyuan (the foreigners’ complex), there are two- and three-room suites that have private baths and living rooms. They include basic cleaning services as well as clean sheets and bedding. Bathrooms are shared with one or two other people. Year students can also apply for Zhongguan Xin Yuan (ZGXY), which is where the summer PKU students stay. These rooms are in relatively short supply, however, and availability cannot be guaranteed.
Sanitary conditions in the rooms are fine, although this depends on the cleanliness of the tenants. If your room is kept clean, ants, cockroaches, and other insects may not intrude. The sanitary conditions of the bathrooms, showers, washing rooms, and kitchen areas are tolerable, but not up to U.S. standards. Students in the cheaper dorms may be surprised to see personal refrigerators lining the hallway (there is no space inside the rooms) and personal washing machines filling the wash rooms.
You are responsible for cleaning the kitchen and dorm room. Communal kitchens, available only in Shaoyuan 1-4, consist of a small room with a little gas burner. Keep all your kitchen utensils and personal belongings in your room, as theft may occur from the common rooms. An electric oven and microwave are available for public use on some floors in ZGXY.
Bathrooms in the cheaper dorms are communal and located on each floor. They have both Western and squat toilet fixtures. Bathrooms are cleaned daily and sanitary conditions are bearable, but not pristine. Shower shoes (flip-flops) are highly recommended. Bathrooms in the more expensive dorms are private (shared in the suite) and in better condition than the less-expensive dorms.
Lanhui Gongyu has washing machines on the fifth and seventh floor. Students use a prepaid card that includes a deposit. When you leave the dorm at the end of the program, return the card and the dorm will return the deposit.
There is a laundry room for each floor of the Shaoyuan building that has washers and dryers. In ZGXY, there is a laundry room on most floors.
Meals at BNU
On campus, there are numerous student cafeterias (about five) where you need to use a prepaid meal card, which the Study Center will help you obtain. The 20 RMB card deposit can be returned when you return the card. Head out any campus gate and you’ll have a short walk to countless restaurants.
There are two places to eat conveniently located in the Lanhui Gongyu, but do not limit yourself to these slightly more costly options. The dining hall cafeteria is clean and normally crowded during lunch (try to get there early for best choices). Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available. There is also a restaurant at the Lanhui Gongyu, with sit-down meals, but it is more expensive than the cafeteria. On the second floor is a small convenience store, popular for ice cream and snacks.
Meals at PKU
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 ID 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.
Various athletic facilities are on the BNU campus, including basketball courts, volleyball courts, badminton courts, and the running track and field near the Lanhui Gongyu. These facilities are free for students. The tennis court and some facilities inside the gymnasium are charged by the hour. Other gyms are available in the city at varying prices.
At PKU, 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
The Study Center may be able to store your bags at the Study Center Office at Peking University. In the past, Lanhui Apartment has also helped store students’ bags for the price of RMB 4 per piece of luggage per day. More details will be provided toward the end of the summer before vacation.
UCEAP strongly recommends that you have an emergency credit card on hand or quick access to cash in case of an emergency.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
UCEAP Contingency Planning
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