Approx. Time Difference
Add 15 hours
Add 16 hours during
- L&C BNU Summer + Year
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.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep the information updated and accurate, all program information should be considered in conjunction with program-specific operational correspondence which may contain the most up to date information. There may be times where UCEAP will need to change this information and it will often be updated online. Student is responsible for reviewing all information shared through the program guides and by UCEAP staff in California and abroad, and partners abroad. UCEAP reserves the right to make changes to its programs, whenever, in our sole judgment local conditions so warrant, in response to local circumstances that could substantially change some parts of the program, or if we deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of our program participants.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Local UCEAP Support
Campus EAP Office
The Campus EAP Office coordinates recruitment, student selection, orientations, and academic advising; and serves as your primary contact during the application process.
UCEAP Systemwide Office
The UCEAP Systemwide Office establishes and operates programs and coordinates UCEAP administration for all UC campuses from its headquarters in Goleta, California. You will work closely with the following Systemwide Office staff:
Program Advisors provide academic and operational program information to you and your campus as well as administrative support for all aspects of your participation.
Program Specialists manage the logistics of the program. They coordinate document requirements, visa application instructions, health and safety precautions, acceptance and placement by host institutions, arrival and onsite orientation, and housing arrangements.
Academic Specialists advise on academic policies, review courses taken abroad for UC credit, and document your registration, grades, petitions and academic records.
Student Finance Accountants assist primarily with UCEAP statements, program fee collection, and financial aid disbursements (in conjunction with your campus Financial Aid Office).
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
UCEAP programs in Beijing are administered by a Resident Director and Study Center administrative staff. Together they advise students on academic matters, assist with housing, and arrange periodic group travel.
Beijing Study Center
Ms. Zou Jing (Molly), Program Administrator
Ms. Zhao Ming (Sabrina), Program Assistant
University of California Center in China
126 Zhongguancun Beidajie
Beijing 100871, CHINA
Phone/Fax: (011-86-10) 6275-2489
Emergency cell phone: (011-86) 188-1055-6027
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code . . . . . . . . . . 011 (dial this to call from the U.S.)
China country code. . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
Beijing city code . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Approximate Time Difference
16 hours; 15 hours during daylight saving time
The year program at Peking University (PKU) begins with a required summer intensive language and culture program at Beijing Normal university (BNU).
Summer Intensive Language and Culture Program
The purpose of the summer program is to raise your language skills to a level at which you can best take advantage of the course offerings during the academic year. Elementary, intermediate, and advanced Chinese language courses are offered. You will take a language proficiency test at the beginning of the program administered by BNU’s College of Chinese Language and Culture. The test assesses listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and determines placement.
The summer program is for students in the PKU year program and the BNU fall program.
Summer Minimum Requirements
- Language placement text
- 15 UC quarter/10 UC semester units
- Letter grade only; the pass/no pass option is not permitted
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 summer program 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 or English. Placement in a specific tier or School is based on your Chinese proficiency. If your Chinese proficiency meets the PKU requirement (new HSK level 6), you may be placed in a regular PKU department or school. Otherwise, you will be placed in the School of Chinese as a Second Language. Chinese language proficiency may also be determined using the PKU language placement test at the beginning of the semester after the summer.
See the course information section below for more information.
Year Minimum Requirements
- Language placement exam
- 18 UC quarter units/12 UC semester units per term minimum. 13 UC semester units are recommended for Berkeley. The number of courses will vary depending on your tier. Most students take 21 to 24 UC quarter units per semester. PKU does not have a strict maximum; however, more than 27 UC quarter units per semester is discouraged.
Sample MyEAP Study Lists
UC quarter units for the PKU programs are based on contact time, for example a course that meets for 3 class hours per week over the 15 week semester will be 4.5 UC quarter units. A course that meets for 2 hours per week over the semester will be 3 UC quarter units. The units are not based on the PKU credits; however, some PKU courses that are 2 PKU credits will be 3 UC quarter units and courses that are 3 PKU credits may be 4.5 UC quarter units.
Courses that meet for fewer weeks will have units reduced to reflect less contact time. Courses with lab components will have additional units based on lab hours. Lab hours are not calculated at the same rate as lecture or seminar hours.
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.
The Chinese University Structure
Each Chinese university is considered a community that also operates as a social unit. The university administration takes an active role in employee and family life and faculty, staff, and their families work together as part of the larger extended family.
Admission to Chinese universities is a rare privilege. Access to Chinese universities is highly competitive and limited. Only about 30 percent of Chinese youth complete high school and only 18 percent of these pass the national entrance exam for admission to institutions of higher education. A smaller fraction of this number is accepted into institutions as prestigious as Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Beijing Normal University.
Relationship with Faculty
Relationships between students and teachers in China are quite different from those at UC. According to Confucian traditions, teachers in China are revered and respected by all and take great responsibility for the care of their students. Generally, Chinese instructors expect students to be deferential and appreciative; never confrontational, excessively argumentative, or demanding.
Chinese teachers consider their students’ success or failure a measure of personal success or failure on their part, so students try to succeed for their teacher’s sake as well as their own. The relationship between students and professors may become close and personal, but must be carefully developed over time. Past UCEAP students have reported closer relationships with summer language instructors, where the class sizes are usually smaller.
If you have a difference of opinion with an instructor, express it at a time during class designated by the instructor or privately after class, but always with the utmost tact and respect for the teacher.
Address an instructor as laoshi, which means teacher: “[Last Name] laoshi.” The use of first names is particularly unacceptable in Asia.
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.
Summer Language & Culture
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.
- Classes are with UC and international students.
- Class size averages between 10 and 20 students.
- Classes meet four hours per day, five days a week typically in the morning.
- Classes focus on conversation, listening, 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, taught in English or Chinese, depends on the willingness of the department, center, or college to accept you, and on the availability of space.
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 proficiency 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 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 PKU vary each term and year. Online preregistration for most 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.
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 general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
Do not expect to have enough free time to pursue an internship during the summer program.
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.
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
Get acquainted with your new host city, country, and culture before you leave the U.S. Travel guides and travel-related websites such as Lonely Planet
are excellent resources. You will also need to understand the local culture and history and keep up with current events. These sources should help you prepare before departure.
Online Sources and Periodicals
The Beijing UCEAP Study Center recommends two Chinese-English dictionaries that can be purchased locally after your arrival:
John DeFrancis, ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary (University of Hawaii Press, 2003)
This dictionary is the first strictly alphabetically-ordered and Pinyin computerized dictionary. It contains over 196,000 entries, making it the most comprehensive one-volume dictionary of Chinese. An electronic version is also available for use in PCs and cell phones.
Yao Naiqiang. Xinhua Dictionary with English Translation. (Commercial Press International, 2000). This Chinese-English character dictionary, with over 10,000 entries, has been prepared under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Since its original 1956 Chinese edition, it has been revised many times, and over 380 million copies have been printed.
Traditional characters are also provided, as are several very useful appendices, e.g., dynasty dates, measurements, and the Periodic Table. The other version of this dictionary, Xinhua Dictionary with English Translation, published by Commercial Press, Hong Kong, ISBN 9620702530, is almost the same product, but is based on traditional characters, as used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many expatriate communities.
Students working in pre-modern China studies should take their favorite Chinese-English reference books as they are virtually unavailable in China.
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.
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.
"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
Do not plan to travel outside of the U.S. after finals at UC and before the program begins. Each year, the Chinese host universities send acceptance letters on different dates, sometimes only a short time before the program’s Official Start Date. You need to be in the U.S. to receive the acceptance materials and apply for a visa.
Travel to the Study Center
The program calendar is subject to change. The Chinese government occasionally makes last minute pronouncements forcing schools to adjust their semester dates on account of special events, natural disasters, terrorist threats, or the redistribution of public holidays.
The start date of the program can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any non-recoverable transportation charges you may incur for independent travel arrangements or changes in UCEAP and host university calendar dates.
In order to keep informed of program changes, update MyEAP with any changes to your contact information.
Failure to arrive before the Official Start Date is cause for dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10). More detailed arrival information and directions to the check-in point are provided in the UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist online. Once you arrive in China, contact the Study Center to report arrival.
If you plan to arrive in China early you will need to make your own hotel reservations. UCEAP and the Study Center cannot make arrangements for you to move into the dormitory earlier than the established move-in date. Often the rooms are still occupied by other students, so space is not available.
Not all taxi drivers are familiar with the campus residences. Look up the location of your destination ahead of time. Provide the driver with the address of your housing assignment and have a campus map with you to show the driver exactly where you want to go.
At the beginning of your program, you will attend an orientation that covers information related to your host university as well as UCEAP. Participation in all orientation sessions is mandatory. The following topics are covered:
- living arrangements
- academic affairs, including MyEAP course registration
- medical care
- social activities
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. Neither UCEAP nor the Financial Aid office will reserve or pay for your ticket. If you are on financial aid, you will need to purchase a plane ticket before you receive a financial aid disbursement.
There is no UCEAP group flight to China. You must book your own flight and any other travel arrangements.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is based partly on the UCEAP Program 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 Program 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.
A passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your intended stay is required to enter China. The name on your passport, UCEAP application, and host university application must be identical in order to secure a visa, which is required for this program. Direct any questions to the Campus EAP Office immediately.
Obtain a visa in the U.S. prior to departure. Do not enter China without a visa. Your initial length of stay in China determines which visa will be issued.
Admission and visa documents are issued based on the official program dates, not according to students’ personal travel plans. Your paperwork might not be available until shortly before the start of the program. Ultimately, the type of visa you receive is at the discretion of the Chinese Consulate or Embassy. It is your responsibility to make sure that the visa you receive is sufficient to cover the entire duration of your program.
If you decide to extend participation in UCEAP while abroad, you will need to apply and pay for a visa extension in China before your visa expires; otherwise, you will be fined for overstaying your visa.
Students apply for the “X1” visa in the U.S. prior to departure and then apply for a Residence Permit after arrival in China. To receive the Residence Permit, students must complete and the pass the physical health exam required by the Chinese government. The “X1” visa is granted for one year at a time. 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 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.
Students with Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan passports must obtain “home visit permits” to enter China and do not need to apply for a visa. Contact your local Chinese consulate for more information.
If you hold dual citizenship, the Chinese consulate will only issue your visa in the passport you used to apply for program admission. The passport number appears on the visa and admission documents issued by the host university. You will not be issued replacement documents to match your other passport.
Dual-national U.S. citizens, particularly those with dual Chinese and United States nationality, should realize that entering China using their non-U.S. passport will likely mean the Chinese government may not afford them the consular protections to which they are entitled. While the U.S. government will offer consular services to all U.S. citizens regardless of dual nationality, use of other than a U.S. passport to enter China can make it difficult for U.S. consular officers to assist dual-national U.S. citizens who have been arrested or who have other concerns with the Chinese government. China does not recognize dual citizenship. U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials are often denied access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens who do not enter China using their U.S. passport.
Special Travel Notification
If you are not a U.S. citizen, special travel restrictions or entry requirements may apply to you. Contact the Chinese consulate in San Francisco or Los Angeles for details.
U.S. Travel Registration
As soon as you know your flight plans prior to departure, register online
with the U.S. Department of State. Registration is free and allows for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to be a source of assistance and information in case of difficulty or an emergency while traveling abroad.
It is easier to replace lost or stolen documents when you have photocopies. Photocopy all important documents in duplicate, including passport photo pages, visa pages, vaccination certificates, travelers checks receipts, airline tickets, student ID, birth certificate, credit cards (front and back), etc., then leave a copy at home with a parent or guardian and pack a set in various pieces of luggage. Spending a few moments copying documents now will save you time if you lose important documents in China.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Students who are granted DACA are strongly encouraged to consult an immigration attorney to evaluate the risks of potentially being unable to re-enter the United States and any impact that participation in UCEAP might have on any deferred action application. If you are undocumented and have not been granted DACA, we strongly encourage you not to leave the country.
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
You can buy practically everything you need in China. Past students recommend the nearby Jin Wu Xing store for all moving-in needs. Beijing has several foreign-operated hypermarts (e.g., Walmart, Carrefour, and Metro) that sell many American products.
When traveling always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money with you. Never put valuables in your checked luggage.
Identify each item of luggage on the inside and outside with your name, home address, and destination. You can buy most of the things you need in China, but UCEAP students recommend taking the following items:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Washable, easy-to-care-for clothing
- A formal outfit for special occasions
- Flip-flops for the shower
- Preferred toiletry products (special brand names; consider razors, deodorant, facial cream, and feminine hygiene products)
- Insect repellent with DEET, such as Cutters or Off, and anti-itch cream (there are mosquitoes)
- Medicine kit (ibuprofen, cold and antidiarrheal medication, cough syrup)
- Heavy-duty water bottle
- Anti-bacterial gel (bathrooms often do not have toilet paper or sinks)
- Warm clothing that can be layered (gloves, long underwear, thick socks, scarves, gloves, sweaters, coat, etc.)
"Bring your own medications! People got food poisoning so be careful! Get some Imodium and go see your doctor to get some medicine for stomach flu. It’s better to be safe than sorry." - UCEAP Student
"China doesn’t have regular bar deodorants, only those rolling gelled ones, so bring your own!" - UCEAP Student
- Contact lens solution
- Family photos (useful as icebreakers)
- Converter for small appliances (both 120V and 220V)
- Surge protector for 220V
- Simple combination lock
- Flashlight and duct tape
- Ziploc bags
- Metric system conversion chart
- Pocket knife (pack in checked luggage, not in carry-on)
"I needed lots of eye drops. After a long bike ride, eye drops are a savior." - UCEAP Student
Some students obtain name cards after they arrive in China, once they have their contact information settled. Name cards are widely used for networking and social purposes and can easily be printed at local copy shops around town.
"The most important things to take with you are flexibility and a good sense of humor. If you don’t know how to laugh at your predicaments, you’ll probably be upset much of the time." - UCEAP Student
Climate and Dress
"The summer heat is extreme, and the winter is nothing like what they have experienced in California, so pack accordingly." - UCEAP Student
Chinese dress is casual, although you should take a more formal outfit for special occasions.
Beijing has four distinct seasons. The weather goes from hot and humid in summer (July to mid-August) to very dry and cold during winter (November to February). In September the temperature is between 70ºF and 80ºF. Fall is considered the best season in Beijing, with comfortable temperatures. It gets cold in November (40ºF to 50ºF) and drops well below freezing in the winter, with little precipitation. During the winter, many rivers and lakes freeze. If you arrive in Beijing during the winter, you should arrive wearing warm clothing. Spring is short and dry. During the warm, humid weather from May to September, mosquitoes are a problem and insect repellent is a must. In the summer, most days are humid and overcast with frequent rain.
Public buildings are not heated in the same manner as the U.S. The heat is turned on in mid-November and is turned off in mid-March, so you will need warm clothing until the heat comes on. When the heat is turned on, you may find classrooms and other buildings to be too hot and dry. The opposite is true in the summer; classrooms may not be air-conditioned. Buses and major shopping malls are air-conditioned.
Travel light. You frequently have to carry your own baggage, and the less you take, the easier the trip. Also, you will accumulate many new possessions while in China. In order to leave room to take these new things home, it is better to avoid using the entire baggage allowance for the outbound trip. If possible, limit baggage to one medium suitcase and one small flight bag or backpack. You will wash your clothes regularly so you can take less. Past participants advise against taking bulky winter clothing—you can buy it cheaply, although students who wear large and tall sizes might have difficulty finding their size. Students with larger feet (over size 8 for women, over size 10 for men) will not easily find shoes in China, and need to plan accordingly. The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing abroad.
Take a few small, lightweight, American gifts for your foreign hosts and new friends. Suggestions include Frisbees; T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; decals; baseball caps representing Major League or NBA teams; See’s candy; California pistachios or almonds; California postcards, posters, scenic calendars; and coins and stamps.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protections for your property, as in spite of your best efforts, it is still possible to experience loss, theft, or accidents that will damage your belongings while traveling. Talk to your parents and analyze their family homeowners’ insurance to determine whether the items brought or bought while abroad are covered by their policy.
UCEAP's travel insurance policy offers limited personal property coverage. UCEAP strongly recommends you to examine the details of the UCEAP travel insurance benefits and to purchase additional property insurance coverage, especially to protect high cost items such as laptop computers, MP3 players, and other valuables. Review the policy carefully before departure and determine if it provides adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
You may decide to purchase additional coverage, especially for high-value electronics (e.g., computer, tablets, camera, etc.). If you decide to do so, purchase supplemental coverage before departure because most theft occurs in the airport or while moving into housing. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. You can safeguard your belongings from damage or theft by locking your room and securing money, travelers checks, jewelry, passport, and other possessions. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables. Avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewelry and going to questionable parts of the city, especially at night or when alone. Minimize your vulnerability by staying in control of your drinking and your behavior. Do not invite casual acquaintances or strangers home.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip fares, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. Carefully research airfare rules prior to purchasing a flight. Standby and courier fares are not appropriate. Plan for this expense. 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.
The estimated airfare amount in the UCEAP Program Budget is based on the cost of a changeable round-trip student ticket.
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
It is important that you carefully read all of the information available in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad and discuss it with the person who will assist you with your finances while you are abroad.
Understanding your finances before, during, and after your program is crucial to having a successful time abroad. The following list outlines just a few of the many things you will need to know before departure.
Detailed information on the following topics can be found in the Money Matters
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
- Contact information for finance questions
- How to estimate the cost of your program
- Budget instructions and information
- Who Can and How to make payments to UCEAP
- UCEAP student account information(what fees do I pay to UCEAP and what fees do I pay out of pocket?)
- Banking before and after arrival
- Fees and penalties
- Loan information
- How financial aid works while abroad (how do I get my financial aid from my home campus and how are my fees paid?)
- Various forms (e.g., direct deposit, etc.)
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
Your MyEAP Student Account is similar to your UC campus financial account. It will be available as soon as you are selected for your program in MyEAP. You can make payments through this account using e-checks or credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover). The fees that you owe UCEAP will be applied to your account after your program pre-departure withdrawal date, which is listed in MyEAP. For the amount due to UCEAP prior to fees being posted on your account, refer to the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule located on the second page of your UCEAP Program Budget
. Program fees are subject to change.
Your UCEAP Program Budget lists the fees you will pay to UCEAP and an estimate of the personal expenses you will need to plan for. It does not include the cost of recreational travel or personal entertainment. Review your UCEAP Program Budget frequently. The Payment Schedule is on the second page of the UCEAP Program Budget.
- Download and print your UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule.
- Note the deadlines on the Payment Schedule.
- Give the UCEAP Program Budget and Payment Schedule to the person responsible for paying your UCEAP bills. Sign this person up for Third Party Authorization on MyEAP so they can make payments online.
Refund of Credit balances and Financial Aid Disbursements:
If you are signed up for Direct Deposit on your UC campus, it is not linked to your MyEAP account. You must sign up for eRefund with UCEAP to receive direct deposits from your MyEAP account. For more information, see the UCEAP eRefund Instructions
The official currency unit used in China is the yuan or renminbi (most often abbreviated RMB).
Get used to carrying more cash in China than you would in the U.S. People do not use checks, and credit cards are not as frequently accepted as they are in the U.S. Chinese debit cards issued by local banks are now in common use, however.
Students on financial aid who extend their participation should review the Extension of Participation chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
If you are receiving financial aid and extend your participation, anticipate that funds will be unavailable for a few months. Budget carefully for subsistence and travel during the break between semesters.
There are two economies in Beijing. The prices in the expatriate economy (meals in international hotels, Western sundries, and foods) run 100 percent to 300 percent above U.S. prices. The prices in the Chinese economy (restaurants for locals, train tickets, native products, etc.) run from 10 to 100 percent of U.S. prices. You can live inexpensively if you are immersed totally in the regular Chinese economy. Most students allow themselves occasional luxuries from the expatriate economy. A Western-style or an extravagant Chinese meal at a good restaurant can cost at least $20. On the other hand, a good hearty meal in a regular Chinese-style restaurant can cost as little as a few dollars.
Take money to China in the form of travelers checks, credit cards, ATM cards, and cash. ATM cards are the most convenient way to get cash. Be aware of your account’s daily withdrawal limits and plan accordingly. Many U.S. banks offer a foreign currency service where account holders can order RMB a few weeks prior to departure.
Change enough money into RMB at the airport to cover arrival and initial expenses, including the dormitory deposit. Have access to the equivalent of U.S. $1,000 (BNU summer) or $2,000-$3,000 (semester) to cover dormitory room charges for the program and miscellaneous expenses during the first few weeks.
There is a money exchange window at the Peking International Airport, outside the International Arrivals gate. There will be a small percentage fee charged per transaction (no matter where you change money). That fee varies by location and date.
You can also use your U.S. ATM card at the Beijing airport to obtain RMB.
"My biggest worry before departure was money. All I really needed to know was to bring traveler checks, a bank card, and a credit card for emergencies. It wasn’t so worrisome after all." - UCEAP Student
In Beijing, you can change U.S. cash at almost any bank or even some major department stores with a passport. You can change travelers checks to RMB at the Bank of China.
The Study Center will provide further information about exchanging money and the best places to do so. There are banks and ATMs in close proximity to all UCEAP locations. The bank rate on any given day is standardized throughout China, so you will get the same rate wherever you go; only the transaction fee will vary.
Changing money on the street is illegal in China. Counterfeit bills are a big problem in China and some UCEAP students have received bad bills changing money on the street.
With your passport, you can establish either RMB or U.S. dollar savings accounts, with the option of a local ATM card. You cannot get U.S. currency from the ATMs, only RMB. Interest rates vary. Wire transfers from the U.S. can be deposited into either type of bank account. Personal checks from U.S. accounts cannot be used to make purchases in China, and UCEAP does not recommend using them.
Wire transfers to your bank account in China usually can be accomplished within five working days. Provide the sender with your Chinese account number, the corresponding bank’s address in the U.S., address of the Chinese bank, and the Chinese bank’s Swift code. If you think you may use this option, check with your home bank before departure to see what else they may require.
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.
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.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted in China at major department stores. In addition, money deposited into an account in the U.S. can be accessed via Visa, MasterCard, or American Express from ATMs in China on the Plus or the Cirrus systems. There are service fees for each transaction, even for viewing account balances.
Bank of America ATM cards can be used for cash withdrawal at China Construction Bank ATMs. Charles Schwab account holders can withdraw money from international ATMs and be reimbursed for fees incurred. However, there may be a minimum balance requirement.
Cash is issued in RMB. Exchange rates are fixed at the official rate. The maximum cash withdrawal per day is usually RMB 2,500. You can also get cash advances on your credit card, but beware that most credit card companies will charge high interest on cash advances. Check with your credit card company and bank for restrictions and possible fees associated with using your card abroad.
Be aware that Chinese ATMs sometimes run out of cash. If this happens, go into the bank and let them know.
If you plan on using your U.S. ATM and/or credit card while abroad, be sure to notify your bank ahead of time. Otherwise, they may freeze your account on suspicion of fraud.
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. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is needed to access blocked sites.
Each dorm room for international students at BNU 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 about RMB 100 per month.
Check your Email Regularly
You must regularly check your e-mail. It will be used as the main mode of communication between you and UCEAP for routine business and academic advising. Access to computers on campus is easy and relatively inexpensive.
Approximate time difference: 16 hours; 15 hours during summer months (daylight saving time)
International calls to China are far less expensive than calls from China. However, callers should remember that China is 15 hours ahead of Pacific daylight saving time in the U.S. Current students suggest that you make a plan to have your friends or family call you in China, since the cost is much less than to call the U.S. from China.
Making phone calls to China is still somewhat difficult, but getting easier and cheaper each year. The wealth of options—cell phones (relatively cheap now), calling cards, and card-activated phones in dormitory rooms—makes most calling options in China a possibility.
Callers from the U.S. can reach you at the dorm. Family and friends should learn how to say the numbers and your name in Chinese. You will receive your telephone number after arrival. Card-activated telephones are located in the dorms. 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.
Cell phones are highly recommended for your convenience and safety. It will also allow the Study Center to reach you promptly in case of an emergency. After orientation in China, you can buy a cell phone and subscribe to an inexpensive plan or simply use pay-as-you-go cards.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—the technology for transmitting voice conversations via the Internet—is popular with students who take a laptop abroad. Social networking software such as Skype
(Chinese) are commonly used to make free or low-cost calls over the Internet.
"When it comes to communicating with loved ones back at home, make sure you’ve kept the time difference in mind and establish when and how often you will contact one another. Set realistic expectations. This way, you will be able to avoid much of the confusion and frustration involved with international communication." - UCEAP Student
You will receive your mailing address after arrival in China.
The cost of housing is a fraction of what it costs to rent a room in the U.S. It provides very basic amenities and facilities at a low price and is most likely less comfortable than the dorm rooms offered by American universities.
You will make the housing payments directly to the dormitory. You must make your housing payments on time and in full. 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.
Chinese universities do not permit UC students to live in Chinese student dormitories. 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.
Summer Intensive Language Program (ILP)
You will live at BNU in an on-campus dormitory for international students in double rooms (two UC students to a room). The recently 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 Pre-Departure 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 connection, 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 Study Center is located during the academic year. 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.
You will be expected to pay for your room upon check-in. Payments must be made to PKU in cash (RMB) or with a credit card.
With Study Center approval, students may live off campus in private apartments during the semester. However, not all private apartments are properly registered with the Chinese government and the police may evict students who live in illegal housing. You must follow the Study Center’s advice, exercise caution, find reputable and safe accommodations, and register with the police. The landlord is required to accompany you to the police station and to provide a copy of the lease and apartment ownership papers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Riding bikes in China is not like riding around a UC campus or neighborhood. You must exercise great care because many drivers and cyclists do not observe traffic rules, stoplights, or crosswalks. In addition, safety on the road is dubious (exposed manholes, ditches under construction that are unguarded by barricades). At night, hordes of cyclists cruise dimly lit streets without lights or reflectors. Although traffic is heavy and chaotic, most UCEAP participants have enjoyed the mobility that a bicycle affords.
"Buy a bicycle. It really makes you mobile and puts you right in there with the locals. Any time you want to buy something, visit some place, or wander around, you can just hop on your bike." - UCEAP Student
Many students purchase bicycles when they arrive in China; new bikes are available for about $25 to $100. All bikes should be locked to something solid, like a tree or a pole. Even if your bike is inexpensive, you will want to spend enough money to buy a solid and safe bike lock to prevent theft.
Parking lots for bikes abound, mainly near stores. Pay the attendant, lock your bike, and off you go. Use an additional lock on your bike. If you leave for vacation or know you will not be using your bike for a while, secure your bike in your room.
Motorcycles & Cars
Do not operate a motorized vehicle in China. Not only are the traffic patterns and driver behavior difficult to figure out, but the cost of insurance and potential complications from accidents should be enough to dissuade you from driving.
Accidents involving these kinds of vehicles are common, and some UCEAP students have been involved in them. Caution is of the utmost importance in this regard. Instead, use public transportation which will easily take you anywhere you want to go in the city.
"Be careful when you cross the street (it isn’t the U.S., cars don’t stop for you)." - UCEAP Student
Metered taxis are available 24 hours a day. Drivers usually do not speak any English. Fares are based on meters and are reasonable given traffic conditions. Tips are not expected. Make sure the driver turns on the meter once you get in and ask for the receipt before you exit. The U.S. Department of State reports that travelers should not hesitate to ask to be let out of a taxi immediately if the driver acts suspiciously, drives erratically, or refuses to set the meter.
The Beijng Subway system has an extensive network of multiple lines that operate at frequent intervals daily. With the exception of the Airport Express line (RMB 25), the cost to ride the subway starts at RMB 3 per trip. The subway does close from late evening to 5:00am, so be prepared to pay a taxi fare to return home if you like to stay out late at night.
You can purchase a subway and bus pass (Beijing Municipal Administration and Communications Card), also known as the Yikatong, at most Beijing Subway stations.
These are multi-use cards, and you can reload the card using ticket charging machines located in the stations. Visit the Beijing Subway
website for additional information. Peking University is on Line 4.
Participating in extracurricular cultural and social activities while on UCEAP is an excellent way to meet people, improve your language skills, and integrate more fully into the community. Join sports, musical, theater, or arts groups; volunteer at local organizations; attend lectures and receptions held in academic and community circles; and get the most out of your time abroad.
Be careful about making too many commitments early on. While there is time to pursue some individual interests, you are expected to attend classes and participate in organized activities and excursions.
The range of UC student involvement in Chinese cultural activities has been very broad. Past students have studied martial arts, Chinese medicine, dance, and music through contacts that they have made—usually through the international student network.
In addition to the existing local resources (local magazines and websites), the Study Center staff has information on academic, cultural, and social events, and will arrange a few activities and excursions for the UCEAP group.
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. There is a pool in the Qiujiduan Gym on campus. You can purchase a monthly card or quarterly card but there are some time restrictions on use of the pool. 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
Students with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from what they find in the United States. Standards adopted for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the Law on the Handicapped, which calls for their "gradual" implementation; however, compliance with the law is lax. Even in newer areas of large cities, sidewalks often do not have curb cuts, making wheelchair or stroller use difficult. Many large streets can be crossed only via overhead pedestrian bridges not accessible except by staircase. Although some sidewalks have special raised “buttons” or strips to help those who are blind or have restricted sight to follow the pavement, they are unreliable. While most public buildings have elevators, they are often locked, and the responsible official with the key must be located before they can be used.
In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one handicap-accessible toilet. International signage is used to identify handicap-accessible facilities. Free or reduced-entry fares on public transportation are sometimes provided for a handicapped person and a companion, although this is usually stated only in Chinese and is often restricted to residents with special identification cards.
For more information:
Leaving your host city for more than 24 hours?
You are required to complete the online sign out through your MyEAP account.
Click on Travel Signout and complete all required fields. During an emergency (abroad or in the U.S.), it is important for UCEAP officials to know how to reach you so we can help you.
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
Individual travel is permitted on free weekends, but you are responsible for making your own arrangements. The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for personal travel. You must inform the Study Center by e-mail of your travel plans if you plan to be gone for an overnight trip.
While there is time to pursue individual interests, you are expected to attend classes and participate in organized activities and excursions. Chinese universities are strict about attendance, and absences may bar you from taking the final examinations or from receiving final grades.
There are over 600 cities and areas in China open to visitors without special travel permits, including most major scenic and historical sites. However, the U.S. State Department advises visitors to be aware that Chinese government regulations prohibit travel in certain areas without special permission. For more information, contact the nearest Chinese embassy or consulate or, once abroad, contact the American embassy or American consulate.
"The best cure for everything that will get on your nerves is traveling. China is an amazing and beautiful country. Buy a backpack; start reading about places to see; ask friends, family, and former UCEAP students what’s worth seeing; and expect to have some of the best times of your life." - UCEAP Student
The Lonely Planet website
provides good travel tips, youth hostel information, etc. The Lonely Planet guide is difficult to find in China. It sells out as soon as it is stocked. Take a copy from home.
"Traveling around China improved my speaking ability more than anything. Speaking to people while traveling and seeing different cities improved my knowledge of Chinese geography and social conditions." - UCEAP Student
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.
Due to immigration regulations, 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.
Attitudes toward the LGBT community continue to evolve. Most aspects of public and official life demonstrate ambivalence toward homosexuality. The government does not actively support the LGBT community, but neither does it impose sanctions. Urban Chinese tend to be accepting of homosexuality, but in deeply conservative rural areas, homosexuality is neither discussed nor socially accepted. The result is a complex risk environment that has few clear social guidelines but little overt threat of violence or abuse.
For more information,
Know Before you Go
While abroad you are automatically covered by the UCEAP Travel Insurance Policy
. Coverage begins 14 days before the official start date of your UCEAP program term. Coverage ends 31 days after the official end of the UCEAP program term. Your UCEAP travel insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy is not the same as your campus or private insurance and it is does not meet ACA requirements for domestic coverage as required by U.S. law
. Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. Your travel insurance policy number is ADDN 04834823. It is underwritten by ACE American Insurance Company.
There is no deductible or co-insurance but the travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You can submit a claim for a refund of covered expenses to the UCEAP insurance carrier.
Do not assume that if you seek medical care abroad for a covered illness or injury that the local hospital will bill your insurance. Generally, hospitals around the world, including the US, do not bill insurance companies (unless there is a special arrangement with a local hospital in your UCEAP country). It is the patient's responsibility to inquire with the hospital, at the time of service, and make arrangements to pay any outstanding bills. Payment for medical services abroad is ultimately your responsibility.
For more information refer to your Pre-Departure Checklist, Insurance tab, or the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Insurance chapter
For Questions about Coverage, Benefits and Claims
ACI at email@example.com.
Meet with a travel health specialist before departure from the U.S. to get any vaccines and advice you need before your trip. Going at least 4–6 weeks before you travel is best, so that any travel vaccines you need have time to take effect and you have plenty of time to get vaccines that require more than one dose. If you need travel vaccines, your campus health insurance plan may cover them if you have campus insurance. Talk to your insurance office at Student Health before your coverage expires. The UCEAP travel insurance doesn't not cover travel vaccines or preventive care.
Western-style medical facilities with international staffs are available. In rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are generally
available with often poorly trained medical personnel who have little
medical equipment and medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to
accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center immediately. The Study Center can recommend which clinic to visit, provide information about the UCEAP insurance claims process, and help make arrangements with your professors if you expect an extended absence.
A high level of medical care is available at 1 or more internationally staffed hospitals in Beijing and Shanghai. Adequate medical care is available at 1 or more internationally staffed outpatient clinics in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shekou, and may be available in other major cities. Hospital accommodations, and medical care in general, are inadequate throughout the rest of the country, and advanced technology is lacking. Shortages of routine medications and supplies may be encountered.
In most rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are available, often with medical personnel who are poorly trained and have limited medical equipment and medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
Even in the VIP/foreigner wards of major hospitals, patients have frequently encountered difficulty due to cultural, language, and regulatory differences. Physicians and hospitals have sometimes refused to supply American patients with complete copies of their Chinese hospital medical records, including laboratory test results, scans, and X-rays.
Hospitals do not process insurance claim forms. You are expected to pay when services are rendered. In some hospitals, you may have to pay a cash deposit before being admitted. Debit cards are not acceptable forms of payment. Be sure to have funds available to cover this contingency. After a service covered by the insurance plan is provided, you will need to submit a completed claim with supporting documentation within 30 days. See the UCEAP Insurance Claims Process
for claim forms and details.
UCEAP strongly recommends that you have an emergency credit card on hand or quick access to cash in case of an emergency.
Both municipal and private ambulance services in China remain substandard. Response time is typically very slow and transport to the nearest hospital can take a long time due to congested traffic. Most ambulances are poorly equipped and staffed by individuals lacking EMT training. If you are injured or seriously ill, take a taxi or other immediately available vehicle to the nearest major hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance.
Beijing United Family Hospital
If you are sick or injured, seek medical care at the Beijing United Family Hospital, which is on the east side of Beijing, about 40 minutes by taxi from PKU and Tsinghua, and 20 minutes from BNU. Students pay up front for medical services and submit a claim to the UCEAP travel insurance. For information about coverage or the claims process, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beijing United Family Hospital
#2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016, China
Phone: (86) 10-5927-7000; (86) 10-5927-7120
Arriving in a new country is a very busy time and there are a lot of changes to go through. There are differences in food, weather and customs to cope with. In this type of situation, with all its stresses, you may find yourself paying less attention than usual to your health.
Existing health problems can also be made worse by the effects of adjusting to unfamiliar food, a different climate and the emotional strains of being away from home. It can be easy to concentrate on your studies and forget about taking care of yourself. Travel health is about prevention and common sense: Being aware of health issues that may arise and taking the appropriate measures to prevent illnesses and injuries when you are travelling not only for your own well-being, but for the people and communities you encounter during your trip.
Know Before you Go
Inform yourself before you travel. Just as language and currency vary around the world, so does medical care. Know what to do if you get sick.
Read the Health chapter
of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and your Program Guide for important information to plan for a healthy stay abroad.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Traveler's Health
web page has important information about health risks present in the country where you will be studying.
"Expect different hygienic and etiquette practices: lots of spitting, littering, pushing, no lines, blowing snot on the ground, etc. Patience and understanding are definite virtues here. Also expect lots of traffic, pollution, and crowds." - UCEAP Student
In China’s vast territory, standards of hygiene can and do vary from place to place. The standard of medical care and the range of familiar medications available in China are often limited, particularly outside of major cities. Medical personnel in rural areas of the country may lack adequate training.
The required online UCEAP Travel Health Education Certification course will provide you with pre-departure health-related advice about specific precautions and recommended vaccinations. You are responsible for reading all health‑related UCEAP materials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers’ Health website
is a good source of information. The MyHealth Beijing
website maintained by an American doctor at the Beijing United Family Hospital is a reliable source of Beijing-specific health info.
- Good basic personal hygiene and hand washing are critical to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating.
- Bring a good multivitamin to last the duration of the program.
- Do not consume tap water, fountain drinks, or ice cubes. Drink only boiled water or beverages in sealed containers.
- Avoid undercooked food, dairy products, and food from street vendors.
- Avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water—such as lakes, ponds, canals, streams, or rivers—to prevent serious parasitic infections.
- Avoid handling all animals. Wash any bites or scratches right away with soap and water and immediately seek medical attention.
"Take toilet paper with you wherever you go. Health conditions are bearable, but be careful and stay as clean and healthy as possible." - UCEAP Student
Even if you are healthy, you need to be prepared. China is almost the same size as the United States, but it has five times the population, and densely populated areas are prone to more frequent viral outbreaks.
You may be susceptible to diarrhea, colds, and other illnesses after arriving in China. Take a small personal medical kit containing cold remedies, cough drops, cough medicine, throat lozenges, and medication for diarrhea, nausea, and upset stomach. Have enough to get you through the first few weeks until you can find what you need in China.
Due to the burning of soft coal during the winter, all major cities and especially those with major industrial regions are heavily polluted with potential for significant exacerbation of allergies and respiratory conditions including asthma.
- Understand your UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- Although you should always travel with a copy of your prescription from your U.S. doctor, many pharmacies in other countries will only fill prescriptions written in that country. If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor to get a similar prescription that a pharmacy will fill. Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. It may be covered if you are insured through your campus health insurance plan. It will be critical to have a letter from a U.S. doctor during this appointment explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
- If you need to find out if this appointment would be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance, contact ACI at email@example.com. For more information about the UCEAP travel insurance, refer to your UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, or your pre-departure checklist, Insurance tab.
- Two classes of medicines – narcotics and psychotropics – are under the control of international law. This covers any medicine that can have an effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the potential to be abused. The narcotic class mostly relates to analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) which tend to be highly regulated. Psychotropics are all those medications likely to be used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychotic conditions.
- If you plan to purchase medication using the UCEAP Travel Insurance coverage, you must fill and pay for medication prescribed by a licensed physician when coverage is effective (14 days before the official start of the program). Do not assume that your local pharmacy knows about the UCEAP travel insurance policy. It is not the same as your campus health insurance coverage. You will need to pay for the medication and submit a claim to the UCEAP insurance.
- Find out whether your medication is legal in your UCEAP country.
- If intending to travel with prescription containing controlled substances, review international agreements governing the transportation of medications across borders check the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) website. The INCB is responsible for international drug control. If traveling with controlled substances, you must have a letter from your doctor. Generally, amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse) are illegal in other countries. Talk with your doctor to switch you to another medication.
- Talk to your doctor to see whether he/she can prescribe an adequate supply of your prescription medication to last through the end of the program. Ask your doctor how to adjust your dosage depending on time zone changes.
- Get a letter from the prescribing physician on letterhead indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name as brand names vary considerably around the world.
Traveling with prescription medications
- Keep the medication in its original packaging. Ensure that it is clearly labelled with your full passport name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage. Do not pack the medications in your checked luggage.
- Carry copies of all original prescriptions.
- Carry the letter on letterhead from the prescribing physician for all prescribed medications, indicating your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic names. This is extremely important in case you need treatment or a medication refill abroad.
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country in quantities to last through your stay, talk to your doctor. If you need to switch prescriptions, your doctor may need to make changes to your medication at least 3-6 months before departure, so you can have time to consult with your doctor on any resulting complications. The letter from your doctor indicating condition, treatment and medication regimen, can help a local physician to assess you and to consider reissuing your prescription provided it is licensed in your UCEAP country. Note that the local doctor's appointment for medication refill may not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance.
Adderall is not legal in China. Work with your treating physician to request a substitute medication.
Your mental health is important to us all. Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions – is something every person must think about when going abroad. Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home. Read the Mobility International tips, Ups and Downs of International Travel
Cultural adjustment and homesickness 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 adjustment function reasonably well under the stress and are able to keep up with the responsibilities of school and everyday life.
If you are currently in treatment in the U.S., it is extremely important to discuss your study abroad plans and program details with your doctor. If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician well in advance about getting the supply you need for going abroad. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
The UCEAP travel insurance policy 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. Budget for this expense as you must pay up front and submit a claim to the insurance company for a refund consideration. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics will require you to pay bills at the time of treatment. You must then submit a completed claim form and paid receipts to the UCEAP insurance company. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process
The prevalence of mental illness is rising in China but treatment facilities remain underdeveloped. China’s mental health care trails behind many countries around the world. There is lack of trained mental health professionals, low investment in mental health, high stigma among the population, and lack of an effective public mental health systems of care. Official policy does not permit primary health care professionals to independently diagnose and treat mental disorders within the primary care system. There is a reluctance to address mental illness and psychiatry due to the limited extent to which health care professionals and public health officials are involved with the issue. The country's public health system is struggling to keep up with the demand in mental health care.
In most regions of China, few good options exist even for local families that try to find professional help. China’s mental health hospitals are too few and grossly understaffed. China has a severe undersupply of trained mental health staff. Students with pre-existing conditions will need a treatment plan in place indicating when and who they will be reaching out for help.”
Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
- Make sure food is fully cooked.
- Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
Unclean food and water can cause travelers' diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits.
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.
China is the largest tobacco production and consumption country in the world. Even though a ban on smoking in most public buildings has come into force in Beijing and Shanghai, it is common to see many smokers inside and outside buildings.
Health officials started a crusade to clean up the city’s air by introducing strict new rules to restrict smoking in public places. However, many smokers are still commonly found inside and outside buildings.
If you have a chronic health condition that is exacerbated by cigarette smoke, consult with your physician before departure.
Health authorities report a high number of animal and human rabies cases annually in China. Do not touch wild or domestic animals in China.
UCEAP continually reviews information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization, works closely with medical experts on the UC campuses, and monitors local host university and country health resources.
Exercise care to prevent avian flu:
- Avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces or fluids from poultry or other animals.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Avoid those that appear ill. Wear an FDA-approved respirator mask when in public transportation during flu season.
- Stay informed of the situation.
- Eat thoroughly cooked food and drink bottled water.
- Refer to additional information on the UCEAP website.
In the event of a pandemic, UCEAP’s ability to assist you abroad may be severely limited by restrictions on local and international movement imposed for public health reasons by foreign governments or the United States.
HIV/AIDS is a significant concern in China. There is risk of exposure to unsafe blood and blood products in regional China. Specifically request the use of sterilized equipment. Additional charges may be incurred for the use of new syringes in hospitals or clinics. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
If you have severe food allergies should take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. A language barrier increases the risks associated with severe food allergies.
Precautions to take include:
- Ask for a waiter/waitress who speaks English to help you choose a safe menu item. Some restaurants will have menus in English, but it varies.
For more information, read the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Health chapter
, Allergies section.
Excessive air pollution is a major problem in most Chinese cities. According to the World Bank, only one percent of China’s 560 million urban residents breathe air considered safe by EU standards. China is home to 16 of the 20 dirtiest cities and the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
During the summer, high heat and humidity will also contribute to China’s poor air quality. Air pollution can result in cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses or the exacerbation of preexisting illness. If you have a preexisting respiratory condition, you may be especially at risk. Consult with your doctor before departure. Minimize exposure to the pollution while in China.
Dust storms, which occur on occasion across the north of the country, can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations and exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Some visitors develop a sore throat during the first few days in the city due to the air pollution.
Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger attacks. Exposure to fine particle pollution (PM2.5) contributes to cardiovascular disease. In addition to talking to your doctor before departure from the U.S., refer to the following tips.
- Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower.
- Change your activity level. When the air is polluted, try to take it easier if you are active outdoors. This will reduce how much pollution you breathe. Even if you can’t change your schedule, you might be able to change your activity so it is less intense.
- Listen to your body.
- Wear an N-95 respirator (approved by the United States National Institute of Safety and Health) and follow instructions from UCEAP faculty and staff, and local public health messages.
- If you have a smartphone, get an app that can report instantly on outdoor air pollution and monitor levels before venturing out.
Even if you are healthy, you may experience temporary symptoms, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath.
If you have lung disease, you may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as normal, and you may experience coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, shortness of breath, and unusual fatigue. If you have any of these symptoms, reduce your exposure to particles and follow your doctor's advice.
If you have asthma or other chronic condition that could be impacted by air pollution, ask your doctor before departure from the U.S. to design an action plan in case your symptoms get worse while studying and living in China.
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
You play an active role in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being.
Staying safe in another country is similar to staying safe in a large U.S. city. Understand the potential threats, know which neighborhoods to avoid, and remain vigilant (pay attention to your surroundings; do not walk around while talking on the phone or while listening to music).
If you will be traveling, think about how you are getting to your destination and/or any travel inside a country. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel. Be proactive about your safety. Be prepared.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and contracted with emergency service and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and avoid being a victim of a crime:
- Assess your surroundings.
- Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.
- Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Trust your "gut feelings"; if you feel threatened, leave the area immediately and find somewhere more secure.
- Research potential risks you can encounter while traveling.
- Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking.
- Practice the buddy system, which promotes safety. This system helps ensure that you, and a partner, will look out for each other. Choose your buddy wisely. The ideal buddy should feel that the buddy system is very important. If you are having a problem, your buddy can help to alert others and get you to safety.
- Have a communication plan. Who will you call on site if you are facing an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Know what to do in a possible risk scenario
Locate the nearest emergency exits. If evacuated in a group, remain in the center of the group with as many people around you as possible. Don’t take the lead or straggle behind.
Register online with the U.S. embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country.
Beijing is a relatively safe destination with low levels of violent crime and civil unrest. There are personal safety and security issues, ranging from minor verbal harassment, pick-pocketing, and petty theft to more serious incidents. Always take routine safety precautions and pay attention to your surroundings. Petty theft remains the most prevalent type of crime encountered.
Stay in close touch with the Study Center and attend all meetings organized by Study Center officials.
The best deterrents against crime are awareness and common sense. Take prudent measures to protect your own well-being just as you would do on your home UC campus. Remain vigilant at all times. Pay attention to all signs—even instincts—that alert you to possible danger. Buses and trains are typically very crowded; safeguard personal belongings, particularly cell phones, and keep baggage within eyesight. Never carry an unlocked backpack on your back when walking or riding a bike.
Keep your dorm door and windows locked at all times, both when you are in your room and when you are not, and never allow strangers to enter the premises. Every incident of dorm robbery in the past occurred while dorm doors or windows were left unlocked. Do not invite strangers or questionable acquaintances to your dorm.
Do not give your personal information to strangers or go places with them alone. Caution is necessary in isolated areas, particularly at night, and traveling in groups is advisable. Some portions of the campus are not well lit at night, so exercise caution. If you are traveling in an area and feel unsafe, leave the area immediately.
A common scam involves younger Chinese “English students,” often women or a couple, offering a local tour and an invitation to tea at a nearby restaurant. When the bill comes, the restaurant owners force victims to pay an exorbitant bill before they can leave the premises.
Mission China consular sections have received reports of a financial scam that has victimized a number of U.S. citizens in China. While specific details differ slightly, typically callers purporting to be police officers tell the call recipients that their bank accounts have been compromised by identity theft and money laundering, and insist that the victims wire their money to another account to be “investigated.” Callers often have victims’ personal information, such as passport numbers, and direct them to authentic-looking websites showing “case information.” DO NOT wire money to anyone who calls you claiming to be law enforcement or otherwise involved with an investigation. If you receive any suspicious calls, contact the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) to verify the caller’s identity.
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.
Surveillance, Monitoring, and Privacy
There is no reasonale expectation of privacy in public or private locations. Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. All means of communication—public phones, cell phones, faxes, e-mails, text messages, etc.—are likely monitored. The Chinese government has access to the infrastructure operated by the limited number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless providers operating in China, and monitors them closely for any sign of activities and words considered subversive or pornographic. Wireless access to the Internet in major metropolitan areas is becoming more and more common. As such, the government can more easily access official and personal computers.
The Chinese government has publicly declared that it regularly monitors private e-mail and Internet browsing through cooperation with local ISPs. The government also employs several thousand individuals to police the Internet. Some bloggers are subject to particular scrutiny in China where such activity is often carefully monitored and in some cases blocked, depending upon the subject matter.
In general, be discreet about discussing politics and religion while in China. These are sensitive issues and are regulated by the government. Officials monitor information travelers bring into the country, especially political or religious material. Writing that is deemed antigovernment is not allowed, including some Christian literature and anything that supports the Tibetan freedom movement.
Chinese Law & Criminal Penalties
While in China, as in any other country, you are subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. Local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by U.S. standards, apply to you. Americans are not protected by U.S. laws while in China.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those enforced in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you are arrested or jailed, the U.S. Government will do what it can to help you but they cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.
- In China, you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you or if you take pictures of certain buildings.
- Do not take photographs of airports, government buildings, or other strategic infrastructure in China. Ask permission when taking pictures outside typical tourist sites. People caught taking pictures of sensitive installations may be subject to detention and interrogation, often without representation.
- Penalties for drug possession, use, and trafficking are strict. Offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines. In the past, some foreign nationals have been executed for drug offenses. Other foreigners convicted on drug-related charges have received 15-year sentences.
China does not recognize dual nationality. Travelers holding U.S. passports who also hold Chinese citizenship are likely to be regarded by the Chinese authorities as a Chinese citizen, even if you travel to China on your U.S. passport. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, carry clear evidence that you have done so. U.S. Embassy and Consulate officials are often denied access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens who do not enter China using their U.S. passport. For more information see the Dual-National U.S. Citizens section in this guide.
As a foreign national over 16 years of age, you are required to carry your passport or a passport copy with you at all times. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and around major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention.
The use of drugs is forbidden by law. There are severe penalties in China for drug offences including the death penalty.
Political protest is illegal in China and is rarely encountered by foreigners. Travelers who have attempted to engage in political protest activities in public places have been deported quickly, in some cases at their own expense, usually before the U.S. Embassy is aware of the situation.
Participating in unauthorized political activities or protests against Chinese policy in China may result in lengthy detentions and may impact your eligibility for future visas to visit China. Foreigners engaging in pro-Falun Gong or pro-Tibetan activities have been detained or immediately deported from China, usually at their own expense, after being questioned. Several reported they were subject to interrogations and were physically abused during detention. In addition, some alleged that personal property, including clothing, cameras, and computers, was not returned.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Most traffic injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists.
With only 4% of the world’s vehicles, China has 15% of the total global road fatalities. Injuries in road crashes are the second leading cause of death for people 15 to 44 years old in China. It has one of the highest road fatality rates in the world and the rate is increasing rapidly. Traffic is often chaotic, and right-of-way and other courtesies are often ignored. Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory.
Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road hazards (e.g., unmarked open manholes).
Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory. Transport security is a concern in China, and using mass transit when traveling alone is inadvisable.
Criminals operate on subways, buses, and commuter trains; bus and rail stations are havens for pickpockets and thieves. Taking steps to reduce vulnerability when riding trains or buses is necessary. Keep valuables secured at all times.
All forms of public transportation are crowded and can become dangerously so during peak times (morning and evening commutes). Passengers typically must be able to read Chinese to read maps and fare charts. Drivers usually do not know any foreign languages. Beware of pickpockets and thieves.
Few U.S. Embassy personnel take public buses, as they are often overfilled to dangerous levels, have poor temperature controls, and do not provide route information in English. Bus accidents are also common.
Robbery is a growing problem that has led to the deployment of mobile police teams at stations with notable security problems and on crime-prone train services. Outside main cities, few stations have strict security measures to limit access to platforms where scam artists and other petty criminals abound.
Try to use trains during daylight hours only, if possible. Booking the highest-class ticket available is recommended. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers; criminals occasionally drug unsuspecting victims. Never leave belongings unattended when traveling on trains.
Women traveling on public transportation may be groped or sexually harassed verbally, particularly during periods of warm weather. Women should avoid traveling alone on buses and trains at night, especially since taxis are relatively inexpensive, easy to find on main streets, and much safer.
Use official taxis (two-tone sedans) that employ meters. Do not take black cabs. If a driver refuses to use a meter, exit the vehicle and use another taxi. Few drivers speak a foreign language, so have your destination written in Chinese characters. Avoid taking unmarked private cars (heiche) that function as illegal taxis. Many taxi cabs do not have functioning seatbelts for passengers. If seatbelts are available, you are strongly encouraged to use them to reduce the risk of injury.
The US Embassy has received reports of foreigners taking rickshaws or pedi-cabs at tourist sites (Tiananmen Square, Houhai Park) and being driven through hutongs (or alleyways) where they were shaken down for money. Typically, however, the victims are left relatively unharmed.
- Vehicles traveling in the wrong lanes frequently hit pedestrians and bicyclists. Be careful while walking near traffic. Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions or who encounter unexpected road hazards (e.g., unmarked open manholes).
- Exercise special caution when crossing streets in China; pedestrians do not have the right of way.
- Cars regularly make right turns at a red light without stopping and will not yield for pedestrians.
- Even if crossing a one-way street, always look both ways.
Pedestrian bridges and underpasses may be lacking.
Pedestrians may be fined for crossing against crosswalk signals.
Cars and buses traveling in the wrong lanes often hit pedestrians and cyclists on sidewalks.
For more information, access ASIRT, Association for Safe International Road Travel, Road Travel Report-China.
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.
China is a seismically active country, and earthquakes occur throughout the country. The North China area around Beijing and Tianjin is subject to earthquakes. Notable earthquakes include one in Qinghai in 2010 in which 3,000 people were killed and a major quake in Sichuan in 2008 when more than 87,000 people perished. U.S. citizens in China should make contingency plans and leave emergency contact information with family members outside of China.
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.
Travel Warnings and UCEAP Policy
Many of the same challenges you face in the U.S. will exist in China. Prepare yourself. Know before you travel. Safety and security overseas is everyone’s responsibility.
- 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.
- 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.
- Know who to call in an emergency. Have emergency contact information with you at all times.
- Exercise good judgement.
- Read all UCEAP health and safety documents and ask the Resident Director and staff for advice.
- Be careful when taking public transportation.
About 398,000 fires occurred in China between 2008 and 2010, resulting in 3,865 deaths and property losses of 5.21 billion yuan ($800 million). For fire safety and prevention information, read the Fire Safety section of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as in the US. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits. Make sure that you can escape any location.
Fire - Dial 119
Follow these general fire safety tips. Most college-related fires in the U.S. are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. Educate yourself about fire safety standards in your UCEAP country. Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world.
- Know where emergency exists are located and check whether exits are passable.
- Know how to call the local fire department.
Do not stay in housing above the sixth floor so you are within range of most fire department rescue ladders.
- Print and take with you the UCEAP brochure, Fire Safety 101 for Students.
- Purchase and use a smoke detector. Before departure contact the Fire Safety Foundation. Choose from a variety of battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including models with sealed, 10-year batteries. Once purchased, the alarms and a multilingual installation manual – written in English and the host country’s native language - will be shipped to the address where you are residing.
- Have an escape plan and practice it.
- Treat every smoke alarm activation as a likely fire and react quickly and safely to the alarm.
- Check for fire hazards. Make sure exit routes are not blocked.
- If you have a disability, alert others of the type of assistance you need to leave the building.
- Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Fire Safety section for life-saving 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. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
What Is an Emergency?
An emergency is a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action. The following are considered emergencies:
- Any life/death situation
- A traumatic event requiring immediate assistance
- An arrest
- Civil unrest or natural disaster in the host country
In an Emergency
Contact local emergency services first and then contact the following:
If you are in the U.S.
- During office hours (8 a.m.–5 p.m. Pacific Time): Contact your Program Specialist at the UCEAP Systemwide Office at (805) 893-4762.
- After office hours: Call the 24-hour emergency phone numbers at (805) 893-4762 or (805) 882-2086.
If you are abroad
Carry the local emergency contact information at all times:
BNU Security Guard Office: 5880-8051
PKU Security Guard Office: 6275-1321
Tsinghua Security Guard Office: 6278-2001
U.S. Embassy in Beijing
American Citizen Services
No. 55 An Jia Lou Road
Phone: (86-10) 8531-3000
Fax: (86-10) 8531-3300
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, and Friday: 8:30 a.m.–noon, 2–4 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday: 8:30 a.m.–noon only
After-Hour Emergencies: (86-10) 8531-4000
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