Approx. Time Difference
Add 15 hours
Add 16 hours during
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.
While UCEAP endeavors to keep all information in this guide updated and accurate, it should be considered in conjunction with program-specific correspondence, which may be more updated. There may be times when information relayed via such correspondence may supersede the online information. Students are 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.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Meet with a travel health specialist before departure to get any vaccines and advice you need before your trip. Go at least 4–6 weeks before you travel so that there is time for the vaccines to take effect, as well as to allow for time to get vaccines that require more than one dose. Your campus health insurance plan may cover them if you have campus insurance. Talk to your campus insurance office at Student Health. The UCEAP travel insurance does not cover travel vaccines or preventive care.
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 Staff 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 Study Center administrative staff. They advise students on academic matters, assist with housing, and arrange periodic group travel.
Beijing Study Center
Ms. Jing (Molly) Zou, Program Administrator
University of California Center in China
126 Zhongguancun Beidajie
Beijing 100871, CHINA
Phone: (011-86-10) 6275-2489
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 fall Language & Culture program at Peking University (PKU) has course and calendar limitations. It is designed to end in December to accommodate return to UC for the winter quarter or spring semester.
The fall program offers Chinese language study and a very limited number of courses taught in English. Enrollment in regular PKU courses taught in Chinese or English that are not part of this specially-designed program that ends in December is not permitted.
- Language placement exam
- 21 quarter units/14 semester UC units minimum required per semester. This is typically two language courses.
- Maximum of 1/3rd (33%) of units on the pass/no pass grading option. This is done in MyEAP only.
UC units for the PKU program are based on contact time. The language courses have high units as they meet for several hours per week. A course that meets for 8 lecture hours per week over 15 weeks will be 12 quarter/8 semester UC units.
8 X 15 = 120/10 = 12 quarter units.
A class hour at PKU is 45 minutes.
Peking University does not enforce a maximum number of courses or units. Past UCEAP participants have successfully completed 30 quarter/20 semester UC units in a semester in this program.
The Study Center can arrange for Chinese student tutors to provide assistance with homework. The tutor can answer questions, correct your writing, and serve as a general resource. The tutors are usually graduate students from the Chinese or English Departments. You must be proactive when working with a tutor; tutors are prepared to help explain what you do not understand, but they are not responsible for re-teaching course material. Past students have found their tutors to be helpful both with academic work and as a connection with Chinese society.
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.
You will do a Study Plan form for Peking University prior to the start of the program.
You will register for your courses after arrival at PKU and online through MyEAP. Registration processes will be covered by the Study Center during your on-site orientation.
The process for course registration at PKU takes place over two to three weeks. General schedule:
- Check the results of the course drawing
- Add/drop courses (there is a tutorial for this)
Check the final results
The courses offered at PKU vary each term and year. You will be provided information about the available courses during the registration period.
This program offers 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.
The following courses are usually offered at various levels through the Hanyu Xueyuan.
- 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 may be available.
Coursework in English
A limited number of courses taught in Chinese will be available for students in the fall program. The majority of the courses will be from the "On-China Series." Many of these courses are lower division as they are intended to introduce international students to various aspects of China.
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.
The fall program is new and an expected date for grades in not yet known.
For general information about grades, see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad.
The language courses in this program are intensive with lots of homework and class hours. Most students will not have enough time to engage in an internship for academic credit. Non-academic community service may be more feasible for students in this program.
Though most student may not have time to participate in an internship in this programs; internships are allowed. Internships for academic credit, called UCEAP Special Study Projects, require a substantial academic component in addition to the work with the sponsoring organization.
If you would like to participate in internships for academic credit you must first enroll in your program’s minimum unit requirement at the host university. Once your internship is secured, you must submit a completed UCEAP Special Study Internship form to the Study Center for initial approval. The form is forwarded to the UCEAP Systemwide Office for final approval. Once this approval is granted and the units are determined, the Systemwide Office adds the Internship (197) to your MyEAP Study List and you mab be allowed to drop a course at the host university as long as you are still meeting the program’s minimum unit requirement.
It is necessary for the UCEAP Systemwide Office to approve your internship for academic credit before you are allowed to take a reduced course/unit load at a host university as participation in a non-academic internship is not a valid reason for taking a reduced course/unit load.
Internships only apply to your MyEAP course registration; they are not part of your host university course enrollment. UCEAP internships are graded pass/no pass only.
Extending UCEAP Participation
Extending your UCEAP participation is possible. If you are considering an extension, submit a Departmental and College Preliminary Approval to Extend (DPA)
form prior to departure. Once abroad, make an appointment with your Study Center to initiate the extension. The Study Center submits a Request for Final Approval (RFA)
form to the UCEAP Systemwide Office. UCEAP must receive the RFA by the deadline indicated on the form. If you do not submit an approved DPA before departure, then you must submit a Petition to Extend
form, which requires campus and department approval, and can take up to eight weeks to process.
Both UCEAP and the Study Center must approve your extension request. Approval is based on a number of factors including program criteria, academic performance, the support of your UC campus department, and available space.
Once your extension has been approved, UCEAP will notify your UC campus registrar, Financial Aid Office, and Campus UCEAP Office. For information about the steps you need to take with regard to finances, see the Extension of Participation chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
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.
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.
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 dates 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. 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 and pay for 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 housing locations. Look up the location of your destination ahead of time. Provide the driver with the address of your housing location 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.
Travel to Your Host Country
The UCEAP program budget does not include funds for recreational travel abroad.
UCEAP strongly recommends purchasing changeable round trip tickets, which will allow you to make changes to your return flight for a fee. UCEAP discourages purchasing one way tickets, as your Program Budget is based on a changeable round trip student fare, which is generally less expensive. 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.
Most airline tickets are good for one year only. When buying round-trip tickets, purchase tickets that allow changes to the return date. 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.
There is no UCEAP group flight to China. You must book your own flight and any other travel arrangements. You should not purchase flights until you receive your admission offer.
It is recommended that you arrive during regular business hours.
Detailed arrival instructions are provided in your UCEAP online Pre-Departure Checklist.
Financial Aid Students
Your financial aid package is calculated using your specific UCEAP Program Budget. The estimated round-trip airfare amount is based on the cost of a changeable student ticket 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.
The “X2” visa is recommended for semester students. It does not require a physical health exam. The duration of the “X2” visa can be up to 180 days, at the discretion of the consulate. You can request a single-, double-, or multiple-entry visa. However, the consulate determines the type of visa issued.
If you receive a single-entry visa, you cannot travel outside of the Chinese mainland (including trips to Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan ) during the program.
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.
Undocumented Students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Students
Consult with an immigration attorney free of charge on your campus to determine if study abroad is right for you.
If you are currently enrolled as a student at UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, or UC Santa Cruz, contact the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center at https://law.ucdavis.edu/uc-undocumented/
The UCEAP Program Budget does not include funds to purchase clothing abroad.
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.
"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
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.
Climate and Dress
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 to very dry and cold during winter. Fall is considered the best season in Beijing, with comfortable temperatures. It gets cold in November and drops well below freezing in the winter, with little precipitation. Spring is short and dry. In the summer, most days are humid and overcast with frequent rain. During the warm, humid weather from May to September, mosquitoes are a problem and insect repellent is a must.
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.
Travel light. You frequently have to carry your own baggage, and the less you take, the easier the trip. You can purchase clothing for all seasons in China; however, if you wear large or tall sizes, you may have difficulty finding your size. It is easy and inexpensive, however, to get clothing custom-tailored. Those with larger feet (over size 8 for women or 10 for men) will not easily find shoes in China and need to plan accordingly.
"The summer heat is extreme, and the winter is nothing like what they have experienced in California, so pack accordingly." - UCEAP Student
Insurance for Personal Possessions
Consider having additional protection for your property. 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.
The UCEAP Travel Insurance
policy offers limited personal property coverage. Review the policy carefully before departure to determine if it is adequate coverage for your possessions before you experience a loss.
If you decide to purchase supplemental personal property coverage, do so before departure and make sure that the coverage extends while traveling. The host university does not protect student belongings—even in university accommodations.
You are responsible for your own personal property. Use logical precautions to safeguard valuables from damage or theft by locking your room and securing currency, jewelry, passport, and other possessions.
You cannot leave the academic program before your exams are officially over. 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. 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.
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.
Many things in China are less expensive than in the United States. Meals and food are quite inexpensive, unless you want to eat in places catering to foreigners. Some students have found that foreigners are charged more than locals for items purchased in markets without fixed prices. If you can learn ways to bargain in Chinese or if you go shopping with a local Chinese friend, it will save you a lot of money.
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 enough funds 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.
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.
At PKU, there is an ATM in the lobby of the hotel in Building 1 of Zhongguan Xinyuan, 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.
Online payment apps (e.g. Alipay and WeChat Pay) are being widely used in China in right now.
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.
Internet access is available in the PKU international student dorm room. Wireless Internet services are available on campus. You will pay a monthly internet fee.
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.
Callers from the U.S. can reach you at the dorm. 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.
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
Messenging apps (e.g. WhatsApp, Line, WeChat) are also increasing in popularity.
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.
You may live in the Zhongguan Xinyuan (ZGXY) Global Village, an international students’ dormitory across the street from PKU. Suites are minimally furnished and contain two single bedrooms with air-conditioning, telephone, and Internet access. Students share a small sitting room and bathroom. Bedding will be provided.
A housing application will be included in the UCEAP Pre-Departure Checklist.
ZGXY 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.
You are responsible for paying a cash (RMB) deposit to ZGXY upon arrival. Afterwards, you will pay rent on a monthly basis.
With Study Center approval, students may live off campus in private apartments. 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.
There are several student cafeterias on campus and countless food stalls and restaurants in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus. Students pay for meals in the cafeterias with their PKU student ID card.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Step out of your comfort zone and hang out with Chinese local students! They’re really nice and want to meet foreign students to practice their English. The local students are shy so take the initiative to meet them!" - UCEAP Student
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. 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 that offer a monthly membership.
Students with Disabilities
Accessibility and accommodation are different from what exists in the US. Standards for making roads and buildings accessible to persons with disabilities are subject to the law, but compliance is lax. Sidewalks often do not have curb cuts, making wheelchair or stroller use difficult. Many large streets can be crossed only via overhead pedestrian bridges only accessible by staircase. Some sidewalks have special raised “buttons” or strips to help those who are blind or have restricted sight to follow the pavement, but are unreliable. Elevators in public buildings can be locked, requiring that the person on staff with the key be located.
In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one accessible toilet. International signage identifies accessible facilities. Public transportation can provide free or reduced fares for a disabled person and a companion, although it may be 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 US), 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.
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.
The UCEAP Travel Insurance policy is not the same as your campus or private insurance. Inform yourself before seeking care. Your UCEAP Travel Insurance does not include coverage for preventative care, checkups, and vaccinations.
Read details in Benefits at a Glance
. Familiarize yourself with the coverage, exclusions, and eligibility criteria. You will be financially responsible for any charges for medical services that are not included benefits in the policy and for any charges over an above the “maximum allowable amount”. Your travel insurance policy number is ADD N04834823. It is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Company.
The travel insurance works on a reimbursement basis. There is no deductible or co-insurance.
You can submit a claim for a refund consideration of covered expenses. For more information about the medical claim process
or about non-medical claims
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 Status
Contact ACI at email@example.com.
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 situations.
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 one or more internationally staffed hospitals in Beijing and Shanghai. Adequate medical care is available at one 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. There may be shortages of routine medications and supplies.
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. 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. Have funds available to cover this contingency, and submit a completed claim with supporting documentation within 30 days of the service. See the UCEAP Insurance Claims Process
for claim forms and details.
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 are substandard. Response time is slow and transport to the nearest hospital can take a long time due to 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
Phone: (86) 10-5927-7000
Emergency Hotline: (86) 10-5927-7120
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 US 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.
- While on UCEAP you are covered by the UCEAP travel insurance. Inform yourself, UCEAP travel insurance terms of coverage.
- If you need a refill while abroad, you must see a local doctor. US prescriptions are not valid in other countries. You must travel with a letter from your prescribing physician explaining your diagnosis, treatment, and medication regimen, including the generic name.
Note: If the visit to the local doctor is considered preventive care, it will not be covered by the UCEAP travel insurance; your campus or private insurance plan may cover it.
- If you need to find out if an 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 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 traveling with a prescription containing controlled substances, 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 or unlicensed 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 clearly labelled with your name, doctor’s name, generic and brand name, and exact dosage. Carry it in your carry-on luggage, provided it is in pill or solid form. For more information, particularly if your medication is a liquid, consult the US Transportation Security Administration, Traveling with Medications.
- Carry copies of all original US 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.
Why is a letter from your treating physician necessary?
If your particular medication cannot be taken into the country, 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 to monitor side effects and dosage. 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.
Consult with ACI about the UCEAP travel insurance coverage for prescriptions, firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad, Health section.
Adderall is not legal in China. Work with your treating physician to request a substitute medication.
It is prohibited to bring into China habit-forming drugs, opium, morphine, heroine, etc..
Talk to your doctor to see if they can prescribe you enough medication to last through to the end of your stay abroad. Obtain a letter on letterhead with your doctor's contact information detailing the condition, medication regimen, and generic name of your prescription. Pack your prescription medication in its original labeled containers in your carry-on. Chinese customs may ask to see or even keep a copy (as evidence of inspection) of the prescription or letter from your doctor. If you need to refill your prescription while in Beijing, you will need to get a new prescription for a local doctor.
Commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications in the United States will likely be difficult, if not impossible to find in China. Be wary of low quality knock-off brands. Medications prescribed by a doctor in shanghai are available in all pharmacies. Many hospitals have pharmacies on-site.
Refer to the Health
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad for more information.
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 to whom they will be reaching out for help.
If you are currently in treatment in the US, discuss all program details with your doctor so you can work on a plan in case you need to reach out for care. Carry a letter from your doctor (on letterhead) indicating condition, treatment history, and medication regimen, so a local physician can assess your needs.
Consider the country where you will be living and studying. Many countries do not have adequate resources. How will you manage your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a pre-existing condition?
If you are taking a prescription medication, talk with your prescribing physician before departure about getting the supply you need for the length of your stay. Traveling through customs with medications for personal use can be problematic in countries where those medications are prohibited. Stimulants frequently used for attention deficit disorders, such as amphetamine or methylphenidate, may be problematic, along with narcotics. What substances are prohibited in any given country varies. For information about traveling with medications, refer to the Prescription Medications section in this guide.
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.
- Do not try to manage alone. Reach out to local staff.
- 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. For information about the claims process, access Insurance Claims Process. If you have questions about your UCEAP travel insurance benefits contact ACI at email@example.com.
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 are pasteurized.
Avoid dehydration. Be aware of your fluid intake.
China’s water supplies are often inadequate and polluted. To avoid cholera, do not consume tap water, fountain drinks, or ice cubes. Boil or treat all water before drinking, or drink exclusively bottled water. Take or buy upon arrival a heavy-duty water bottle that can withstand boiling temperatures. Most dorms and hotels have boiled water available for drinking (for tea, or plain after it cools).
UCEAP reviews information from the US 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. Among other diseases, there is risk of avian flu, Japanese encephalitis, tick-borne encephalitis, and rabies.
- Get travel vaccines. Inquire about travel vaccine coverage with your insurance carrier.
- Avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces contaminated with feces or fluids from poultry or other animals.
- Do not touch wild or domestic 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.
- Eat thoroughly cooked food and drink bottled water.
- Refer to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page on China.
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 US.
There is risk of exposure to unsafe blood and blood products in regional China. Specifically request the use of sterilized equipment. You may incur additional charges for the use of new syringes in hospitals or clinics. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.
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. If you have a chronic health condition exacerbated by cigarette smoke, consult with your physician before departure
On rare occasions, the over-consumption of alcohol has led to severe illness or death. Recently, a local student died after taking a bar's challenge of drinking 6 cocktails in 3 minutes.
Baijiu, also known as shaojiu, is a Chinese alcoholic beverage made from grain. Baijiu literally means "white (clear) alcohol" or liquor, and is a strong distilled spirit, generally 52% alcohol by volume (ABV) (US: 104° proof).
Fake alcohol is sometimes available in bars. It commonly involves high-end bottles filled with cheap alcohol, but can also come in the form of ingredients including antifreeze, methanol, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). These ingredients can be more damaging to health than genuine products. If you choose to drink, exercise caution.
If you have severe food allergies take precautions, as the cuisine may include ingredients that can cause anaphylaxis in those affected. Language barriers increase the risks.
- Research the local cuisine.
- Discuss the risks with your doctor.
- Carry symptom-reducing medications at all times, including epinephrine.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet with instructions for assistance in both English and the local language.
- Carry a card written in the local language that will warn food preparers about the allergy and possible reaction.
Excessive air pollution is a major problem in most Chinese cities.
During the summer, high heat and humidity contribute to China’s poor air quality. The high levels of air pollution in major urban and industrialized areas in China may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. If you have a preexisting respiratory condition, 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, refer to the following:
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 affected by air pollution, develop with your doctor an action plan in case your symptoms get worse while studying and living in China.
"If you wear contact lenses, take a pair of glasses with you." - UCEAP Student
If you wear contact lenses, take the prescription and a pair of glasses with you in case the heat or the air quality makes contacts uncomfortable. If you find you can wear contacts in China, they are readily available at half the US price in all brands and colors. Various brands of saline solutions, daily cleaners, and enzyme removers are also available.
Safety is our concern but it is your responsibility. Be proactive in protecting your personal health, safety, and well-being. Have an action plan.
With the right information - and by thinking ahead - everyone can play a part in minimizing or preventing personal risks. Observe and assess the risks, plan ahead to reduce them, and think how you would lessen the consequences if things go wrong. Start by outlining activities you plan to engage in through your program and/or during independent travel; label the risk and rate it based on the likelihood of harm and the severity of consequences. Consider measures you can take to reduce the severity and chance. Plan your itinerary carefully, let your friends and relatives know where you will be, and research the safest way to travel.
Be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate and unpredictable terrorist attacks, which make it impossible to protect yourself from. Remain vigilant in all public areas in your UCEAP city and country and wherever you travel. Many terrorist groups, seeking publicity for political causes within their own country or region, are not looking for student or higher education targets.
Terrorist attacks using vehicles are very hard to prevent and appear to be on the rise. If you are in a crowded public place, know how you can exit quickly, identify barriers or safe places where you can shelter-in-place, and watch out for any vehicles that appear to be going at very high speed.
Report anything suspicious to local authorities. Read all security-related correspondence and advice from local staff. Schedule direct flights, if possible. Avoid stops in high-risk airports or areas. Minimize time spent in the public area of an airport, which is a less protected area. Keep a mental note of safe havens, such as police stations, hotels, and hospitals. Have a plan for what you will do in the case of an emergency. If you are ever caught in a situation where somebody starts shooting, follow the active shooter guidelines: drop to the floor, get down as low as possible, and hide if possible. Cover yourself behind a solid object. Silence your phone. Do not move until the danger has passed.
Steps to manage or minimize risk and enhance your personal safety
- Familiarize yourself with all UCEAP resources and emergency support services while on UCEAP.
- Research potential risks you can encounter before you travel.
- Assess your surroundings. Observe and learn to recognize danger.
- Be attentive to what is unusual or threatening. Assess reasonable and safe options. Trust your feelings; if you feel threatened, act if safe to do so and leave the area immediately. Find somewhere more secure.
- Remain aware at all times. Do not walk around talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones.
- When entering larger venues, always decide on a meeting place with those you are with in case you get separated. Always identify possible exits.
- Increase your safety and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by staying on top of your drinking. Know your limits. In many countries beer, wine and liquor in some countries contains a higher alcohol content than similar products in the US. Know what you are drinking and how much alcohol it contains.
- 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. 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 locally if you are in an emergency? Do your friends and relatives know how to reach you when you are traveling?
Registration with the local US Embassy or Consulate
Register online with the US embassy through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
(STEP), a free service for US citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
Registration with the UCEAP Security Provider
You will be automatically registered with iJET International, the University of California security provider. You will receive important security and informational messages about local conditions for your program country.
The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) has established policies and procedures and has contracted with emergency assistance and security providers, to help you minimize your risk exposure and enhance your safety. Refer to the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, for more information. Access the US Department of State Students Abroad website for updated travel information.
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 tourists and locals 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, 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.
Chinese Law and 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 US. Local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by US standards, apply to you. Americans are not protected by US laws while in China.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those enforced in the US for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you are arrested or jailed, the US Government will do what it can to help you but they cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail.
- You may be taken in for questioning if you do not 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 US 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 US passport. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, carry clear evidence that you have done so. US Embassy and Consulate officials are often denied access to arrested or detained US citizens who do not enter China using their US passport. For more information see the Dual-National US 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.
Surveillance, Monitoring, and Privacy
There is no reasonable 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, and in some cases blocked, depending upon the subject matter.
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.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Do not drive. In traffic accidents involving vehicles operated by foreigners, the foreigner is often ruled at fault.
China has 15 percent of the total global road fatalities, one of the highest road fatality rates in the world. 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. Traffic is often chaotic, and people ignore right-of-way and other courtesies. Cars, bicycles, motorbikes, trucks, and buses often treat road signs and signals as advisory rather than mandatory. The greatest road hazard remains local drivers. Many have limited experience operating motor vehicles and may be overly cautious/aggressive, leading to traffic accidents.
Most traffic accident injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists in collisions, or who encounter unexpected road hazards (such as unmarked open manholes).
There is a significant volume of vehicle traffic that creates congestion and delays. Road conditions in rural areas can be poor. While English-language drivers, directions, or maps exist in more developed areas, these conveniences may not be available in remote/rural locations. Transport security is a concern in China. Do not use mass transit when travelling alone. Infrastructure and services are limited in rural areas. Criminals operate on subways, buses, and commuter trains.
Buses are overcrowded, especially during rush hour, and passengers must be able to read Chinese to read maps and fare charts. Drivers usually do not know any foreign languages. Guard against pickpockets and thieves.
Taxis are readily available and inexpensive. Do not take unregistered taxis. Use only the official two-tone sedans. Be sure meter is on before departing. If a driver refuses to use a meter, exit the vehicle and use another taxi. Taxi drivers seldom speak English, so bring a map or have your destination written down in Chinese characters. Keep windows rolled up and doors locked. Bags and other valuables should go on the floor or in the trunk. Carry all personal belongings, even if a driver agrees to stay with the car.
In a limited number of cases, foreigners have reported being sexually assaulted, have had their luggage stolen, or have been charged exorbitant fares when using unregistered taxis. Luggage theft typically involves a taxi transporting individuals to/from the airport and the driver intentionally leaving before bags have been unloaded. Other examples of problems with taxis include rigged taxi meters that can charge up to double the rate.
Many taxi cabs do not have functioning seatbelts for passengers. If seatbelts are available, use them to reduce the risk of injury.
Keep valuables secured to avoid becoming a victim of petty theft. Use trains during daylight hours only, if possible. Book the highest-class ticket available. Do not accept food or drinks from strangers as criminals occasionally drug unsuspecting victims. Never leave belongings unattended when traveling on trains.
Buses and taxis provide transportation to the city center and the Hongqiao airport. While bus fares are lower than taxi fares, buses are crowded and inconvenient.
The Metro is fast, inexpensive, and safe, but extremely crowded during rush hour. Routes are limited.
For more information, access, Taxi and Bus Passenger Safety Checklist.
Pedestrians share sidewalks with vendors, makeshift restaurants, motor bikes, bicycles, and parked cars. Remain alert while crossing.
For more information access, Pedestrian Safety Checklist.
Sexual Violence & Sexual Harassment
University of California Policy
Every member of the UCEAP community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment, retaliation, and other prohibited behavior (“Prohibited Conduct”) that violates law and/or University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of Prohibited Conduct and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates this Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. Report to the local partners and/or UCEAP staff if you suspect one of these behaviors has occurred.
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. Make a contingency plan and leave emergency contact information with family members outside of China. Be prepared, access earthquake preparedness information
Parts of central, southern and western China, particularly those bordering the Yangtze River can experience sever flooding. Heavy rains can trigger landslides. If travelling, monitor local weather reports and follow any evacuation orders issued by the local authorities.
Fire - Dial 119
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 exits are not blocked. Always know how you can escape any location.
Most college-related fires in the US 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 US Department of State or CDC issues a Travel Advisory 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, UC security providers, US Embassy, US 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 evacuation on US government-arranged flights, that require US citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The safe evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP and its experienced security providers, is covered by UCEAP insurance. UC students are required to follow UC safety directives in the event of an evacuation.
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 Study Center for advice.
- Be careful when taking public transportation.
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 US
- 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:
PKU Security Guard Office: 6275-1321
Tsinghua Security Guard Office: 6278-2001
US 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
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.