I didn't expect to fall in love with Beijing...but I did! Past Review

By (Chinese and Finance, The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 01/09/2014 to 05/03/2014 with

Beijing Foreign Studies University: Beijing - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was 100% worthwhile. My Chinese improved probably two levels, I got to know a new culture, and I made friends that I will have for life!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I absolutely loved IES: Beijing and really enjoyed my study abroad experience! I gave it five stars because now that I have finished, I realized how amazing the overall experience was and that I actually really miss it and would not mind doing it again! However, during the semester, there were times when I didn't love China or I didn't love the homework but the people in the program really made it worthwhile. The Chinese teachers at IES: Beijing are the BEST Chinese teachers I have ever had and the other students in my program I can now call as some of my best friends that I still talk to almost everyday. The teachers are incredibly sweet, but the classes can be challenging. Yet, depending on what level of Chinese you test into, the teachers really stick to that level and use the vocab that you know. I was very impressed with how IES: Beijing really took care of the students and how established they are at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Also, the BFSU community is amazing and really became my second home. Song Lin on campus has the BEST dumplings and for really cheap!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The IES: Beijing office is really well established on the Beijing Foreign Studies Campus. IES: Beijing has its own building with dorms on the second and third floors, communal bathrooms, lounges, and classrooms are on the fourth floor. So you can literally roll out of bed and get to class in one minute. They also have an activity room where you might have some classes, and you can watch movies, play ping-pong, study, or do whatever. And the RA's are amazing! They are different every year but I know mine were the best :).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Everyone who lives in the dorm has a traditional dorm room with a bed, drawers, a desk, bookshelf, and a TV. You will also share it with a Chinese roommate. I really loved my Chinese roommate and I got to practice my Chinese with her and learn Chinese culture and she got to practice her English and I would tell her about American culture. If you live in a homestay, IES has a list of pretty good families to stay with. There is also one RA that is designated for homestay students.

* Food:

On campus, every single day I went to this place called Song Lin and it had the best dumplings for extremely cheap. I would ether get 10 for 6RMB ($1) or 20 for double that (yes, only $2 on lunch everyday). Also, outside of BFSU there is a street with a couple of restaurants that are pretty good. You will never have trouble finding food and if you get tired of Chinese food, there are a couple of good pizza places around.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

What I loved about my abroad experience and living with a Chinese roommate is that I really learned about a vastly different culture first-hand. I started to realize just how interesting the people are and the culture that is so intertwined with history. The one thing is if you look like a foreigner, some Chinese people will treat you like one. Around BFSU and the Chao Yang District (Ex-pat district) is not bad at all, but if you to a festival, Tiananmen Square, or a touristy destination, you will see Chinese people start videoing you or taking pictures of you.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

IES required you to purchase a certain kind of international insurance. The hospital that we were to go to if something happened was Beijing United Family Hospital. It is a private hospital and is in the ex-pat district so they have both Chinese doctors and English-speaking doctors. The only problem is that the hospital is so far away but its a really good one. I had to go once for being sick and an RA came with me, which was awesome. There is also an international foods store next door so I got treated and got some american foods that I had been missing. They take the insurance that we have with the program and did not have to pay anything!

* Safety:

IES will tell you over and over that Beijing is one of the safest cities in China, which I have come to agree with. I mean its never smart to walk around at night by yourself but I do not think anyone would run into any trouble otherwise. The only thing to worry about is pick-pocketing in touristy areas, which can happen anywhere in the world.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Beijing is pretty cheap, especially the food. You can very easily stay on a budget if you needed too. However, if you go to the market and travel, expect to pay more. Also, when going out, you'll also have to pay for drinks.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 250RMB (~$40)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? ATM's work in China and Beijing uses cash, not credit cards. I would suggest taking out a lot of money at once from the ATM (because of the international service charge doesn't make much of a difference on big withdrawals but does on small withdrawals). Then stash the money in various places in your room and only use it when you need it!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

You have Chinese class everyday except Wednesday for 4 hours plus one hour of one-on-one with a Chinese tutor. There is also a language pledge. For the first two weeks its from 8am to 4pm and then it goes 24 hours. Honestly, it sounds scary and intimidating but its not that big of a deal, really. I came into the program beginner-intermediate and left the program intermediate-advanced. But the language pledge really goes a long way in improving your Chinese.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? CHI 412L - Fourth Semester
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Just do not freak about the language placement test. IES is really good about placing you in the level that is best for you. All the Chinese will seem scary at first but you will get used to it and it will benefit you in the end.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Chinese Teachers
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Other IES students
* What could be improved?
  • More time to travel
  • Bring back Chinese History Class
  • Sometimes you will have China days (you'll know it when it happens)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That study abroad is not all amazing 100% of the time. Even though all your friends on Facebook look like they are having the most amazing time in Spain or wherever, you must remember they will have bad days too. People post the best photos of Facebook and you will do the same with China. There were China days, where China seems to win no matter what you do. And there are days that are absolutely amazing and wish would never end. IES will tell you about the study abroad experience roller coaster which will happen, sometimes from hour to hour, day to day, or week to week. But overall, I would not take my IES: Beijing experience back. I loved it and would do it again, or even do a full year!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Chinese 351i

Course Department: Chinese
Instructor: Gao Laoshi
Instruction Language: Chinese
Comments: The class was challenging at first but after you get the routine down and learn how to study for the daily quizzes, you start to really absorb the material. Gao Laoshi, in my opinion, was the best teacher of the program (but I am a little biased) but all the teachers are absolutely amazing. They are better than any Chinese teacher I have had in The States. The entire class is in Chinese but your listening skills will improve rapidly and it becomes much easier. The classes are very small, from about 4-6 people, so you are always engaged. I participated much more in this class than I did back home because I became so much more confident in my speaking ability through talking in class everyday. They did put me in right level for me, but if other people thought they should be in a different level than what they tested into, the teachers will allow you to test out another level for a day. Really, my Chinese would not have improved if it wasn't for coming to China and taking this class.
Credit Transfer Issues: