If you have just an inkling to improve Mandarin and go on an adventure, do it Past Review

By (Journalism., Northwestern University) - abroad from 01/02/2013 to 05/10/2013 with

Beijing Foreign Studies University: Beijing - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Confidence. Friends who understand the exact struggles and fun you went through. Study abroad is such a unique experience that you'll really appreciate for a long time.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

With about 4 hours of Mandarin classes a day, it was pretty rigorous. With that said, teachers did a great job of keeping it fun.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Everyone was super helpful and willing to go the extra mile when you needed help on something. They also knew Beijing and China very well (policies, where to travel on a long weekend, medical assistance, etc.).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I chose to live in the dorm, although you can also stay with a host family. I liked the experience a lot, especially being very close to my peers and the classrooms (which were on the top floor of the same building the dorm rooms were in).

* Food:

There's food everywhere. And it's cheap. Sometimes things got a little greasy for me, but there's always fruits and snacks to counter that. In fact, there was a fruit stand right outside the university's gates.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I thought integration was relatively easy; I'm also Asian, which is probably why it was easier to fit in physically (and even culturally). I didn't get stared at or asked if I could be in people's photos, like some others in my program. Food and customs-wise, I was pretty aware of what I was going on.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Beijing is very polluted so some people had difficulties. But IES is affiliated with a good hospital and you get an information session on how to access them at the beginning of the program.

* Safety:

I would say Beijing is really safe. Just like any major city, stay in groups and in well-lit areas. And don't get in black cabs; they're shady.

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)

On a day-to-day basis, there wasn't much that went into living costs. The most expensive part of the semester was when I wanted to travel to other cities because of transportation, hotel, and other expenses.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Honestly, do not remember
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Take overnight trains when traveling (they're cheaper and the experience is great). Really think twice about things that you want to buy--will you need it or is it an impulsive buy? Remember, you have to bring all those souvenirs and stuff back to the US with you.


* 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

We even had a "Chinese-only rule" with proctors monitoring that. Also, if you lived in the dorms, you had a Chinese roommate.

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? Almost all levels at my university
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 it. Those mistakes might seem embarrassing at the time, but it's momentary. And tell more experienced speakers to correct you if you're wrong.

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

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Friends from various universities across the US
  • Rapid Chinese improvements
* What could be improved?
  • Sometimes it seems like studying is all we do (maybe cut down on non-chinese studies)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Plan your days in Beijing; time flies by faster than you'd think.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!