IUP - Rigorous and Worth it, The best for improving your Chinese. Past Review

By (International Relations and Chinese, Tufts University) - abroad from 01/12/2012 to 06/02/2012 with

The Inter-University Program (IUP): Beijing - Chinese Language Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I now have a certificate for the HSK level 5, meaning I can now direct enroll in a university in china. It's also the benchmark for chinese businesses. I would not have that certificate if I hadn't gone to IUP. I took this test last summer after a different program and I didn't pass or receive the certificate. This absolutely is worthwhile for me. I came in with the goal of seriously improving my language capabilities and I did.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Tsinghua University
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This is one of the most difficult language immersion programs out there and widely regarded as the best. (PIB and ACC close seconds). (This program requirers that only people who have reached upper intermediate to advanced level chinese may apply.) It also has the smallest student to teacher ration with a maximum of 3 students per class. This means you will get the most personal attention, to fix errors you make and improve your chinese. Obviously there is a language pledge and all classes taught in chinese. (any chinese language program that doesn't have a language pledge is not a serious language study abroad program so be aware of that when choosing programs. If you want to improve your chinese then choose a program with a language pledge, if you want to have fun and chill choose a different program.) This program is unique and the best program out there (I've attended 3) because it emphasizes oral communication and listening skills above all else. This is crucial to language learning with chinese because it takes students' passive vocabulary and makes it active, improving your speaking and overall level of chinese incredibly.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Tsinghua University with further administration from UCal Berkeley. The administration was good. It's not a hand holding program because it's not geared towards undergrads so there's not you have to figure some stuff out for your self but they are always there to help if you need it.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

This program doesn't provide housing because again it's not geared towards undergrads but rather young professionals or graduate students. Therefore you have to find an apartment yourself that is off campus and near by tsinghua. It's not hard and actually a much happier way of living abroad because you have a kitchen where you can cook, you have a nice place to live rather than an over priced, shitty quality dorm room. It also allows you mobility so if you want to live in a different part of beijing, then you can do that. Lots of people live with roommates who are also attending the program and while it seems like stressful to not have your housing allocated it's actually a huge advantage of this program.

* Food:

food is not provided by the program either. There are several dining halls on the tsinghua campus that you can go to with your student ID that have good and very inexpensive food. Also there are loads of restaurants and markets near by where you can buy food if you want to cook or go to dinner. Again another good aspect because if you don't always want to eat dining hall food you can go out and you have a lot more flexibility.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very integrated into the local culture. There were lots of opportunities to interact with chinese people either who were students at Tsinghua University , Bei da or other near by universities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have to go to the hospital while I was attending this program but it is made very clear what health care policies can be purchased, where the best international hospital is etc. Yes I did get vaccines for this program. You can go to passport health centers or talk to your physician about what you need to be save in china.

* Safety:

China in general is a place where you always want to have your wits about you or you will be taken advantage of. This applies especially to crowded places like subways and walking on the street. But for the most part it's all petty thievery, like stealing of wallets and iPhones. I actually feel safer in china than the united states because there are no guns in china except for military personnel. So you're not going to be shot in a movie theater or walking down the street like in the US. The biggest danger I would say is navigating traffic. First and foremost cars do not yield to people in china they have the right away. That's very important when you're trying to cross the street or walk anywhere. The few safety accidents i'm aware of were because people didn't know that or because they weren't paying attention. Also in terms of food be careful where you buy food from and know that it's often not clean. If it's cheap there's a reason why.

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)

very easy to live on a students budget in china. Housing is the most expensive part but if you're worried about that you can easily arrange a home stay with a family for free if you teach their kid english like 2 hours a week. this means talk someone in english for 2 hours a week and they will often feed and house you. Pretty good deal for students if you ask me. Food and basic living expenses in china are much cheaper than the us (as long as you're not buying imported things and going to foreign restaurants).

* Was housing included in your program cost? No
* Was food included in your program cost? No
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent roughly $100 on food a week. about $15 a day. You could spend even less than that on food if you wanted. Other expenses are low the subway is cheap, buses are cheap, etc.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? if you want to save money contact the program directly about home stay options. Chinese families are often looking for a student to live with them because they want contact with people who know english. Home stays are inexpensive and in some cases free if you tutor their kid in english for a few hours a week. That's the best way to save money. Eating at the dining hall is obviously also cheap because its' subsidized by the state but has good food. teach english on the side if you want to make ends meet. This is the equivalent to baby sitting in china, it pays well, a lot of people do it and it's all good cash under the table that you can spend on food etc. Going rates for native english speakers are generally b/t $15 - $30 an hour depending on your experience. (i.e. w/ no experience about $18). I know this helps a lot of people make ends meet!


* 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

As stated above, there's a language pledge in this program. You must always speak in chinese and use no other language. Also I will repeat think about your objectives when studying chinese if you are very serious and want to improve your chinese, programs with language pledges are your only option. Other programs without a pledge everyone speaks english the entire time and their chinese really doesn't improve much. You might as well be in the US studying chinese, the only difference is the air is worse there and you can visit tourist sites around beijing). A program with a pledge lets you know it's serious and so are the students that are attending that program. These types of programs tend to have upwards of 5 hours of homework at day and are very very rigorous. But obviously they produce real results. If you are looking for a fun relaxing study abroad experience do not choose this type of program, go to one where classes are taught in english and you have more time to chill. (Obviously if you need to make calls home that's fine just don't pollute the language environment by speaking loudly in the class room buildings etc.)

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I completed a 5th year chinese class before I left.
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? speak chinese as much as possible whenever you can. Watch youtube or youku.com or tudou.com videos in chinese. Watch shows with subtitles so you're both hearing it and seeing the characters. don't just write it be able to speak, that's what matters once you get there and have to navigate your way through the city.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
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?
  • This program is about language fluency and independence.
  • The teachers are phenomenal and the low student to teacher ratio is key
  • emphasis on oral conversation and listening improves your chinese drastically. No other programs has quite that emphasis
* What could be improved?
  • more travel opportunities i guess, there is usually one big travel opportunity per semester and other small trips within beijing
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how much better than other programs it was. Then I wouldn't have attending 3 other programs and would have gone to IUP all those times. I wish I has signed up and taken the HSK at the beginning, middle and end to test my improvement.