Last summer I applied to take part in the Beijing university Study China programme, which is a three-week intensive mandarin course. During this blog I am going to tell you what to expect during the programme and how to apply.
Not only do you learn the language, but you also learn about the culture and heritage. You do not have to have any prior mandarin ability and can chose to live and study at three of Chinas most vibrant cities, studying at one of Chinas leading universities. I went to Beijing Normal University; I really enjoyed it and re-applied for this summer before the coronavirus outbreak.
Before you jet off to China there are three pre-departure briefings. These take place across the country at University College London, University of Manchester and Belfast. These happen early summer and are not compulsory to attend. I didn’t due to university commitments and received all the information via email.
I did however join the exclusive Beijing Study China offer-holders Facebook group which helped me meet other people at Beijing airport. Some students arranged to travel together from the UK on the same flight. Landing in China, not being able to speak a word of Chinese and not being able to connect to the internet due to restrictions can be quite daunting so would highly recommend doing.
Upon arriving, my host university provided a scheduled pick up shuttle bus which you register for when you book your flights. You can also get a shuttle back to the airport once the programme has finished, however, this service is only offered the day before and the day after the programme starts/finishes.
Whilst studying accommodation is provided on the university campus, I shared a twin room with another student which makes it easy to make friends. The programme consists of Chinese language classes, 8-1 in the morning and the occasional Chinese lecture or activity such as calligraphy in the afternoon.
Most afternoons I had off to explore the city. They also organise day trips to the forbidden city and the great wall of China which were both incredible.
One of my favourite parts of the trip was the ‘family visit’. This is something you will do no matter what university you decide to go to. Everybody’s family visit experience is different, you get split up into small groups of 3-4 students and get allocated to a family. At my visit I was taken to a local market to buy ingredients to make homemade Chinese dumplings. It was so much fun, and I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to do that while I was out there.
Eating in China is possible if you are a vegetarian, but almost impossible if you are a vegan. If you are vegetarian, I would recommend screenshotting ‘I don’t eat meat’ in large Chinese characters so that you can show food vendors and they will understand. Buying Western style fast food like McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks is possible, however, they are much more expensive than they are in the UK. I would strongly recommend bringing cereal bars, cookies etc from England to snack on as you have no idea how much you will miss them.
This was my favourite Chinese street food snack to get on BNU campus. I still have no idea what it means but it was basically like a savoury pancake, with what looked like chicken tikka inside, filled with spices and beansprouts.
Once the programme ended, I opted to stay out a bit longer which firstly meant I could get a cheaper flight home and secondly meant I was able to explore China on my own, equipped with the mandarin I had been taught. Having already visited the Great Wall of China during the programme I opted to travel back to the wall to walk along it at sunrise. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
After visiting the wall, I decided to venture a little further out of Beijing and visited the Yungang Grottoes. If you decide to do the programme and travel after MAKE SURE YOU LISTEN IN THE LESSONS! They are so so so useful and made it so easy for me to buy train tickets, work out where I was going, listen out for train announcements, especially the train time and platform.
Further information about Study China can be found here, https://www.study-china.co.uk/