Being an international student in China is an unforgettable and immensely rewarding experience. Not only will you be able to witness firsthand China's historic transformation from an underdeveloped country into a major global power, but you'll meet people from all over the world too. Many international students take advantage of the two long holidays in an academic year (each lasting one to two months) to travel around China and Asia.
For most people, homesickness is an unavoidable part of living abroad, but you'll almost certainly find that the benefits vastly outweigh the costs, and like many foreigners before you, you may well end up looking for excuses to stay in China!
In Beijing, China's most expensive city, you can live fairly comfortably off of US$15 a day. Renting an apartment costs around US$250-350 a month and a meal at your local noodle joint won't set you back more than a couple of dollars.
If you're on a tight budget, you'll find that the salary from a part-time teaching job can go a long way in China. Also, unless you have your heart set on living in Beijing or Shanghai, don't overlook China's lesser-known cities where you may only have to pay US$150 a month for a room on campus.
Private car ownership in China is a relatively recent phenomenon. This means it's extremely easy to get around in China without a car. China has one of the world's most well-developed railway systems, making it both convenient and affordable to travel around this vast and fascinating country. Urban public transport systems are also efficient, modern, and, in most cities, vastly superior to those in Western metropolises. The only downside is, with so many people, it's not always easy to get a seat!
|Cost of Transportation in Major Cities|
|Subway||About 30 US cents||About 40-120 US cents||About 40-120 US cents|
|Bus||10-20 US cents||About 30 US cents||About 20-40 US cents|
|Taxi||About 30 US cents per kilometer||About 40 US cents per kilometer||About 40 US cents per kilometer|
Mandarin, or Putonghua, is the official language of China, and is spoken throughout the country. Most Chinese people also speak the local dialect of their hometown. Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, but this doesn't mean that you won't learn to speak “proper” Chinese if you study in another part of the county. Your Chinese teacher will certainly speak standard Mandarin (a prerequisite for teaching foreign students) and Beijing locals speak with just as strong an accent as the locals anywhere else.
You may have heard that Chinese is one of the world's most difficult languages to learn, and indeed, many foreigners struggle with pronunciation and writing characters. However, Chinese grammar is largely straightforward and logical. For example, verbs do not conjugate and tenses can be expressed simply by saying what time an action occurred. If you come to China with no or minimal language skills, you might actually be surprised how quickly you can pick up basic phrases.
If you can't speak any Chinese, is it difficult to get around in China? It is certainly possible to live in China without speaking Chinese, but it can be a struggle and you will need plenty of patience. Many young people especially college students speak English to a reasonable level as English is taught from primary and middle school onwards.
Download a copy of Useful Chinese Expressions to help you get around.
You might be surprised to find that the local food in China is rather different from the Chinese food in your home country. This is partly because recipes are adapted to suit local tastes, but also because Chinese cuisine differs from region to region. Many Chinese restaurants outside China serve Cantonese fare, which emphasizes light and balanced flavors. Food in the north of China tends to be heavier, and locals favor wheat-based staples like noodles, bread and dumplings over rice. Meanwhile, the central provinces of Sichuan and Hunan and famed for their spicy dishes, while the cuisine of the predominantly Muslim province of Xinjiang is halal. Regardless of where you choose to study in China, regional cuisines from across the country can be found in any Chinese city.
International food is also widely available; the bigger the city, the wider the variety. Japanese and Korean restaurants are particularly popular in China, as are Western fast food chains like KFC and McDonald’s. Vegetarianism is not widely practiced in China but Buddhist restaurants do exist and you can always find meat-free options on a Chinese menu.
Eating out in China is very affordable. A meal at the university canteen, a small local restaurant or a fast food chain typically costs between 5-25RMB (roughly US$1-4). Mid-range dining options (25-45 RMB, US$4-7) include both Chinese and international cuisine.
Daily products in China are very affordable. All universities have convenience stores inside or nearby , where you can buy your basic necessities.
Usually, a good pair of jeans costs around 20 dollars, while a suit may cost 30 dollars. A pair of socks costs 50 cents, a book bag costs 3 dollars, 5 dollars for a T shirt. .You can buy all the things you need at a very cheap price. Even a new 32-inch LCD TV costs less than 500 US dollars.
Most Chinese universities provide very good and comfortable dormitories especially for international students. The dormitories usually have private bathrooms for every room, TV, Internet access, washing machine, refrigerators and even a small kitchen.
You can also choose to rent an apartment outside the university.
For more information, please browse What is the accommodation like?>>