Study Abroad in Beijing

If China is the Middle Kingdom, at the center of the world, then Beijing is the Middle City, at the heart of China. For Chinese politics, art, culture and history, it is the place to be--which helps explain why so many people are there. It is growing and changing at a rapid pace but manages to feel more stately than frenetic. Language students in Beijing have the advantage of learning Mandarin, the native tongue of Beijing, from those who speak it best.

Study Abroad in Beijing - The Bird's Next in Beijing

photo by Jean Wang


"Beijing is diverse, mysterious and vibrant," says Erik Bleitz, who studied at Beijing Foreign Studies University. "The people are proud, generous and inquisitive. The culture and history are mind-boggling."


Beijing's Tsinghua University and Peking University vie for the position of China's top school. Tsinghua alums include Hu Jintao, China's president, and Xi Jingping, its vice president. Mao Zedong and Chinese Communist Party co-founders Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu worked at Peking. Tsinghua is a science and engineering powerhouse. Peking was at the center of China's New Culture, May Fourth and Tiananmen Square movements. Both are extremely competitive schools for native Chinese students and have quality language programs for foreign students.

Another option is the Beijing Language and Culture University, which specializes in teaching foreign students. Considered a leader in the language field, BLCU has developed curriculum, textbooks and techniques to help non-native speakers improve their Mandarin as quickly as possible.

Study Abroad in Beijing - Decorated Dooryway

photo by Luo Shaoyang

A night on the town

Finding the hot new bar or club in Beijing, as in any big city, requires research and legwork. But to get your feet wet in the Beijing bar scene, try the foreigner-friendly Sanlitun neighborhood. Whether you're looking for quality whiskey or burritos, an Irish pub or an upscale hotel bar, you'll find it--and other non-natives aplenty--in Sanlitun.

Eat this

You've got to try Peking (Beijing) duck--crispy-skinned roast duck, onion and hoisin sauce wrapped in pancakes. Walking the city in winter, buy tanghulu, a bright, sweet stick of candied hawthorn fruits. And don't miss Dao Xiao Mian, noodles sliced with flair from a large hunk of dough directly into boiling soup. Adventurous eaters should bring a camera to a snack market, such as Donghuamen, and get pictures munching on scorpions, sea horses and other exotics on a stick.

Study Abroad in Beijing - National Aquatics Center in Beijing, nicknamed the Water Cube

photo by Jean Wang

Sites to see

The Forbidden City was once the private domain of emperors and their eunuchs, concubines and councilors. Completed in just 14 years, it is a stirring mix of architecture and art. With so much to see, spring for the audio tour. Keep an eye out for recurring themes, such as yellow (denotes the emperor and his power) or the number 9 (symbolizes masculinity). Visit the Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace to view more imperial grandeur.

Tiananmen Square, the largest square in the world, is flanked with large government buildings, Mao's mausoleum and the entry to the Forbidden City. Its massiveness makes the bravery of the man who faced down a column of tanks in the 1989 protests even more astounding. If you can wake up early enough, the morning flag raising and singing of the national anthem is dramatic.

Old Beijing's crowded courtyard homes (siheyuan) and narrow streets (hutong) are quickly disappearing, but they provide a vivid view into life in Beijing before the boom. Take a pedicab tour of Shichahai, a beautiful neighborhood in the northwest of the city built around three lakes.

Weekend trip

You definitely need to see the Great Wall, but that doesn't mean you have to go to Badaling with every other tourist in town. At Huanghua, about a two-hour drive away, the wall is built along the spine of a mountain. With picturesque, overgrown walls and crumbling stairs, it can make for precarious climbing, but it also happens to be gorgeous. Mutianyu, northeast of Beijing, also has great views and fewer crowds.

Need Help Deciding?

One of the following program providers can help!

China Study Abroad (CSA)

China Study Abroad takes the uncertainty and difficulty out of coming to China. We take care of all the necessities before you arrive and continue to provide wide-ranging services after arrival, leaving you to study the language, explore the culture, and have fun interacting with local people and other foreigners living abroad.

Offering Programs In: China


What are the most common study objectives?

What are the most common study objectives for foreign students in China?

I'm interested in programs in Beijing or Shanghai, but not sure if I should bother with programs in my field of study (electrical engineering), or just plan to focus on language and cultural studies.

Anyone have some advice on study goals?

Also, will I be able to transfer credits back to my school?

Thanks in advance,

Common study abroad objectives in China ...

Hi Michael,

Everyone's goals are different, but generally speaking, most people studying in China are primarily there to learn Chinese, and Mandarin in particular. Cantonese is another common dialect for foreign students to learn (the primary language in Hong Kong).

There are a few other cultural attractions too, such as: martial arts, volunteerism, world class art and history museums, and leisure travel, to name a few.

Re accreditation, most study abroad programs in China (though, anywhere really) will offer the ability to transfer credit back to your home institution. This is usually done through a partner University in your home country. For example, credit is transferred from your program in Beijing to a partner University in the US, and then from that University to your home institution.

Hope this helps! :)


Thanks for some good Beijing travel ideas ...

After spending a fair amount of time researching study abroad opportunities in China I've noticed there isn't nearly enough creative content for me to gather a scatter shot of ideas for traveling abroad. Thanks for taking time to help fill the gap!

- Stephen

Yeah, I second that -- more please!

Seems like most of the study abroad content out there is kinda spammy with very little thoughtful (or objective) input. I've liked many of the articles here, though I might like to see a little more content on stuff like:

  • Student day-trip ideas
  • Cultural etiquette & common mis-steps
  • Practical travel tips -- getting around in Chinese cities, traveling safely in China, etc
  • Chinese travel visa requirements
  • Must-see regional destinations in Asia
  • Job opportunities in China

Additional info on the above would be greatly appreciated!

- Mei