Welcome to Beijing
At CET, our goal is to make study abroad accessible for all. We believe that learning happens best when your class reflects the world around us—complex and diverse. So we work hard to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. No matter where you are coming from, we want you to have a successful study abroad experience.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
Race & Ethnicity
The average Chinese person is not surrounded by the racial diversity that exists in the US and as a result racism in China manifests differently than in the United States. Students may hear racially insensitive comments or notice some staring, but these instances can mostly be attributed to the lack of knowledge about and/or exposure to people of other races and ethnicities. Students have reported being approached by strangers for photos, questions, and other interactions born of their perceived foreign identity.
In contrast, heritage students and others who may be mistaken for a local sometimes feel less welcomed than their peers with more obviously foreign features. Interactions with locals are typically initiated in Chinese and their language skills may be held to a higher standard. However, past students have reported this to be beneficial to their language learning and provide a living experience more similar to that of a local.
While homosexuality is legal in China, only heterosexual marriages are recognized by the government at this time. The local cultural climate is becoming more and more open toward LGBTQ issues and individuals, though it’s not yet on par with the US. Beijing has a relatively large LGBTQ community in both the foreign and local communities. Past students have found the Beijing LGBTQ center to be a useful resource.
Chinese culture is very gender binary. Though gender non-conformity is an emerging topic in Beijing, many locals are likely unaware of it. A non-binary student would likely find it difficult to explain what being non-binary means to their Chinese friends. However, past students have not encountered major issues with the local cultural climate toward gender issues and/or non-binary individuals.
There are five religions officially recognized in China: Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism. There is little knowledge of or exposure to other religions in China. Chinese people—while not usually religious themselves—are on the whole very open to religion and generally interested to learn about different faiths. Proselytizing is illegal in China, but personal religious observance and practice is fine for foreign students.
Cost of Living
Day-to-day cost of living in Beijing is more expensive than other Chinese cities (except Shanghai), but is generally cheaper than that of most places in the United States. However as with any major Chinese city, this can vary greatly depending on your lifestyle. An easy meal for just one person costs around 4 USD, while a family-style meal can easily be done for less than 10 USD per person. Public transportation is about a fifth of US prices, and western comforts (restaurants, coffee, etc.) cost about the same or more than they do in the US. Check out a budget sheet to get an idea of what life in Beijing might look like financially.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS
Typical class hours per day differ by term. The spring/fall semesters have 4 class hours/day, and Janterm and summer have 4.5 hrs/day (these are an average; some days will have less and some days will have more depending on the agenda). Class size ranges from 1 to 15 students, and is typically 4 students/class during semesters. During summer terms, classes usually have 6 to 8 students and over 10 students in more advanced-level classes.
Available for students with documented need: low-distraction test environment; extra time on exams; modified deadlines and seating; audio recordings of lectures; readings and texts as audio files; a computer to take exams; term syllabi/readings/assignments in advance.
Classrooms & Campus
Most classes are held on the 3rd floor of a 14-story building. The 3rd floor is elevator accessible, however a 14th-floor meeting room that is only accessible by stairs is occasionally used. A more accessible meeting room can be booked if necessary. Additionally, classroom restrooms are not wheelchair accessible due to the narrow width of the door and toilet stalls. The first floor of the cafeteria and several other buildings on campus have a few (1-3) shallow steps leading up to the entrance.
CET occasionally plans mandatory academic activities and optional trips to nearby sites and other cities after class and on weekends. Excursions may involve urban walking, rural hiking, use of public transportation, and/or going up and down stairs.
Itinerary modifications and accommodations can be made for students with documented need. Transportation can be arranged as necessary, and excused absences are provided for mandatory excursions that are inaccessible due to a disability.
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
The dormitories are located on campus, about a 5-minute walk from the classrooms. The only wheelchair accessible dorms are on the first floor, though the restrooms are not wheelchair accessible due to the narrow width of the door. The activity room, laundry room, and communal kitchen are only accessible by stairs. In-room mini fridges are available to rent upon request at a low monthly cost.
According to the policy of our host university, students must live with a roommate whose legal gender matches their own legal gender as it appears on their passport. However, arrangements can be made to accommodate gender non-conforming students if notice is provided in advance.
Rooms are typically double occupancy, but a single room may be provided for those with documented need if requested in advance.
Newer parts of the city offer curb cuts and elevators/escalators for subways, but some sidewalks in these areas may still present difficulties. The oldest subway lines (No.1 and 2) are inconsistent with elevators and escalators; and though staircases are often equipped with motorized stair lifts, not all staff know how to operate them. The subway station nearest to campus has elevators and escalators that can take passengers from the platform to street level without stairs. In the city center, curb cuts are less common and sidewalks are often narrow. Students will also find many gates that prevent the passage of motorbikes and bicycles into certain areas and buildings—these gates would require students in wheelchairs to use an alternative entrance.
Health & Diet
Health & Medicine
There are a variety of health facilities available to students in Beijing. CET’s recommended hospital is about a 40-50 minute cab ride (approx. 60 RMB), though there are closer facilities for general practitioner visits. There are some prescription medications that are not accessible in China—students should do their research beforehand and ensure they bring their prescription and the necessary amount if in-country refills won’t be possible. For example, birth control pill brands in China differ from those in the US. Students can rent mini fridges to hold any medications that require refrigeration.
Keeping Fit in Beijing
There are several gyms in the area equipped with treadmills, ellipticals, western weight lifting equipment, and classes (taught in Chinese) that have affordable membership fees.
Managing Mental Health
Mental health counseling is available to students at international clinics in Beijing, and is fully covered by the included GeoBlue insurance plan. During orientation, a professional discusses mental health and how it can affect study abroad. This talk covers culture shock, signs of depression, and resources.
Special dietary needs can be accommodated in China, but require patience and persistence as many local people are not used to the idea of dietary restrictions or severe food allergies. At the beginning of the program, students with specific dietary restrictions meet with on-site staff and are taught how to communicate individual needs.
Vegetarian students have found Halal restaurants to be more receptive to requests like not adding meat. Vegan, soy-free, and gluten-free students must be patient and clear when ordering food in China. Students with stricter dietary requirements are recommended to consider cooking their own meals in the dormitory’s shared kitchen.
Resources from Alumni
This is a curated list of blog posts chosen specifically to provide context for life abroad. Posts here may cover culture shock, diversity, daily life and workload, etc. To see all posts from students in Greater China, head to the Student Voices blog.
- What I Wish I Knew Before I Came to Beijing
By Kaylee Henderson, Kalamazoo College | CET Beijing, Fall 2019
- “下课休息吧”: Academic Life at CET Beijing
By Kaylee Henderson, Kalamazoo College | CET Beijing, Fall 2019
- Navigating the 餐馆 (School Canteen)
By Nina Udagawa, The George Washington University | CET Shanghai, Fall 2019
- A Few Firsts in China: The Language Pledge as an Absolute Beginner & Meeting my Family
By Mercedes Chen, The George Washington University | CET Beijing, Fall 2019
By Melodie Vuong, University of Texas at Austin | CET Shanghai, Summer 2019
- On Belonging: Studying Abroad in Asia as an Asian American/Heritage Learner
By Kyla Aiko Smith, Scripps College | Fall 2018
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad in China (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in China could be like for you or your future peers.
- Navigating China as a Black Woman: The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice
by Denise Jackson, CET Beijing | Fall 2019 & Janterm 2020
For “Students of color”
- CET Shanghai: Heritage Essay
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2019
- Support at CET Harbin
by Tatiana Wade, CET Harbin | Fall 2018
For “Students of color, low-income students, and those who want to go to China”
- Black in Beijing
by Minnie Norgaisse, CET Beijing | Spring 2018
- Japanese-American Experience in Shanghai/China
by Anonymous Contributor, CET Shanghai | Summer 2018
For “Japanese (Japanese/American) in China”
CHINA Alumni Insight
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in China may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you start an application, your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Greater China.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Greater China. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.