Where should you study in China?

Dalian SquareSo you’ve made the decision to study Chinese, but still haven’t decided where in China? Most people are drawn to the big citis of Beijing and Shanghai, but they may not be the best options if you want a really immersive and intensive language experience. Before you make your final choice on which city to study and live in, have a look at the reasons below why a smaller city like Tianjin or Dalian might be the study experience you’re looking for!


1. Smaller community may equal deeper immersion.

Large cities like Beijing and Shanghai have many international people and often they create their own community within the city. From my experience studying in Beijing, all my friends were able to speak English and because of this when we were together we never practised our Chinese because it was just easier to speak English. After a year studying in China my biggest regret is not having made as many Chinese friends and speaking Mandarian as often as I should have. If you study in a smaller city their may also be foreigners but significantly less than in a Beijing or Shanghai. This will give you more of an opportunity to make friends with Chinese locals and really immerse yourself within the culture and language.

2. Lower living costs 

Studying Chinese in larger cities will definitely make your wallet a lot lighter than a smaller city. Housing, school, transpiration and food is often cheaper in smaller areas. Paying less doesn't mean receiving less though, the education in these areas do not lack anything first tier cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, have to offer. Accommodation will be just as nice, transportation just as convenient and food just as delicious.

3. You will get to discover the whole city

Even after a year studying in Beijing I can't say that I fully explored everything the city has to offer. There are so many different parts to the capital that I have never seen. In a smaller community you will have less space to cover. This can be a blessing in a way because at the end you can say that you have seen the whole city and have even become familiar to many of it’s areas, deeming yourself a true local. This might leave you with a stronger feeling of gaining a second home.

4. Less pollution and traffic

A larger population typically means more pollution and traffic in China. No matter where I went in Beijing there was always people and traffic. If you are concerned about health issues or often get frustrated with traffic than a smaller city would more suit your taste. I’ve experienced Beijing in every season and one thing they all have in common is smog.  A less populated location may still have air pollution and it's own traffic problems but most likely it will be less extreme. Cities such as Beijing or Shanghai definitely have their appealing aspects, but smaller cities such as Dalian or Tianjin can be even more charming.

Tianjin Eye

Here’s some quick  information on a few of the smaller cities that CSA offers programs in! A relatively new city, Dalian is a costal port. While in this metropolis you can relax on the beaches, enjoy a walk through the city while admiring architecture rich in european style or, if you prefer, see the sites from a horse drawn carriage. Trees and parks are numerous in this place, so most days you will be able to catch a breath of fresh air. Dalian’s seafood is considered to be one of the best in China and has been named "China's most liveable city". Tianjin is a great place to explore and not to be overlooked by it’s close neighbour Beijing, which is only a 30 minute train ride away. The city is filled with both Chinese and European culture in the form of streets and buildings. You can buy old Chinese trinkets at the Ancient Cultural Street, enjoy a delicious meal of pasta in little Italy and take a stroll by the Hai River. Catch a ride on the Eye of Tianjin to enjoy a 360 view of the city during the day, or take a boat ride at night to see the city lights.

I would never trade my experience in Beijing for anything but if I were to study longer in China I would highly consider relocating to a smaller area to discover a different part of China and challenge myself. In the end no matter where you choose to study, a big city or a small town is always just a train ride away!

Written by CSA student Cindy Tan


  • Beijing

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    3610 Capital Mansions,
    6 Xinyuan Nan Road, Chaoyang
    Beijing, 100027
    Phone: (+86) 10 8468 3799 
  • London

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    154 Bishopsgate
    London EC2M 4LN
    United Kingdom
    Phone: (+44) 0207 377 84 
  • Hong Kong

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    Rm 604-7 Dominion Centre
    43-59 Queen’s Road East
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (+852) 800 968 924 


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