The 6 Biggest Misconceptions About Studying in China

the most confused traffic signsStudying in China is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you battling language barriers left and right, you’ll also be tackling an entirely different education system, one that’s heavily reliant on examinations, repetition, and face - and that’s after you’ve squared away your registration, housing, and placement tests!

For those first-timers coming to China, the easiest route to go will be to arrive with a study abroad organization (like CSA, ding ding ding!) or through your home university. If you’ve done the short-term study thing and are looking for something with a little more meat, you might very well be able to organize a year+ long program directly at a Chinese university. However, be aware of these (sometimes hard to swallow) truths about life in China for students: 

 

1. Your housing will be easy to organize.

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret - organizing housing in China is a NIGHTMARE. As a foreigner, you are required, by law, to register your location ASAP with the local police. As well, many landlords will reject your interest in becoming a tenant due to the difficult legal issues on their side for renting to waiguoren (non-Chinese). Furthermore, you will have to pay for 3 months rent up front, plus your housing deposit, all in cash, which can easily rack up to over $1000USD. To a guy you just met. In a language you don’t fully understand.

Good luck signing those contracts too - would hate for you to be kicked out on the street without much warning and without reimbursement for any upfront costs incurred. Yikes!

In short: if your study abroad organization is charging you a fee for your housing, it’s because it takes a LOT of backend work to coordinate apartments and short-term leases in China. We take the brunt of it so that your experience in China will be relatively hassle/stress free. At least as far as housing goes.

2. Your classmates will be other people from your home country.

If you enroll directly into a Chinese university, you will likely have classmates from all over the world! I oftentimes look at this as an added benefit to choosing to take your studies abroad. Of course, there are perks to having classmates that share your nationality - you kind of “get” each other already, you speak the same mother tongue, you might feel less homesick.

However, having international students in your classes has its perks as well! You’ll get to see how other cultures’ influence work ethics, hear a variety of perspectives on motivations for studying Chinese, as well as add to your list of free places to stay should you ever decide to traipse about in their corner of the world. :)

3. Your classmates will be Chinese students.

Unless you are working on a full degree program or a masters program, you can likely give this expectation the boot. For more details, see #2.

4. Your Chinese will improve leaps and bounds.

Say WHAT?! You heard it here first, ladies and gents. I am certainly NOT saying your Chinese will not improve significantly after studying here. The sad truth though is that it takes more than a 1 month or 3 month program to really reel in those language skills and feel confident and comfortable using them. If you are a student who is 100% dedicated to the cause, and more-or-less became an anti-English hermit for the duration of your program, you’ll likely be able to prove me wrong. I welcome any and all challengers to this!!!

5. Your visa situation doesn’t really matter.

China’s visa regulations are getting stricter and stricter and stricter. In times past, it was relatively easy to gain access to China with a 30-day tourist visa that you could simply swap for an added fee upon arrival. Nowadays, not so much. It is important that you not only pay attention to the type of visa you are applying for (M, X, L, etc), but also the number of days you request entry for as well as the number of times you would like to exit/enter the country without hassle.

A legitimate study abroad company should be able to organize the proper visa on your behalf, or guide you directly through the visa application process. However, it is important to note that it really is an unstable system with no pattern of which visas the government is more likely to issue where. Organizing your Chinese visa in Hong Kong is likewise not a good back up plan anymore.

6. You can teach English on the side.

As a student in China, you will not be legally allowed to teach English as a foreign language. You should not be earning any money at all, in fact. If by chance you choose to ignore this warning and go about your merry way teaching the ABC’s and grammar rules you forgot you knew, don’t be surprised if the authorities catch up with you and give you the 1-2-boot. There are inherent risks with ignoring the Chinese laws and I recommend not flirting with these lines. Play it safe and avoid deportation. Or time in a Chinese jail. Yikes!

 

BONUS! Common Chinese language misconceptions students have:

- Everyone will speak some English. Nope. Nope. Nope. While it is true that younger generations might have a stronger grasp of the English language than their elders, English is still NOT a commonly spoken language. You should not head to China anticipating you can resort to English in a sticky situation.

- I must always use the formal version! While yes, you should get in the habit of using 您 instead of 你 to show respect, we've found that foreigners tend to overkill it. If you're not in a classroom or business setting, its probably best to just do as the Chinese do, and eliminate the proper nouns from their sentences altogether.

- Everyone greets each other with "你好"! As it turns out, it is more common amongst Chinese people to greet each other with "Good morning!" 早!"Have you eaten?" 吃了吗? or "Are you going out?"  出去吗?

- I can mix up "得" "地" and "的" and no one will really care! Not so fast, partner. Your "de" particles matter, and whether or not you utilize the correct one can actually alter the entire meaning of your sentence. Pay attention to these subtle differences and use them properly, DUH! 

In summary, China is a crazy place, one that feels like a different planet at times. There are many logistical and bureaucratic hoo-hahs that can be overwhelming to first time students. If you free yourself of expectations and let someone else do the dirty work, then you can spend the majority of your time focusing on achieving your goals and enjoying your life in this weird and wonderful place!

 
If you are ready to start your China adventure, check out some of our program options here
 
 

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 In-Depth-China      CSA-blog

 


 

  • 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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