As a major influencer in international affairs and global economics, this country is an invaluable place to study in. On top of that, there is a diverse culinary scene, a complex historical background, endless natural beauty, and a deep appreciation for performance and visual arts. It’s quite possible that you may never want to leave! And why would you? You can see all of this—and more—all while you pursue English study in China.

Although China tempts with its many highlights, the one thing that students are often unsure of is the language. A completely understandable concern, since Mandarin is seen as one of  the hardest languages to learn for those who are not familiar with it. Fortunately, in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, there are classes taught so you can study in China in English; these cater largely to the growing international student population. The number of universities in China that teach in English are continuously growing, which is great news for those of us that lack the foreign language gene.

Are you convinced enough now to buy your plane ticket? You should be.

Now comes the monumental task of deciding where you will feel most comfortable studying and living language-wise. Let’s get started! Here are some essential questions for international students to ask themselves before they decide to study in China, without any Chinese language skills, to make sure you will have the best experience possible. Whether you are interested in engineering universities in China for international students, a zillion other university programs, or would rather study in China in English for the short term, here’s what to consider:

Questions to ask before you study in China

What city will be the easiest to navigate when you study in China in English?

English-based educational exchange is more likely to be found in China’s larger cities, where there are well-established opportunities to study in China for international students and a greater number of Chinese universities; hence, also plenty of international students that you will be able to communicate in English with. Here are three major cities that have plenty of English taught courses for international students:

Beijing

Are you fascinated by Chinese history? Beijing, the ancient capital of China could be an ideal home living among relics of the past, while at the same time having the advantages of the present. Follow in the footsteps of great scholars by choosing to study in China in English at Peking University, which is the oldest university in the country (but has some of the most progressive courses) and Tsinghua University, which has one of the top-ranked business schools in the world.

Shanghai

For those craving something more modern, Shanghai is the heart of modern China and the country’s largest city. If you are pursuing a degree in finance, business, or economics, this city should be a strong contender for your heart and home base when you study in China. This city does not skimp on schools, which include Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of the most prestigious research universities in the country, with a huge international student population to boot. Another option is Fudan University, a renown Chinese university that is known for being one of the first schools to accept international students in the country, since the 1950’s, and has top-notch intensive Mandarin programs for those wanting to take the language leap.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is another major modern metropolis that is a popular draw for international students who want to study in China, with an incredible food landscape, a wide variety of different cultural influences, and plenty of English taught courses. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a concrete jungle, but has plenty of intriguing places waiting to be discovered in its back alleyways and side streets. The University of Hong Kong is the region’s oldest institution and is known for its excellence in research. Something to keep in mind is that if you are interested in enrolling in beginner Mandarin classes, Hong Kong’s official language is Cantonese instead.

Have you considered studying in China in English through a program provider?

The opportunities to study in China for international students can be an exhilarating, but also an overwhelming experience, even before you board your plane. We understand the draw of finding and coordinating independent study at universities in China that teach in English, but we also know that formal programs can help smooth out your entire experience in the Middle Kingdom.

Signing up through a program provider, such as CISabroad, USAC, or CEA Study Abroad can help alleviate some of the sleepless nights, since they take care of housing, other logistics of settling in and best of all provide you with a strong support system to help you through anything from culture shock to translating situations where language barriers are an issue. More importantly, program providers are a good safety net if you have some language-barrier concerns before or while you study in China.

The majority of programs will have a residential director who lives locally in your city and is the on-ground support for you throughout the duration of your stay. Study abroad program providers also help enroll their students in smaller English-based classes within a school, that are tailored more specifically to their needs.

Signing up to study in China universities is a lot tougher than you might think—especially when you consider your ease of making friends. A program provider that is based in an English-speaking country will also help guarantee that the other participants will also be English speakers. So you can study in China in English, with fellow English speakers! There are plenty of study abroad programs in China that offer housing in the form of dormitories or apartments, as opposed to a more intimidating homestay, where communication can be tricky. Often program providers will even make sure that your roommates or flatmates are fellow English speakers that will make the transition much easier.

When is the best time for me to study in China and for how long?

After you have zeroed in on where exactly you want to study in the Middle Kingdom, there is the equally important question of when you should go and for how long. Do you have an aversion to cold weather or begin to melt when the thermometer reads above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the air is heavy with humidity? Consideration for the weather is a very real thing, where in Beijing it can get mind-numbingly cold during the winter and in Hong Kong it can be unbearably humid and hot in the summer months.

Speaking to duration of stay, China is a country that especially takes time to begin to understand its complexities to those not familiar with its culture and language. You may think a semester might seem like a long time, but it is not! If you can, stay for two semesters or better yet if you have the resources and time, a whole year will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the cultural intricacies of China. Though you will be taking English taught courses in China, the longer you stay, the better chance you will have at learning the basics of the local language if you wish to do so. Understanding even a few simple sentences will allow you to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for your adopted country.

How should I mentally prepare before I study in China?

China is the very definition of culture shock, especially if you are coming from a Western country. Studies are taken very seriously, and there is often little room for error. It can be a tough environment to study at. China didn’t earn it’s reputation as a leading innovator by accident, after all!

Within the classroom, teachers are shown the utmost respect and classes are usually in the format of lectures, instead of discussions where students are encouraged to participate. There is also a high level of expected social obedience infused into the cultural fabric, as China is a country where individualism is not always encouraged.

Truth be told, the magic of a study abroad experiences lies deeply within the varying degrees of differences you are bound to experience.

While trying to communicate in broken Chinese, flailing your arms about, or seeking the help of others isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience, but it’s not a bad one, either. Just because you don’t speak Mandarin doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful, cultural exchange as an international student in China. It just means you will have to get a little better at charades (only kidding).

What is the cheapest university in China for international students, where I can still learn in English? Check out Master’s degrees in China 

1. Tuition fees in Chinese universities

Tuition fees in public universities

The average tuition fees in public universities range between 3,300 and 10,000 USD/year.

  • Fees for an English-taught degree are between 2,200 and 4,500 USD/year
  • Programmes in medicine, engineering and business: between 24,000 and 50,000 USD/year

UK universities with a local campus in China:

  • 12,000 USD/year for a Bachelor’s degree
  • 13,500 USD/year for a Master’s degree.
Tuition fees in private universities

Apart from several private Chinese universities, you can also apply to many American and British universities with a local campus in a Chinese city. Tuition fees in these universities start from around 8,000 USD/year and can lead to around 15,000 USD/year.

Most affordable Chinese universities

Check the list of Chinese universities with the most affordable tuition fees:

  1. Samara National Research University – average tuition fees 1,800 USD/year
  2. Nanjing University of Technology – average tuition fees 4,000 USD/year
  3. Beijing Jiaotong University – average tuition fees 5,000 USD/year
  4. University of Science & Technology of China – average tuition fees 4,350 USD/year
Tuition fees at top-ranked universities

Here is a list of average tuition fees at the top-ranked Chinese universities:

  1. Peking University – average tuition fees 17,000 USD/year
  2. Tsinghua University – average tuition fees 7,500 USD/year
  3. Fudan University – average tuition fees between 8,000 and 11,000 USD/year
  4. Shanghai Jiao Tong University – average tuition fees between 5,000 and 12,000 USD/year

2. Living costs in China

Average living costs in Chinese cities
  • Beijing is the most expensive city and you will need between 700 and 850 USD/month to cover your expenses.
  • Shanghai and Shenzhen are the second most expensive cities, as you would spend between 660 and 745 USD/month.

In all the other Chinese cities, you could fairly manage with just 440 – 550 USD/month. This sum can also include the accommodation if you live in a residence hall.

Check out a detailed list of prices in China and more on living costs in Chinese cities.

Accommodation costs

Although Shanghai and Beijing are known as some of the most expensive cities to live in the world, you can find several affordable options for housing in these metropolitan cities. Rates are even lower in places like Tianjin, Jiangsu or Sichuan.

The most common housing options in China are:

  1. Student residence halls – prices range between 150 and 400 USD/month.
  2. Renting a flat – the average rate is between 250 and 1,000 USD/month for a one-bedroom apartment (depending on the city, the location of the apartment and the included facilities).
  3. Home stay – between 350 and 550 USD/month.
  4. Hostel – usually chosen by international students as a temporary option; rates start at18 USD/night for a private room.

Living with a roommate whether in a student residence or in an apartment is the most common option among international students to save money.

  • All accommodation (mainly student residences and apartments) require a security deposit: 300 to 460 USD.
  • Utility bills: around 50USD/month on water, gas, and electricity.
Food costs

Apart from being an interesting study abroad destination, China is famous for its diverse, interesting, intriguing and not to mention very affordable cuisine.

A meal at the university canteen, a small local restaurant or a fast food chain should costs between 1 and 4 USD. Mid-range dining options (prices between 4 and 7 USD) include both Chinese and international cuisine.
On average, food bills from the local supermarkets would lead to around 170 – 200 USD/month. You can find international chain supermarkets like Wal-mart, Carrefour, Auchan or Metro.

Buy fruit and vegetables from the fresh markets and you can get a big shopping bag full of fruits with only 2 – 3 USD.

Transportation

China has excellent public transport at very low prices and even taxi rides are quite cheap.

Here is a general list of prices for public transportation:

  • Metro ride: 0.5 USD
  • Taxi rate per km: 0.33 USD
  • 20-min taxi ride across town: 4 USD
  • City bus: 0.3 USD
  • A student pass for public transportation costs around 15 USD/month.
Extra costs
  • Books and course materials: 30 – 50 USD/semester; you could pay more if you study sciences, medicine or art.
  • Medical insurance: around 60 USD for six months.

3. Scholarships for international students

In order to attract more international students, the Chinese government has set a scholarship scheme, providing full or partial funding for tuition fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

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