This will probably be a very lame pre-departure tips post compared to the Cambridge and Yonsei programs because the conditions I applied into the program follow only UCEAP (yay UCEAP) guidelines and everything else like visas and cards were handled with my parents by my side (goodbye independence, hello reliance). I’ll try my best to be as informative as possible though and you can find some helpful tips here still!
The application period for the spring semester began early January and ended around May of the year before the program. After the initial acceptance into the program, we filled out the Peking University online application (there is a guide available from UCEAP on how to fill it out but it is UCEAP specific) and official admission was released around January right before the start of the semester in February. Basically the application process went like this:
For UCEAP, I was able to sign up with the program to get a room at ZGXY/中关新园Zhongguanxinyuan which is the international dorms at Peking University. The room model we get is the one where everyone has their own room but with a shared living room. Living conditions in the international dorms are much better than local dorms but keep in mind that it may not be as nice as the ones in America or Europe.
The dorm is located right outside the Beijing Metro Line 4 Peking University East Gate stop (exit C or D) so it’s super convenient.
You can also look for housing outside but make sure you are renting from a legitimate place and that the area and room is safe.
Applying for a visa is different for every country. For me, my parents went with me get it at the Los Angeles Chinese Consulate so I didn’t really look into the kinks and obstacles that people might experience there. My friends have also applied before while in different countries and it didn’t seem like they ran into any problems so it should be an easy process.
Students are recommended to get the X2 visa for semester study and it comes in single, double, and multiple. I would recommend asking them whether you can get a multiple when you are turning in your documents just to increase the chances of getting it (it would make traveling a lot easier while on the program if you’re going to surrounding countries) but ultimately, it is up to them which visa you get.
To get the X2 or X1 (year study) visas, you will need the acceptance letters from Peking University in hand when going to the consulate. These documents are sent to your school by UCEAP if you are participating with them. Also bring these items:
- Passport (apply for a passport as soon as possible if you don’t have one yet!)
- One official passport photo with your name written on the back. Doesn’t hurt to have a few extra copies just in case. (I recommend having lots of copies made and to put them in a baggy with your passport where ever you go for convenience!)
- Print and fill out this form. Bring it with you to the consulate.
- Official Letter(s) of Acceptance and JW202 form(s) as well as a copy of each.
- Copy of physical Exam forms if you’re studying for one year.
For UC students, there is a Chinese consulate in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Make sure to go early because it can get really busy starting from the afternoon.
It’s recommended that you buy flight tickets after you are confirmed by Peking University. There are direct flights to Beijing from LAX and SFO on Air China. It’s not that great of an airline but it’s convenient and prices are usually pretty cheap. Alternatively you can also take China Southern which is slightly better or Cathay Pacific and transfer from Guangzhou (CAN) and Hong Kong (HKG) respectively.
China uses a lot of WeChat pay (kind of like Apple Pay) and cash. For students with X2 or X1, you can open a card at any of the major banks in China with your passport. I recommend Bank of China since it’s the largest with the longest history, and its the best bank in China in my opinion. For those who don’t have a ‘long-term’ visa, you can try opening your bank at the China Construction Bank.
For opening cards abroad before you get there, I recommend HSBC or Citibank, both of which has branches in China.
If you have T-Mobile, you’re basically set to go since it’s free text and data. For calls, you can call through your apps. If you really want to set up a phone card, there are pay by minutes/data used ones available at China Telecom.
For spring semester, you’re going to go through all the seasons of Beijing except for autumn. When you arrive, you will be smack in winter and it’ll be very cold (3C~ -C degrees). Make sure to bring warm coats, scarves, clothes you can layer with. I recommend just bringing winter clothes first and then getting everything else while in Beijing as the seasons change. Make sure to bring some masks too because the air quality can get pretty bad.
Bring snacks that you think you’ll miss although there’s lots of them available in China too. Bring little mementos and pictures of friends and family so you don’t get homesick!
Chinese voltage is at 220v so make sure your appliances fit!!
Signing up for classes:
Signing up for classes is an easy process (especially for EAP students). You will be taken to a room to sign up for classes on a designated day and you just look at the courses you want and let the local PKU student volunteers know what you want. They’ll then sign up for you on the computer and you’re good to go. If you know Chinese already, you can also do this process yourself on that day instead of waiting for someone to help you.
First round of course selection is by lottery (you put in ‘points’ and the more you put in the more likely you’ll get in) and then after the first round, classes open up for grabs.