What better place to study contemporary issues in China than in Beijing, a city where the future is inextricably linked to the past? From the majestic Summer Palace to the bold designs of the 2008 Olympic Village, the sights and sounds of Beijing will enchant you as you study Chinese history, economics, and culture.
Based on the campus of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, the program begins with the Understanding China seminar. As part of this seminar, you conduct an interview project that culminates with student presentations. Next, you take a sequential series of rigorous 300-level seminars (such as Chinese Government and Politics and China's Development and Environmental Challenges) taught one-at-a-time at an accelerated pace, while you continue with your daily Chinese studies.
This program is structured around three distinctive “blocks” or seminar modules that all students must take. You take one course per module, for a total of three during the semester. Area studies seminars are taught in English by scholars from leading academic institutions in China, the United States, and other countries.
Each course features extensive experiential learning, and two courses include field study to locations such as Yunnan Province and Tibet. With daily seminars 2–3 hour seminars and discussions, along with journaling, presentations, and challenging assignments, this program offers in-depth engagement with special China-focused academic topics.
Beijing will also be your classroom. From eating jian bing purchased from a street vendor to haggling in Mandarin in a bustling market, everything you do will be part of your learning experience.
We want you to feel at home in China, so we will do everything we can to help you integrate into life in Beijing. To facilitate language improvement and cultural understanding, you have the option of living in a homestay or in a dorm with a Chinese roommate. We also organize many cultural activities throughout the semester.
After you are admitted, refer to the Travel Dates section of the Predeparture Information in your MyIESabroad account before booking travel.
Please plan to arrive between 7am and midnight of the arrival day. If you are booking a late night arrival, you should plan to arrive in the late night of arrival day rather than the day before.
**NOTE FOR STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN THE POST-SEMESTER TIBET TRIP: The dates for the Tibet trip are May 5 - May 15.
Our mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences. We offer courses that explore topics such as Chinese Language, environment, development, and Culture through an in-depth and hands-on approach. Our world-class professors enhance your academic experience and provide you with new perspectives each day in class.
The three sequential blocks each feature two 3-credit, 300-level courses on China, as well as Chinese language classes. You select one area studies course in each block. Each block lasts four and a half weeks.
All courses are 3 credits unless otherwise noted and you must take 15 credit hours per semester.
Required for all students:
The Contemporary Issues in China Program is structured around distinctive “blocks”, which all students must take. The three blocks of the semester each feature a 3-credit, 300-level course on China as well as a continuation of the Chinese language classes that began during orientation. Each block lasts 4.5 weeks.
Center-Wide Language Pledge
Our Beijing Center faculty take great pride in the quality of its language training. In order to create a Chinese language environment and maximize individual proficiency, you are required to observe a strict language pledge at the IES Abroad Beijing Center and on the Beijing Foreign Studies University campus. “English-friendly weekends” are interspersed throughout the semester to give you a break from the rigors of the language pledge. Students with no prior language experience are expected to join the language pledge six weeks into the semester.
This is a list of potential course offerings. After you are accepted, you will see a list of final course offerings in your MyIESabroad account.
To learn more about IES Abroad’s innovative theoretical and pedagogical approaches to teaching language abroad, refer to the IES Abroad MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication.
Popularly known as Bei Wai or BFSU, Beijing Foreign Studies University is one of Beijing’s most prestigious academic institutions. A teaching and research university, BFSU has a student body of 4,000 and is one of the 100 universities nationwide selected for priority development into the 21st century. IES Abroad is currently the only resident U.S. program at Bei Wai, giving you a better opportunity to integrate with Chinese students. Some students join the university student union and intramural sports activities, such as ping-pong and basketball.
Unique to this program, IES Abroad arranges exciting and extensive academic travel, site visits, and field trips that are incorporated into the curriculum. Some trips are associated with specific courses and travel outside Beijing for up to two weeks. Other trips are shorter and connect your academics to local sites in Beijing.
We want to make sure that your greatest challenge is deciding which landmarks to see first or discovering the best café—not finding a place to live where you feel comfortable. We do our best to locate housing that is reflective of how the local community lives. Our goal is that when you leave Beijing, it will feel like home.
You live in a language-immersion environment to support rapid language advancement. Housing options will require a commitment to speaking Chinese as much as possible, and adhering to household and residence hall etiquette that is in harmony with Chinese cultural norms and university regulations. The final decision and location of housing is made once you arrive in China.
Homestays provide the ideal environment for learning about China and improving your Chinese language skills. Most of our homestays are located within a short walk or bus ride to the Center. All homestays feature a private bedroom. While living in a home may involve making some sacrifices of privacy and personal freedom, our Chinese homestay families are universally eager to get to know you and share their ideas, language, and culture with you. We will find you a suitable “English-friendly” homestay if you don’t have Chinese language experience. As living in a homestay requires a unique commitment on the part of students, we will interview all arriving students to determine if a homestay is right for you. Homestay opportunities are limited, and we ask that only students seriously committed to being part of a family apply.
You are provided breakfast and dinner by your host family, seven days a week, while the program is in session.
Residence Halls with Chinese Roommates
You have the extraordinary opportunity to lie with a Chinese student in a student residence hall. Although sharing a room with a Chinese roommate may require you to make cultural adjustments and compromises, the rewards are significant.
Students often develop strong friendships with the Chinese students in the hall, and enjoy impromptu gatherings both on and off the BFSU campus. Chinese roommates are selected from BFSU’s prestigious Chinese language department and the School of International Business. The rooms are located in the IES Center and are wired for high-speed Internet access. Dormitory floors include student lounges with WiFi, shared bathrooms, washing machines, and kitchen facilities.
Meals are not included, but you can eat at one of several university cafeterias or prepare your own meals in shared kitchens. Take advantage of the many small, inexpensive, privately-operated restaurants near the campus and throughout Beijing.
Part of making you feel at home in Beijing is doing our best to help you feel safe and cared for. Whether it is an orientation program that makes you feel prepared, your housing that is well-located and comfortable, or the field trips that take you to places off the beaten path—we’re all about our student services. This is just one of the things we’re known for.
The program begins with a specially- designed, five-day program introducing you to the IES Abroad staff, your fellow students, Beijing Foreign Studies University, and the city of Beijing. Topics such as academics, housing, transportation, cultural adjustment, and health and safety are covered during your orientation. All students take an on-site language placement test to determine their appropriate language course level. One-on-one advising sessions on language and area studies classes are arranged, as well as homestay placements.
CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation and Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.
Activities include “Explore Beijing” (task-based activities for you to learn the transportation system and to visit historical areas and places frequented by students), and the “Tiananmen Trifecta” (a tour of Tiananmen Square, the Beijing Urban Planning Center, and the Forbidden City). You also experience the “IES Abroad Beijing Marketplace,” where you can purchase supplies, such as discount guidebooks, maps, and paper and electronic dictionaries while getting tips from the local vendors about learning and living in Beijing.
Redefine the way you live and learn in Beijing through our cultural events, such as:
Although your adventure begins in Beijing, our field trips and mobile learning trips take you out of the capital to other great cities and destinations. Our trips are designed to take you to places off the beaten track and to explore the many different faces of this diverse and extraordinary country.
Mobile Learning Field Study Trips relate directly to your academic coursework. Each semester, one of your courses will be taught outside of Beijing in another part of China. Students can choose between environmental studies and biodiversity in the wild and lush mountains of Yunnan Province or ethnic studies in Tibet. Learn while you travel accompanied by IES professors and staff.
You will also have at least two three-day weekends to travel independently in China. Create your own itinerary and explore this fascinating and diverse country.
Mobile Learning TripYou choose one of two mobile learning study trips, depending on which mobile learning course you take during the semester:
Ethnicity in Contemporary China: Tibet
Travel to Lhasa, Tibet, with a Tibetan scholar and explore the surrounding areas to gain deep understanding of the Tibetan milieu and its interaction with the Chinese state. Spend time in Tibetan monasteries, hike with nomadic herders, and experience urban life in Lhasa
China's Development & Environmental Challenges: Yunnan Province
Join your instructors on an exploration of biodiversity and sustainable development issues in Yunnan province. Examine the ecological effects of urbanization on Yunnan’s capital Kunming, then travel to Lijiang to observe the positive and negative effects of tourism on the local ecosystem. Finally, travel to Shangri-la to understand the synergy between traditional Tibetan practices and the local environment.
Optional Tibet Field Trip
An optional 8-10 day trip to Tibet is offered to all IES Beijing students. Choose to travel either before the fall semester or after the spring semester.
For the optional Tibet trip, you travel to Lhasa, learn about Tibetan Buddhism, hike high mountain passes, and visit the Jokhang Temple and various monasteries, including the Sera Monastery to observe a debate ritual. Lodging is provided either in local hostels or camping, and most meals and all local transportation are provided as part of the additional fee.
The destination of this optinoal pre- post-semester trip is subject to change or cancellation at any time. You are fully responsible for all costs associated with this optional trip. No academic credit is awarded for this trip.
The itinerary is subject to change or cancellation depending upon the political situation in Tibet.
Since 2006, our Center has been located on the west campus of Beijing Foreign Studies University. The campus of BFSU features a new library, a small but decent gym, sports fields, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Center is in Beijing’s northwestern district of Haidian, home to more than 20 universities and serves as Beijing’s largest residential district.
Jeremiah JenneIES Abroad Director
Jeremiah Jenne is a Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of California, Davis. He specializes in 19th-century Qing history and is currently researching anti-foreignism and colonialism in the coastal ('treaty port') cities of the Qing Empire. He previously served as the Associate Director for China Studies at IES Abroad Beijing. Other research interests include the Qing as an imperial(ist) power, the construction of identity during the Qing Dynasty, nationalism in modern China, and gender and the family in Late Imperial China. He is also a regular contributor for The Economist Magazine and an online contributor for the Atlantic Monthly. His essays have appeared in China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance and The Insiders Guide to Beijing, 2009 Edition.
IES Abroad Staff
Ning ZhaoAssociate Director
Xiaomeng LinAcademic and Internship Coordinator
Jiasui "Josie" WangStudent Affairs and Customized Program Coordinator
Louis VonStudent Affairs Assistant
Chuantao XiangOffice Assistant
IES Abroad language faculty are experienced Chinese language instructors from the Beijing Foreign Studies University and other universities such as Peking University, Qinghua University, and the Beijing Normal University. IES provides regular training in international second language teaching methods.
Area Studies Faculty
IES area studies faculty typically hold advanced degrees from prestigious Chinese or Western universities,have studied or taught at Western universities, have published in China and abroad, and currently hold positions at universities such as Peking University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, People's University, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.