I came to Peking University wanting to learn Chinese, make a lot of friends and get to know China well. My experiences so far have turned out much better than I'd hoped for. During your first week in Beijing, you will get to know your fellow CSU-IP participants quite well and, once classes start, you'll start making so many awesome friends that you'll wish the days were twice as long.
During our first two days, we saw at least a dozen different apartments, all costing about 450 dollars a person a month. If you want to live within 10 to 15 minutes of PKU, it should cost about that much. If you don't mind bicycling or commuting for half an hour, there are other options at around $300 a person, but this will require spending most of your first week in Beijing looking for just the right apartment.
The Peking University campus is absolutely beautiful. We ended up exploring the campus for a little over three hours and covered less than half of it! It is considered to be one of the most beautiful university campuses in China, so you should take the opportunity to explore ALL of it.
Beijing does have four distinct seasons, so be prepared to experience a hot and muggy summer, beautiful autumn days when everything turns yellow and a freezing winter with occasional snowfall, as can be seen from my apartment's window.
If you're adventurous enough, you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore the country by yourself or with anyone willing to explore it with you. You'll come across many towns like this one in Chongqing, called Ciqikou. We saw another one very similar to this in Suzhou. You should always take advantage of the opportunity to explore as much as possible whenever you can; you won't regret it.
This is the People's Great Hall in Chongqing, right across from the Three Gorges Museum (a must see). I was here for a weekend and took the subway and then a bus here. Public transportation is just wonderful everywhere in China, though it tends to be on the crowded side. If you're adventurous, make sure to write down exactly how to get everywhere you want to go, characters and pinyin included, as you might end up going in circles if you don't prepare well.
This is Red Cliff Cave (Hong Ya Dong) in Downtown Chongqing. The fourth floor had a small street area with lots of food and shops similar to the ones in Ciqikou. To the right of this picture is a re-creation of a waterfall about twelve stories high that is quite a sight.
Chongqing has several Buddhist temples, this one, Luohan Temple, has several hundred Buddhist statues, each about four feet high. They're all very nice, though no pictures are allowed.
When traveling, don't forget to look around at where you are. I came upon this beautiful scenery, contrasting the greenery and some old apartment buildings with newer apartments in the background. An excellent example of the contrasts that you'll see everywhere in China.
This is the view from the eastern side of the Chang Jiang (a.k.a. the Yangtse River) looking toward downtown Chongqing's skyline, which is, just like everywhere else that you go, constantly under construction.
During the National Day holiday, spanning about nine days, you will most likely take a trip planned by the resident director, with input from you and your fellow CSU-IP students, to another part of China. We went to several cities in the south, starting with Nanjing (part of its city wall is pictured here) and ending with Shanghai. It was a busy week, but a very enjoyable one. It is from this trip that I learned that if there is a chance to do something extra during your travels, you should do it.
On the National Day holiday you will see a lot of people. Everywhere. This is at Nanjing's Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum. A great experience to go through, as long as you're patient and don't mind crowds.
As China keeps developing, people move from its rural areas into the cities. There are few, if any, one-story homes in the country, so the old hutongs that used to be all around the country get replaced by sparkling new apartment buildings. It's impressive the rate of development that you'll be able to see.
Shanghai's business district looks just as, if not more, modern than any that you'll find in America. This seemed to have been built in the last couple of years. I think more than half of the country has literally been built in the last 10 years.
This is Wuzhen Water Town, one of the three that we saw. This was the most crowded one, and the most beautiful one too. It felt quite authentic, as people actually live in the houses pictured here. I wonder what they think about their neighborhood being a tourist attraction.
Learn more about the study abroad program in China