Welcome to the Hinich Foundation’s Orientation page for all Global Trade Leaders attending Tsinghua University.
On the left sidebar you find a list of informational resources related to student life in China. These have been created by our current scholars to better prepare you for your arrival and ensure the smoothest transition when you start university.
Have a great first semester and congratulations again on being chosen for the Hinirich Global Leadership Program!
Pre-arrival – Before you get to school
As a Hinrich Foundation scholar, you will have to provide some documents and information needed from sponsors, including essays and stipend receipts, which must be accurate and submitted on time.
There are many documents required for Tsinghua University, which the school will mail to you. The Notice of Admission is perhaps the most important as it alone provides proof that you’re a student in China until you get your student ID on registration day and later your residence permit. You may also have to supply transcripts and original or notarized bachelor diplomas if you did not send them with your application (this may be relevant if you applied to the program before graduation).
Passport and clear current work contact
To apply for a Chinese visa, you must have a passport that does not expire for at least 6 months. If you do not have passport yet, you should download the required documents online and apply immediately, as it can take six to eight weeks to receive.
When you have your passport, you need to apply for a student visa at a local Chinese embassy office. This can take one to two weeks to process if you are nearby. Give yourself additional time if you need to go through a third party to send your passport and visa application to the embassy. The embassy will not accept mailed documents, so it must be delivered by someone in person. There are many organizations that can help with this but they differ depending on where you live.
When you get to China, the university requires that you convert your visa to a residence permit. The school will supply all the relevant documents and information with instructions on how to accomplish this. It is all taken care of on campus.
China requires foreign students to have a physical done. The document that needs to be filled out and signed by a doctor is sent with the acceptance letter so you can get it done while in your home country. The school will also allow you to get it done once you arrive but the process is much quicker and less hassle if you have all the required documents and physical results up front.
Your first stipend will include money for travel. Be sure to check the university schedule early so you know when registration starts. If the schedule is not posted when you are shopping for a flight, email the school to ask for the dates of registration and when classes start. You should arrive a few days before registration to get familiar with the school and its environment.
Arrival : Getting from the airport, ID Cards and Banking
Commuting by taxi
After you pick up your luggage, there will be an area outside where people wait for taxis. This is probably the best option given that you will be carrying luggage. Make sure you get in a taxi that is using a meter. There are a lot of private taxis that will want to take you to campus for 500 to 600 RMB, but a metered cab should only cost you about 100 RMB, or around $17 USD.
Ask to be taken to the northeast gate of Tsinghua University. There are guards at the gate, but the taxi should be able to take you inside, turn right (north) and drive up the road to building 19. The first floor (upstairs, above the ground floor) is where you need to check in and register for your room.
To make things easier, print out a campus map before you leave and point out building 19 in the northeast corner of campus to the taxi driver.
Commuting by metro
There is an airport line on the metro that costs 25 RMB, but it will not be convenient once you have to transfer to another line if you have a lot of luggage. You can take the airport line to Line 2 at Dongzhimen, go west to Xizhimen and transfer to Line 13 and then head north to Wudaokou, the closes stop to campus. When you transfer from the airport line, it will cost an additional 2 RMB to get on the subway. From Wudaokou, it’s about a 20-30 minute walk north to campus, or you can hop in a cab from there for about 15 RMB. There is also a bus stop west of the subway. Bus 731 heading east will take you one stop to the northeast gate and costs 1 RMB. For a difference of about $10 to $12, it’s much better to grab a taxi at the airport.
ID Cards and Student VISA
If you’re able to drop off your passport in person at the embassy, it should take one to two weeks to get it back with your student visa that allows you to enter the country. Once you arrive, though, you will need to get a residence permit in your passport. The school will give you all the instructions you need to complete this process on campus. This service and other services can be taken care of at the international student office on the first floor of building 22. Chances are good that by the time you have to complete this process, you will already have made friends with other international students staying in your dorm and they’ll be going through the same process. If you don’t know exactly how to do something, someone else has probably already figured out the details. It never hurts to ask.
Your student ID card will be issued on the first day of registration at the campus gymnasium. The lines appear long, but there are many of them and they tend to go relatively fast. They will take your photo and print your ID card there. You’ll have it hot off the press about a minute after your photo is taken.
Tsinghua ID cards are tied to your student Bank of China account, which you will set up at a later date. It can be used to pay for meals and other things on campus, so it serves as much more than proof of identification.
Banking at Tsinghua
The school gives all students a Bank of China account that is tied to your student number, making it easy for the school to deposit money in your account if needed.
Once you have completed paying your tuition, you will be given the documentation you need to create your account at the on-campus Bank of China branch. The bank is in "C Building,” which also houses a small grocery store, barber shop, bookstore and much more.
As a Hinrich Scholar, most of your money will be coming from the Hinrich Foundation. If you did not get money deposited in your home account before you left, you can pass your Bank of China information to the foundation so money can be deposited in that account. The advantage of this is that you will avoid international fees when withdrawing or transferring money. However, there are also advantages with having money in a foreign account in case you want to order things online from your home country.
If you want to transfer money from a foreign account into your Bank of China account, be aware of transfer fees. A bank may charge a percentage of the money being transferred as a fee. It might be cheaper to withdraw cash at an ATM and deposit it in your China account (which can be done at the same ATM if using one from Bank of China).
Classes: Course preparation and reviews
Each semester at Tsinghua is 16 weeks. The first semester runs from mid-September to mid-January. The second semester is from mid-February to mid-June. Actual dates will vary depending on the year.
Course selection will take place toward the end of program orientation. Since the website for selecting courses is entirely in Chinese, GBJ students meet at the journalism building so they can be walked through the selection process.
Most classes are either two or three credits. Some two-credit courses are 11 weeks long instead of the full 16.
During the program orientation, you will be given a booklet that lays out how many credits you need (currently 30) and what kind of courses you are required to take. Classes are grouped into different sections: Basic Courses, Core Courses, Elective Courses and Required Courses.
The Required Courses section consists of four one-credit classes that provide information you need to complete your thesis. These will be taken the second year of the GBJ program, which leaves 26 credits to be taken your first year. You should aim for at least 13 credits each semester. There is also a required Chinese class, which does not count toward the 30 required credits to graduate.
You will be given a list of all GBJ courses available for the current semester. The list is short compared with all the classes offered at the school, but are usually the only English classes available. For this reason, some people choose to take all the courses (a load of about 7 classes). You may be able to skip one or two courses while still getting enough credits to graduate, but some students are interested enough in the subject matter covered in every course.
Grades follow the traditional A, B, C, D, F format. As this is a master’s program, the professors have no intention of failing students. Most who put in the work are given A’s or B’s.
Classes are only once per week, so professors will expect you to show up to every or most every class. Exceptions are made if you notify professors ahead of time. Some professors are stricter than others about attendance. Some professors do not take attendance but do not allow students to make up quizzes or other points lost that class if the absence was not excused ahead of time.
Living at Tsinghua University - Housing, shopping and other establishments
International student dorm rooms come in three different types: single, double, or A/B. A single is a small bedroom and bathroom that the occupant has all to him- or herself. A double has two beds. An A/B room has a small, shared living space that includes a bathroom, pantry and microwave with two individual bedrooms.
Students have a 24-hour window in which to reserve a room online. The web address and the date and time tied to your student number will be included with your acceptance letter. Take note and be sure to register on time. If you live on the other side of the International Date Line, it can be easy to miss this window and it becomes quite a hassle to get them to reserve a room. They may decline to do so and tell you to show up and try your luck once in China. It’s best not to gamble. Register on time.
Outside the campus or off-campus housing
Renting an apartment in Beijing is considerably more expensive than living on campus. For calculating housing costs, the scholarship living stipend uses the costs of on-campus housing.
It is also nearly impossible to set up off-campus housing from overseas. You must be in the country and work through a real-estate company like HomeLink to find a place. Whereas dorms cost about 2,200 RMB per month, a cheap room off campus can easily run about 3,500 RMB. Unless you plan to supplement your living stipend with your own money, it is best to live on campus.
Commuting in Beijing is also a nightmare; so while attending classes, you will want to be on campus.
Much of your shopping will likely be at "C Building” on campus. It is fairly close to Zijing Apartments (the international student dorms) and has most of the necessities of student life. For international students, the prices may seem cheap, but there are usually cheaper options off campus. Just outside the main gate is Lotus Mall, which is multiple floors and has a better selection than what is offered on campus. C Building is usually the most convenient place to quickly pick up some food or school supplies and the market (located below the ground floor) is open until 11.
Lotus is the closest off-campus supermarket, but if you’re looking for a broader selection, there is a Wal-Mart Super Center one subway stop down along Line 13 at Zhichunlu.
Wudaokou is an area that caters to the large student population in Haidian district. It tends to be a good international area for this reason and has a lot of establishments you may want to visit on weekends or order from during the week. There are many restaurants, including international chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut. There are also local restaurants started by expats that are popular among international students like Lush, La Bamba and Steps.
U-Center is another popular mall close to campus in Wudaokou. It has restaurants in the basement and other shopping outlets throughout. There is also a Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs and other international shops in the plaza.
7-Eleven is everywhere and will likely be the most recognizable outlet all over Beijing. There is one in Wudaokou, too. There are a number of other minimarts like Watsons and local variants. They are usually easily identifiable and are not hard to find. There are many individually-owned shops around, as well. They are good places to stop in if you need a bottle of water, usually 2 RMB, since you will not want to be drinking the tap water in China.
The cheapest options for food will usually be one of 16 canteens on campus. The closest one to the dorms is between building 21 and 22. Meals can cost as little as 6 RMB or as much as 30 RMB, depending on what you want and how much of it you get. There are also many restaurants in Wudaokou, as mentioned above. The people at the front desk of your dorm building can usually help you order food from many of these restaurants that deliver.
Mineral Water Deliveries
The front desk will have a flyer with a number to call to set up water deliveries. If you buy 50 coupons up front (500 to 600 RMB, with each coupon good for a jug of water), you get a water dispenser free. If you do not speak Chinese, the people at the front desk can help you set this up.
Bookstores and School Supplies Stores
School supplies can be found in the market at C Building or at Lotus off campus. Pens, notebooks and anything else you need are all available. Fret not.
The main bookstore is in C Building, outside the supermarket in the basement. This bookstore should have any book required for your courses. Assigned reading materials not available on campus are usually available as digital copies from the professors on the school’s e-learning site.
Print shops are a popular option for Tsinghua students. The campus has many. This being China, the rules of copyright enforcement are quite different. Many students choose to have books photocopied at the on-campus print shops for about 20 to 30 RMB. Usually one student has the book or checks it out from the library and people make a trip to the local print shop. The books are bound and pretty good for the price. The quality isn’t great, but good enough to get you through a semester and save you a lot of money. If you want the official book, complete with color charts/illustrations and good paper quality, just head over to the bookstore. If you get the books the first week of classes, you may notice a brief surge in your popularity as other students approach you to ask to borrow your books for a day.
Transportation – How to get around
The metro/subway is the most popular means of transportation. Wudaokou station puts you on Line 13 and Line 10, which is one stop away, will connect you to many popular areas in Beijing, including the expat-favorite Sanlitun Village. Line 10 is usually the busiest, but expect crowds no matter where you are. You may come to cherish finding a seat on the subway as a rare privilege.
Each ride on the subway is 2 RMB whether you stay on for one stop or 20. You can pay 2 RMB for a ticket every time you enter a subway station, or you can buy a metro card at a manned window at many stations. The card itself costs 30 RMB and you can add up to 500 RMB at the time of purchase. After that, you can recharge your metro card at any machine that sells tickets.
The bus costs 1 RMB per trip. Bus 731 is right outside the northeast gate of campus and goes around to many popular areas in Beijing, including Zhongguancun just southwest of campus (an area known for its electronics market) and Salitun (just east of downtown).
Unfortunately, the traffic in Beijing is known as some of the worst in the world, often competing with Bangkok for the number one slot. Though it is not uncommon to spend an hour on the subway, it can often take longer sitting in traffic on the bus. The bus is a good option if you going a relatively short distance, but if you want to go to the other side of Beijing, the subway is usually the better option.
Compared with Western countries, taxis are pretty cheap in China. It is about 15 RMB for the first few kilometers and increases steadily from there. The rate increases after 11:00 at night, after the subways close. It’s inconvenient, but paying less than $20 to get across the city after a late night is not a bad deal.
Sometimes official metered taxis will not want to take you or will not be available. You will usually have private taxi drivers coming up to you and offering to take you where you want to go, but make sure you always negotiate a price up front. Sometimes they take more than one person per trip, too. If you need to get somewhere fast, make sure they know this. Private taxis can seem like a scam (often costing twice as much as a regular taxi and sometimes costing more than five times a metered price), but can be a lifesaver when other options are not available.
Activities – On-campus clubs and international travel
There are a lot of academic events at Tsinghua that are usually advertised on campus or through the journalism school. You will be required to attend 10 events related to your program, anyway, so always keep an eye out for these events. You will likely receive emails on a regular basis notifying you of upcoming events.
Tsinghua being the alma mater of many political figures in China, the school has a big draw for international figures. Try to sign up for events put on by the school of Political Science or the International Relations programs. You may have an opportunity to see some names you recognize over the course of your studies.
International Students’ Activities
If you want to get involved in extracurricular activities, keep your eye out during orientation. Many clubs advertise themselves under tents set up outside C Building at the beginning of the academic year. Bear in mind that it may be difficult to communicate with the people staffing the tents if you do not speak Chinese. You are bound to make befriend more than a few people who speak Chinese, though. Ask one to tag along to check out the activities available on campus. You are probably not the only one who is curious.
Emergency numbers and contacts
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
International Students Office
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