Melodie - Peking University

B. Business Management / Arts
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I decided to go to Peking University, considered the Harvard of China, to study Chinese Language and Culture classes as a part of my Arts degree.

At Peking University, we were given a placement test which divided us into levels appropriate to our score on the exam. Then we had another opportunity to read the material we would work on for the semester and deem if appropriate for our level. We were then told to choose two compulsory Chinese courses, Speaking and Writing, and two elective courses. I choose Business and Listening. I definitely recommend the Business elective. All together this totalled to 20 hours a week. A lot more hours than Chinese classes back at UQ, but something I wanted and needed to improve my Chinese proficiency.

Overall, I had a very pleasant academic experience. If you do wish to reach a higher fluency level, a year would be the best option!

Personal experience

I gained more than I expected from this experience. Going on exchange, you have to step outside of your comfort zone, and I am glad I did. It was an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the globe and to learn about their different customs. This is something I would never usually do back at home. I recommend interacting with the locals as much as possible, especially if learning a language.

At Peking University all the students were extremely welcoming, don't be scared to approach them on campus. I made a lot of good friends this way. They will know the best authentic places to dine, popular student hangouts and famous landmarks. And of course the added bonus of conversing with them in the language you are studying.


Finding student accommodation provided by Peking University proved to be quite challenging and tiresome. The Global Village, just outside campus, and residence of many scholarship recipients, was very difficult to obtain a room. After emailing and calling multiple times and no success, I finally decided to give up. I suggest finding a friend who can speak fluent Chinese and who is stern and persistent to call them as early as possible.

In the end I choose to live on-campus, which was extremely convenient. Living standards were great, your own room, a cleaner to clean your living area each day, clean bedding, hot showers, air-conditioning and central heating. However, the pricing was very expensive compared to living off-campus, around $1025 per month.

If you prefer to live off-campus, I suggest joining some WeChat groups such as ACYA Beijing and WSU Group chat. Many people use these groups to find apartments. Alternatively, find a Chinese friend who can help you browse Chinese websites. All in all, spend some time finding accommodation because you will be living there for a semester and it does have a slight effect on your overall experience.


I strongly recommend keeping track of your personal finances, as they will rapidly diminish if you don't keep an eye on them.

  • Rent was the most expensive cost for me ($1025 month).
  • Chinese food is very cheap, especially on campus! Eating foreign food in China you can sometimes be looking at the same price as in Australia. I say spent around $200 a month give or take.
  • Local transport is also very cheap. Be careful never to take a black taxi as they will overcharge.
  • Travelling can be expensive, as China is such a large country, you will probably have to catch the high-speed train or a plane. Looking at over $100 for a one-way trip.

Depends on how you budget and what you do, but would recommend a budget of $10,000 for a semester.

Professional development and employability

You will have quite a lot of free time on your hands while on exchange, because of this I found a really invaluable internship. At times you will miss out on some things, but like me if you are going for professional development it was definitely worth the experience. Most internships in China will also give a small stipend. 

On exchange I definitely found my self at many events I probably would not have had an opportunity to attend back home. It gave me a great opportunity to network with many important people. One of who was the former Australian Ambassador to China, Ms Frances Adamson, whom I met on three separate occasions. One of which was at her farewell dinner, held by Austcham, where she personally addressed each ACYA executive member on our achievements of continually promoting cross-cultural understanding between Australia and China. Was definitely a highlight for me.


This truly was one of the best experiences I could have imagined. The biggest highlight for me was meeting different people from all over the world. I had a lot of fun and made friendships that will last a long time.

Another highlight was being immersed in the Chinese culture and language. There is no better way to learn about the culture of such a fascinating country like China than to live there and appreciate everything first hand. 

Top tips

If you are contemplating the decision, I strongly encourage you to do it.

  • If financial reasons are an issue, there are a lot of scholarships available if you are willing to do some independent research are find what they are. The Confucius scholarship and the Chinese Government scholarship seem to be less competitive than the New Colombo and Westpac Scholarship, but definitely apply for all.
  • Another tip if heading to China may be to plan your arrival for Semester 1. Yes, It will be incredibly hot, a lot like the Australian Summer, but the pollution is likely to be less severe in Summer. With more blue skies, giving you more opportunity to visit all the many famous tourist attractions Beijing has to offer. During the Winter in China, I experienced many days when the city was blanketed in heavy smog, including days when the pollution level was past what the WHO considered hazardous. 
  • Also plan ahead, and make backup plans in case of emergencies! I had an unfortunate experience with my accommodation upon arrival at 2am in the morning. With no one to contact or ask for help! Even though I was told there would be a receptionist in the lobby. Ideally, buy a travel sim card you can use until you get a Chinese sim card, download some important Chinese apps before you go, such as WeChat, 嘀嘀打车, Uber etc. 
  • I would also encourage you to make as many local friends as possible. That being said you shouldn't avoid making friends with other foreigners because you are scared your Chinese won't improve if you speak too much English. I made a lot of good foreign friends who I could also practice Chinese with. 
  • Definitely join some youth initiated associations such as Australia China Youth Association (ACYA) Beijing and Western Society Union (WSU) on WeChat. Austcham Beijing, a NGO advocacy group assisting Australian companies looking to conduct business in China, also regularly hold many important social/networking events throughout the year, which is also another way to meet other Australians in Beijing. 

I found I was a little blind going into this, as I didn't have anyone to ask about their personal experiences, and it does help sometimes. Most of it though you will figure out along the way. Enjoy it and make the most of it!