Program History

Dartmouth's study abroad program with Beijing Normal University began in 1972 and stands as the longest-running foreign study program in China. A notable alumnus of the program is current US Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner.

It might be helpful to browse the websites for past Beijing FSPs. Here are some that might be of use:
(Note that end-term and mid-term trips vary by year)
P1130097_2.JPG2011 Fall
2010 Fall
2010 Summer


The FSP course load is three credits: Chinese 22/23 and 31/32 and AMEL 11.
The Chinese courses are taught by BNU professors under the supervision of the FSP Director, while the AMEL course is taught by the Director.

Chinese 22/31 and 23/32

These courses typically take place each weekday morning from 8:00 to 11:30. Usually,you will see two professors each day, each for half the time. There is generally a break between the two halves as well as two smaller breaks halfway though each professor’s time, dividing the morning classes neatly into four 50-minute periods.
There is a reasonable level of variation each year in the course content, due to individual professors’ preferences and teaching methods. However, one constant is the daily (tingxie), or vocabulary quiz, which usually covers between 10 and 15 characters or compounds. If this sounds like a lot, keep in mind that each lesson will typically have between 20 and 40 new characters/compounds, and that you’ll generally go through 3-4 new lessons a week. Yes, this is a lot more than in first-year Chinese, but well within your abilities when you a) are surrounded by the language every day, and b) don’t have other classes to worry about.
Beyond vocabulary, classes often feature a wide range of activities, from basic discussion and practice with grammar patterns to debates and role-playing exercises in Chinese. It’s important to keep in mind as well that the FSP curriculum is somewhat flexible, and depends hugely on student involvement. If you’ve got a new idea for a learning exercise in class, suggest it to the professor or to your director. If you intend to be a passive “rider” on the FSP, one can fairly say that you won’t get as much out of the program.
It is extremely important to understand the cultural difference between taking classes in a Western setting and taking classes in Beijing. During your classes in Beijing, it is expected that the students will arrive to class a few minutes before class begins and never late, that the board should be erased for the professor before and after class, and that students will refrain from eating anything during class. Beverages are permissible as long as your drinking them won’t get in the way of you paying attention, answering questions, etc. Give your professors their due respect.


Since the individual Program Directors teach this class, the syllabus changes each year to reflect the current director’s expertise and academic interests.
Topics in recent years have ranged from “The Languages of China” to “Chinese Storytelling” to “The Anthropology of Beijing” to “Economic and Social Change in post-Mao China.” Generally, however, the class is held in what would be a 2A time slot, Tues. and Thurs. from 2-4pm, or from 1-3pm.
Class requirements also vary from year to year, but usually involve final projects/papers and a few shorter assignments during the term.
Cultural Activities The FSP will also feature weekly cultural activities, such as midweek trips to see Chinese Acrobats or Beijing Opera, or weekend outings to places like the Great Wall or Forbidden City. These are a good chance to check out things you might not get to see otherwise, not to mention they’re included in the program budget so you won’t have to pay for them yourself.

Additional Classes

If there is sufficient interest, informal classes can often be arranged in Calligraphy, Cooking, Chinese Dance, and Tàijíquán (Tai Chi), among others. However, be advised that starting a class and then dropping out after one or two sessions often leaves a very bad impression. One way to avoid this might be to ask if a demonstration for the group is possible, after which people can decide whether or not they want to take the class. Talk to your Program Director or Chinese professors if you’re interested.

If you’re on the Fall FSP, you can join a number of student organizations (like the BNU choir) for the duration of the trip. Talk to your DA or one of your professors about how to join. You may also wish to set up such classes outside BNU, through friends or other contacts. If you walk around campus or any local parks at around 6am, you will find people engaged in all sorts of activities (Tai Chi and other martial arts, singing, dancing, etc.). You may find classes here that you can join for a small fee.

General Country Information

The Campus

The city of Beijing is organized with square “rings” of expressways. BNU is located in the northwest part of city, just south of the Third Ring Road (San húan lù) The campus is actually rather conveniently located, as there are numerous restaurants, markets, and small shops nearby. The two entrances with which you will become most familiar are the East and South Gates. You most likely entered through the East Gate when you first arrived on campus; it’s north of the dorm and opens onto xingjiekou wàidàjie. Xinjiekou runs straight into downtown Beijing if you follow it south, and to the Third Ring Road if you follow it north. The South Gate opens onto xuéyuàn nánlù; useful if you want to go west into the Haidian area or south on Xinjiekou.
On campus, Xinsong is located just across from the new library. Right by Xinsong is the zhuānjiā lóu, or Foreign Experts Building, where your director lives on the fifth floor. You’ll pass by the building whenever you leave campus through the east gate; this is where the Internet cafe is (wangba). In the same building are a western café and a Japanese restaurant.

Life in Beijing

Changing and Dealing With Money

Before you’ve been in Beijing too long, you’re going to need to huàn qián, or change some money. What you’ve got is probably in US dollars (mei yuán) and what you want is rénmínbì. There are actually quite a few places to do this in Beijing. Wherever you go, you’ll need your passport (hùzhào) and whatever form of money you’re going to change. The easiest place to get things done is either at the Agricultural Bank of China directly across the street from East Gate or the Bank of China right next to Liyun, south of East Gate (if you don’t know your directions in Beijing, remember that East Gate faces east).
You’ll get a copy of the form you filled out back with your money; keep the forms. If you have RMB left at the end of the trip and wish to change it back into dollars, you need to prove (using the form) that you changed at least that much RMB from dollars at some earlier point.

Before You Go


If you already have one, double check all personal information, and make sure it does not expire within 6 months of departure.
If you don't, head down to the Hanover Post Office or one of the major passport issuing centers in Boston or New York and get
this done as soon as possible. You’ll need two photos for the passport, and another two for your Chinese visa.


your Program Director will keep you informed as to what you need to do. Generally, these are taken care of at an FSP group meeting in winter or spring term. It’s incredibly important that you show up to this meeting—with your passport—so your visa can be processed in time for the FSP.


Most international flights originating in the US allow you two pieces of checked baggage, each weighing a maximum of 50 lbs (23 kg), plus a carry-on, weighing a maximum of 40 lbs (18 kg). Check with your carrier about regulations. Do leave room for the things you
collect in China.


  • Passport (Make several copies of the first and visa pages of your passport and keep them separate from your passport; if you lose your passport, it will be easier to replace it if you have these.)
  • Plane ticket
  • Medical insurance card and medical insurance claim form (SOS card and materials)
  • Money (see below)


A comprehensive list will be included in the pre-departure handbook.
Be practical! Beijing is hot, muggy, and rainy in the summer but will get chilly in late fall.


Information on medicine to bring will be given at the FSP health meetings.
Keep in mind that some things are not easy to find (e.g. deodorant) or some brands are not available (sanitary napkins/tampons, contact lens solution – bring your own: some local brands were recently found to be contaminated).
Even though brand name items for toothpaste, shampoo, etc. are widespread in Beijing, the actual products themselves might be different from those you are used to. For instance, the shampoo is without question designed for Chinese hair types. If you have strong product preferences, you might want to bring those products with you from home.

Other Items

  • Money Belt (Or something not unlike a money belt, for safeguarding your money, passport, etc.)
  • Voltage converter (China runs on 220-240 volts while the US runs on 110 volts. You will need a voltage converter for any appliances you bring that only run on 110 volts. Laptops can usually run on both; check yours if you plan to bring one. You can get a voltage converter (220-240 volts to 110 volts) in the US or in Beijing.)

What Not to Bring

  • Towels and sheets
  • Sleeping bag (unless you plan to travel or camp)
  • Toilet paper (though public bathrooms in China almost never have any, wait until you arrive in Beijing to buy some)
  • Prepaid phone cards and cell phones – unless your cells are compatible for overseas use. The program will give you a cell-phone to use while you’re at BNU (you’re responsible for buying minutes).
  • Pets, plants, and other living things


What shots do I need? As soon as you know you are going to China, it is probably a good idea to start on your immunizations. The Off-Campus Programs office will have a health meeting in the spring that will discuss what immunizations you need as well as some other health concerns. It’s very important that you attend this meeting. However, if you start then there is a good chance you will be unable to complete the course of some of the recommended vaccinations, and in the past some students have complained that they could have taken care of their shots at home over spring break if they had known about them.
This is not an attempt to replace that meeting; it is important that you attend as the College often has important information to present. However, it is probably in your best interest to have your doctor look into what immunizations you need before you go to China early on in the process. Below is the list of immunizations recommended to China FSP participants in recent years:
  • Tetanus
  • Polio
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B (most of you inoculated at birth)
  • Japanese Encephalitis B
  • Malaria pills (see below)

Be sure to talk to your doctor, as this list may change and the various shots may have some side effects. If you can’t make it home, you can get the shots you need at Dick’s House. Bring your immunization history with you. Be aware that Dick's House will only administer 3 shots per week. Japanese Encephalitis B takes 4 weeks to finish the cycle: day 1, week 1, week 4. It can be abbreviated, but they don't recommend it. And students who plan to travel in China should have some idea about where they are going in case they need to take malaria pills; Dick’s House can advise you on the type of malaria pill you will need. For more detailed information on health risks, see
the Centers for Disease Control’s “Health Information for Travelers to East Asia” at: Ultimately, you must decide which immunizations you will have. Also, if you have a condition that you’re taking medication for, or a
previous condition that could reoccur (e.g., asthma), be sure to bring enough with you to China. Replacing medicines via mail or at the clinics in Beijing can be quite expensive. It’s a good idea to bring allergy medicine.

Health insurance provider

In general, you should consult with your health insurance provider before going to China to find out how your policy works in Beijing. If you have
Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan (DSGHP) insurance, retain all receipts from medical expenses (which you must first pay for out of your own pocket), fill out a claims form (you can download one from http:/ and mail the form along with the receipt to Klais and Company, whose address is listed on your insurance card. The policy will reimburse 80 percent of all medical
fees. Note that claims for prescription medicines have a separate claims form.


How much money should I bring? China has recently switched to a semi-floating currency exchange rate, so a moderate amount of fluctuation can be expected, but the rough rate is ¥6.86 (RMB) to $1 US (and subject to change). One can easily eat a lot of food for US $7-8 a day.
If you have a small appetite, you can get by on as little as $3. For the entire term, $700 will certainly cover food expenses with room for going out every now and then to a nice western restaurant (e.g., Hard Rock Cafe and the like). Students on recent FSPs have spent anywhere from $800 to several thousand dollars over the summer, depending on how much they enjoy Beijing nightlife and/or shopping. For the typical FSP participant, $1000-1500 seems to be a solid amount that covers everything comfortably.

Dartmouth will bill you for tuition and rent for the term, so that will already be taken care of. You will be responsible for your food, transportation, and other living expenses in China.

What’s the best way to get money to Beijing?

You cannot exchange for Chinese currency (rénmínbì) at US banks, so you will need to take US dollars or other major currencies to change upon arrival in Beijing. ATM cards are your best option if you don’t have ATM machine qualms. (Cash, though less secure, can be changed into RMB at slightly more locations than traveler’s checks – a secure but time-consuming option.
However, avoid carrying around large amounts of cash on your person). ATM machines that accept western cards are pretty common.
another one is available at the Bank of China.

Credit cards (xingyongka) are becoming more commonly used and accepted at malls, but are not entirely ubiquitous (see “Shopping,” p. 10). You can also use your credit card to receive a cash advance at some banks if all other options fail (i.e., when you’ve run out of traveler’s checks and none of the ATMs are accepting your card), but they carry a hefty surcharge when used in China. A credit card could be very useful in an emergency (e.g., to pay for medical treatment at a clinic in Beijing).

Traveler’s Checks are another option. Get them from a major issuer (AmEx, Thomas Cook, AAA, etc.), and in reasonably large denominations. The two main reasons to take this route are that the checks are replaceable, and most places give you a better exchange rate on them than on cash. Most banks are changing traveler’s checks now.

You can also open a bank account in China.

Getting There & Getting Settled

Travel arrangements

Generally speaking, students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. The Dartmouth FSP has had a long relationship with FETI Travel (telephone 617-451-0606), of Boston, MA. They usually set up everyone’s travel, often making it possible for FSP participants to arrive in Beijing in one or two major groups (which simplifies a number of things), and getting good rates.
If this option is available, your Program Director will notify you.

When you arrive

At the airport

Before you leave the airport, change some money (unless you have somehow managed to bring some RMB with you). There is a bank right before the exit to the outside. Changing US $100 will give you enough cash to get to BNU if you need to take a taxi, pay for your key deposit, and buy food and stuff for the first few days. A ride from the airport should cost around ¥100.

When planning your tickets, it really is a good idea to come in with a bunch of your classmates. In addition to having companions for the trip, it makes things easier and increases the chances that BNU will have a bus waiting there so you won’t have to mess with a taxi. If
you do have to get a taxi (which you will know before you leave Dartmouth), find the official taxi line, which is two floors below arrivals after security; it’s very clearly marked.” Go stand in line, and an official airport worker will direct you to a taxi. Most drivers
know where BNU is, so telling them Beijing Shifan Dàxué, DOngmén should do you just fine. It is important that you say this correctly and that the taxi driver repeats it, because there are two other schools: Shoduo Shifan Dàxué or Beijing Dàxué that get a number of
foreign students and are about 20 minutes away from BNU.

Other Arrival Information

Something you should do reasonably shortly after your arrival in Beijing is to make a trip to US Embassy (or your respective country’s embassy) and register as a US or other foreign citizen living in Beijing. In the unlikely event something major happens (i.e., a natural disaster or the like), registering will ensure that the embassy knows you are in Beijing and will be able to evacuate you if necessary.
Additionally, shortly after arriving you will need to give the Foreign Students Office at BNU two passport-size pictures for use in making your student ID and other materials.


You will be accomodated in the XInsong GOngyù dorm.—Home Sweet Home

Xinsong Gongyu is one of four foreign-student dorms on campus. The rooms are all one-room doubles with private baths and air conditioning, amenities that have greatly eased the mosquito and toilet odor problems of years past. There are still mosquito problems at times, however, so keep a vigilant eye and be sure to buy an electric mosquito repellant. Let the staff know if there are any pest problems.

You will have daily cleaning services to sweep the floor, change the towels, and, if you’re really nice, make your bed. However, the messier your room, the less likely the fúwùyuán (cleaning attendant) is going to be willing to do anything at all to your room, much less make the bed. It’s your call.

The rooms also have phones, TVs, and cable. Additionally, there are card phones in the lobby. On the second floor, there is a small store with snacks and drinks (open until about 11:30pm), as well as a lounge area and a few computers for Internet access (ask the person working the snack store). The snack store has a phone for international calls priced at about ¥1 to 2/minute, which is very cheap.
There are laundry machines on the first floor. To use them, you need to buy a xiyika (literally, “wash clothes card”) from the front desk. They cost ¥50 each and are good for 10 washes. You’ll also get a ¥20 refund if you return the card to the desk when it’s used up.
The front desk can do photocopying (fùyìn) for a small fee (varies depending on the paper size) as well as send and receive faxes.




Postal mail from the US usually takes 7 to 10 days to get to China, though in rare cases letters have arrived as quickly as 4 days after being sent, usually from the West Coast. Though each room at Xinsong has its own mailbox in the rack by the elevator and laundry room, Dartmouth mail is delivered daily to the DA. If the staff can’t figure out the address, which is somewhat common in the early parts of the program, individual
letters may end up tacked on the bulletin board by the first-floor elevator.
English-addressed mail seems to have little trouble getting to BNU, but writing your Chinese address out to be photocopied for the folks at home, will help and will often speed things up.
Sending letters is pretty straightforward, though mail takes longer to leave the country than it does to get there. Stamps (yóupiào) and envelopes (xìnfang) can be purchased at the store in Xinsong or at the foreign student building next door. The rates for international postage are pretty comparable to those in the US; ask the people selling you stamps what they are as they change every year or two. Also, there are different rates for letters as opposed to postcards (míngxìnpiàn), so specifying can save you some money.


Calling back to the US is generally best done using a calling card from AT&T, MCI, or Sprint. However, as of recently, downloading and using the phone program Skype on one’s computer has become very popular. Not only is video chatting from computer-to-computer free, but calling internationally is about the same cost as a calling card. Choosing between Skype and a calling card is really a matter of preference and convenience.
Some calling card companies based in the US have a “call back” option that lets you make cheap calls from China to the US; you might want to check out or Pennytalk. To reach an American operator in Beijing, dial 10811 (AT&T), 10812 (MCI), or 10813 (Sprint), first adding a 0 if need be—some pay phones require it—or a 5 if you’re calling from your room in Xinsong and your phone is on the internal system. Prepaid phone cards from US are not recommended very strongly, as the return on the investment tends to be rather short. You can get a ¥100 IP Card in Beijing for as little as ¥55, and a call to the states will last just over a half-hour (that comes to about $0.18/minute).
In general, it’s best if parents can manage to call Beijing, rather than students calling home. For most carriers, this is significantly cheaper, and many have international calling plans, which have good discounts. Remember, Beijing is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast during the summer and 13 hours after daylight savings time expires in October. Four in the afternoon in the US is wee hours in the morning for China.
Faxing is available at the front desk at Xinsong, both sending and receiving. The fax number is 86-10-5880-0276, and faxes cost ¥2 (25¢) per page to receive. Recipients’ names should be written clearly in block letters, so the front desk can call you when faxes arrive.


A few years ago, the Beijing government started cracking down on Internet use, and they closed down all the Internet cafes in the city. Now, they’ve reopened them, but with stricter laws regulating who can use them—and Internet traffic is monitored closer than ever. Despite this, you won’t have any major problems using the Internet, though certain sites are occasionally blocked.
There’s an Internet cafe on campus on the second floor of the Wàishìlóu, adjacent to Xinsong (you’ll pass it whenever you walk to/from campus via the east gate). It charges around ¥4 an hour. You can download the Blitzmail program directly onto the computers there, or, alternatively, you can sign-on to Blitzmail at:
Another option is to bring a laptop and connect from your room. High speed Internet is available for ¥100 a month per line, up to two lines per room. Ethernet cables wangluòxiàn (identical to US types) are on sale for ¥20 at the front desk. If you bring your laptop, you can access sites normally blocked in China by logging onto the DartmouthVPN. This is important! Download VPN before you go to China. It’s very easy just go to Dartmouth website and it will have instructions. This will enable you to go any website that has been blocked by the Chinese government.
In case you can’t bring a laptop to Beijing and do not want to go to the Internet café, the DA will have Internet in his/her room, and the program computer can be accessed at your polite request.



Relatively convenient, and definitely more crowded than a bike. The 22 route runs directly in front of the East Gate, and goes down to Qiánmén (the south end of Tiananmen Square) via Xidan. There are other good routes, but the 22 will take care of a lot of your needs. There’s also a major “hub” at Beitàipíngzhuang (turn left out the east gate; a 5-10 minute walk); you can catch a bus to anywhere along the third ring road and elsewhere from here, including the airport. Fares are usually ¥1, but will be ¥2 plus if you get on an air-conditioned or longer-distance bus.
Theft in the form of pick pocketing and bag-slashing has been on the rise, so keep a close eye on your things. If you’re feeling confident in your Chinese, invest in a book of bus routes (available at the Foreign Language Bookstore and, presumably, others).


The dìtie is fast, cool, and never as crowded as a bus (though it can be a zoo at rush hour). With rapid development due to preparation for the Olympics, the subway makes Beijing very accessible with eight lines. Almost everywhere you might want to go in the heart of Beijing is serviced, and a ride only costs ¥2. The closest station is Jashuĭtán, at the intersection of Xinjiekou and the Second Ring Road. It’s 15-20 minutes from campus, but you can take the 22 or another bus down there. On the bus, get off at the first stop after you cross the Second Ring Road; the stop is not called Jishuitan, but Xinjiekou hu Jiànguómén (east of the US Embassy), Chóngwénmén (north of Hóngqiáo Market), Xidan, Qíanmén, and Beijingzhàn (the Beijing Railway Station).


Despite being the most expensive option, chuzhu are relatively cheap. The rates are ¥1.20, ¥1.60, and ¥2.00 per kilometer. The flat fee for any ride is ¥10 during the daytime and ¥11 during the nighttime. It’s common for the passenger to sit up front with the driver. And it used to be considered rude to buckle up, but it might not be such a bad idea. At any rate, to get one just head to the street and stick out your arm. If you can’t get anyone to stop, make sure you’re not standing in a no-stopping zone (indicated by the character tíng with a big red line through it). Though your driver’s Chinese may not be as clear as the Chinese you hear from your professors, conversing with drivers is one of the better ways to practice your Chinese. Just be sure they actually use the meter (a rare problem, but more common at night). One other thing: make sure when coming home that the driver knows you want BNU, not Shoudu Shifàn Dàxué or Beijing Dàxué. Neither of them are close to BNU.

Personal Safety & Crime

Illness and Emergencies

Everyone will feel the effects of adjusting to a different environment, thus illness is fairly common for FSP students, program directors, and DAs alike. One very common sickness is diarrhea (la dùzi) which should only last a few weeks at most and is usually nothing more than an inconvenience at first. Taking Pepto-Bismol or similar anti-diarrheic such as Imodium may help with symptoms. Wash or peel uncooked fruits and vegetables, particularly when you first arrive.
Constipation is another problem you may encounter while in China. In the US, people generally drink a lot more while eating than they do in China. The lack of water during meals may cause constipation even if adequate fiber is in you diet. Make sure to order a drink with your meals to avoid this problem.
Other illnesses like colds or the flu are not uncommon, and are easily spread since students live in close proximity with each other. The program has some generic medication in stock, so check with your DA for available products. If you start to feel really sick, get a fever or are otherwise concerned, you should call and make an appointment with the SOS International Medical Center. True to their name, they are staffed with physicians fluent in English as well as other languages. After you arrive in Beijing your DA should hand out SOS cards that provide the
center’s address, phone number and a map to show you (or a taxi driver) how to get there.
In case of an emergency requiring you to be evacuated back to the US, SOS and Off-Campus Activities have arranged for an emergency evacuation service via air ambulance. Be aware, however, that this does not replace international travel insurance—you still need to have your own coverage. You can refer to the SOS Letter you received via blitz enclosure for all the details; also, your DA should have a copy of the letter
handy in Beijing in case you want to review the information.

Safety Issues

Though petty crime like theft is not uncommon in Beijing, being smart about your belongings and looking alert go a long way in deterring a pickpocket. China actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, but it’s still good to be careful and prudent. The Chinese probably do not appreciate disruptive antics as much as you might hope, but as long as you behave reasonably it is highly unlikely that you will encounter much trouble. Remember: respect the culture, but don’t let yourself get stepped on.
When you leave your dormitory, bear in mind the cultural norms of Beijing and consider possible misperceptions people might have about Americans. For example, the combination of looking foreign and showing a lot of skin will attract attention, some of which may not be welcomed. In general, if you feel uncomfortable going somewhere by yourself, get some friends (or the DA) to accompany you, and avoid sketchy places altogether. Always travel with friends late at night. If you are going out with new acquaintances, then leave names, contact details, and your planned time of return with a classmate, the DA, or director. If you are receiving harassment or unwanted attention from someone you know, then talk to the director.
You should always carry a list of emergency numbers with you, including the director and TA’s cell phone numbers, the International SOS medical center’s number and the US (or your own) embassy’s emergency number.

Cultural Tips / Etiquette

If you are not in a high in retail store you should be bargaining for what you buy. You will most likely be charged a higher price based off either your accent


Traveling in China

Once you’ve already spent the money to get over to the other side of the world, it makes a bit of sense to take the opportunity and see a bit more of the country before heading back to the familiar environs of home or the Hanover Plain. If you plan on doing this, definitely take a guidebook with you to China. Also, your Program Director and BNU Chinese professors can be good sources of information about possible destinations
and how to make arrangements.
As you may discover before the term in Beijing ends, traveling through China is definitely cheap by most standards, especially if you A) take the trains and B) get out of the major cities of the east (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.). You can buy train tickets in advance at the travel office on the second floor of Xinsong dorm; have your AT help you. It’s also relatively easy to make your way to the Beijing Railway Station via the subway (it’s right on the loop line), where you can buy tickets quickly and easily at the foreigner’s ticket office. However, note that many trains now leave from and arrive at the new station, the Beijing West Railway Station (you can take a taxi there and get tickets.)
If you really don’t have that much time or money, one good way to “travel” without spending a lot of either is to depart China from a city other than Beijing. Most commonly, this can be done via Hong Kong, as most major airlines that fly to China also fly out of Hong Kong. The train to Guangzhou, and then on to Hong Kong, takes about two full days, and Chinese train travel is an experience not to be missed in any case. Again, ask around for information.

Athletics and Recreational Activities

BNU’s athletic facilities are East of the dorm, they include basketball and tennis courts, two tracks, and an indoor gym. There’s always a pickup game of basketball going on in the afternoons. To use the gym you’ll have to get a membership card (ask your director or the DA about this), which should be about ¥120, which is good for a month before you have to renew it. The outdoor track and basketball courts can be used for free, but are sometimes closed for events in the summer and are closed during the day for PE classes in the fall; nonetheless, they’re both bustling with locals outside of school hours.
Unfortunately, BNU's state-of-the-art indoor gymnasium (built as a training facility for the USA Olympic Team before the 2008 Olympics) may not open to foreign study students.

BNU has a number of club teams (baseball, volleyball, soccer) that foreign students can join if they decide to. Regular pick-up soccer games and basketball games occur at the running track/basketball court area. Basketball is immensely popular and games continue even after dark.

BNU has a swimming pool that the US Olympic Team used in 2008. In the past, the university has been reluctant to grant pool cards to the Dartmouth program, but they can be obtained. In order to use lap-swimming lanes, students must pass a swim test.

Arts & Culture

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, is the former residence of the Dalai Lama

Going out

There are a few places that have been popular among Dart-folk the past few years. Vics and Propaganda are popular places to go clubbing. Nightman features decent music and free cover for foreigners and students. Solutions by the west gate of Beijing University (Beidà), is big with Chinese and Western students. Keep In Touch and Scream are big hits with the local crowd, featuring live music almost every weekend, and are good places to go to see what Beijing’s young and disaffected are up to.
For Jazz, Blues, etc., there’s the CD Cafe and The Big Easy or “Happy Station” in Chinese (Kuàilèzhàn), by the North Gate of Cháoyáng Park Cháoyáng Gongyuán. Sanlitun also has a nice block or two of bars and clubs, including the popular Bar Blu and Kokomo, which have no cover charge. However, which clubs are hot and which aren’t is something that changes almost weekly, so it’s almost certain that by the time you arrive in Beijing things will have changed.
The way to find out what’s happening, from movies to clubs to Verdi’s Requiem and art exhibitions, is to check out Beijing’s flourishing English-language magazine press. City Weekend and That’s Beijing are bimonthlies; Beijing This Month is another good resource. Although it only comes out once a month, The Beijinger features “Best of Beijing” awards for nightlife in the July issue, which can be handy if you are into that.
Also, feel free to just wander around. Take the bus or a taxi to somewhere you haven’t been before, and just go down the back alleys. This is obviously best done during daylight, but doing so allows you to check out the hútòng (alleys) that make up one of Beijing’s unique features. Make sure you take advantage of these artifacts because Beijing is in the process of destroying many of the hútòngs to make way for new construction.
The neighborhoods east and west of the Forbidden City are good for this sort of thing, as is the area just west of Qianmen.


Basic, everyday items

If you need stationery and other random “school supplies” try “Topside” on the second floor of Xinsong (not the cheapest, but definitely convenient); for bigger stuff like coat-hangers, water bottles, shampoo, and what-not, go to the on-campus student store.
For the real deal—and an experience you shouldn’t miss—the closest and best place to go for anything is probably the Jinwuxing Department City (Jinwŭxing beihuòchéng). It’s an indoor maze of stalls, and it’s probably safe to say you can find practically anything you need here—clothes, hangers, detergent, electronics, adapters/voltage-converters, speakers, gifts, bicycles, etc.; think of it as the normal Beijingers’ version of K-Mart.
If it’s something Western you need and you can’t find it anywhere else, you’ve got plenty of options. The
easiest one to reach is Parkson’s, at fùxingmén; just take the subway to the Fuxingmen stop. For over-the-counter drugs (including antibiotics), toiletries, and most notably, deodorant, head to any of the Watsons outlets.
For food items, there are supermarkets in the basement of Oriental Plaza at Wángfùjĭng, the Henderson Centre and Full Link, and the Lufthansa Center. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at any of the larger supermarkets, try Jenny Lou’s, a little convenience store in the Sanlĭtún area on Gongrén Tĭyùguan Beilù (Worker’s Stadium North Road, Gongtĭ Beilù for short).


You’ll have a wide range of stuff to choose from. Keep in mind, though, that what you may view as regular, casual clothing is often viewed as high-class, so it might be a bit harder to find than you think. T-shirts are a prime example here. Additionally, if you’re taller than about 5’9” for men or 5’5” for women, you might have a harder time finding things that fit. In general, the average Beijinger’s body type may be extremely different from the average FSP student’s, and it is not uncommon for an FSP student wearing shirts size L in the US to buy shirts size XL or even size XXL in Beijing. Pants are even more problematic as tailoring purchased pants can be a hassle. The moral is, try and bring enough clothing if you’re worried that stuff won’t fit you in Beijing.
In the past few years several huge, shimmering malls and plazas have appeared as Beijingers get wealthier and their lifestyles demand designer clothes, cell-phones, cars, and other luxuries. To name a few that just opened in the last 2 to 3 years, there is the largest: Oriental Plaza at
Wángfùjĭng; Scitech Plaza by Xidan and another, better one, by Jianguomen; Shuangan Plaza in Haidian District; Full Link Plaza in Chaoyangmen; and the Cofco Plaza by the Beijing Railway Station (all of these are subway stops, except Shuangan, which is also probably the closest. Take a bus west from Beitàipíngzhuang to get there).

Chinese department store

Take the 22 bus to Xidan and just start there. Next is Wángfùjĭng; it’s not as close and conveniently reached as Xidan , but it’s Beijing’s largest and most famous shopping street, with the huge indoor malls of Xin Dong An and Oriental Plaza. Also, the Jin Yuan, or Golden Resources Mall (jinyúan shídài gòuwù zhongxin), recently opened up in Beijing inside the West Fourth Ring. It is reportedly the second largest mall in the world, and carries a variety of boutique and luxury brands. Though it can be a bit pricey (especially for the Chinese citizens, one reason why it is often quite empty), it is worth checking out.

Silk Alley

Silk Alley WAS the famous market-style, haggle-till-you-drop place. However, it no longer exists. The good news is that it has been replaced with a bigger, better, more crowded “indoor silk alley” or Silk Market. It is located on Jiànguóménwài road (Outer Jiànguómén Road), and most taxi drivers know of this place. Just mention xiùshuĭjie market to them. True to its name, the place has silk in just about any form you could imagine: scarves, boxer shorts, pajamas, underwear, nightgowns, ties, carpets, and so on. It might be worth going to a fabric store or some such in the US before you leave and checking out what different grades of silk feel like, since all of the stall owners will of course insist that their goods are pure silk of the finest quality. In the department stores, bargaining is not looked highly upon, as prices are generally fixed, but on the street, if they agree to the price, it’s yours. Rule of thumb is: if you think you can bargain in a market, you probably could.

Connections / Internships

Dartmouth students tend to be industrious and imaginative types, and as a result many have found other interesting things to do in China and East Asia after the FSP. The most common of these is probably teaching English in either mainland China or Taiwan, with the latter having some fame as a place where one can (quasi-legally) make good money as a private English teacher. Mainland China, especially in the bigger cities, is also catching up in this regard, with private English schools growing rapidly in number. Some students have also taught at Chinese public schools, seeking a more “authentic” experience, but also receiving a smaller number of “creature comforts”.

Outside of teaching English, there are also internships and jobs to be found in the region for which Chinese language abilities can be a benefit. Keep in mind that beyond the PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore all have significant—and growing, in the case of Hong Kong—Mandarin-speaking populations and industries that may need native English speakers with Chinese abilities. Talk to your Dartmouth Chinese professors to see if they know of things offhand, and talk to your drill instructors and other students who have done this sort of thing. Take a look in Career Services or in the online listings before you leave Hanover, or get the Dartmouth Club contact information for the cities you might possibly live in and use alumni contacts as a resourc


Dining on Campus

BNU has three large campus cafeterias as well as several other smaller cafeterias. You can use your student ID much like your Dartmouth ID to buy food. When you get your ID card, ask your DA for directions to the card office; you can put as much money as you want on the card and use it at the student stores and cafeterias. For students who are uncomfortable about eating outside the campus due to sanitation issues, dining on campus is the safest way to go.
There are three different cafeterias at BNU. All of them have multiple layers selling different type of food. They are the cheapest meal you can possibly get in Beijing so please take advantage of it. You should ask your DA or the Chinese professors about the locations of these dining halls.

Dining out

What do I eat? How do I order? Rule no. 1 about going to restaurants: Chill Out. You’ll be much more understandable if you’re not stressing out about what you want to order. Roll with it and be adventurous. If you get really desperate, either point at what other diners are having or pick random dishes from the menu and have the waitress pronounce them clearly for you so you can remember the names if you like them.
Three things you will need to know how to say and recognize regardless of what you order are:
“jĭ wèi? ”
“qĭng zài lái_”
“jié zhàng.”
The first is what the waitress will ask you when you walk in, and the answer is how many people are in your group. The second is “Please bring me/us another _.” If it’s something that you don’t already have, get rid of the zài. And the last is the equivalent of “Check, please” (mai dan is another way of saying the same thing).
If you don’t already know, most Chinese dishes are named by having a cooking verb, the main ingredients, and often a description of how the ingredients are cut. For example, everyone’s favorite Sweet and Sour Chicken is usually rendered tángcù (Sugar-vinegar) ji
(chicken) tiáo (strips). So a lot of times you can mix-and-match. However, some names don’t give any clear indication of the ingredients (e.g., fèng zhua, “phoenix talons”). Also, note that the default meaning for ròu in Chinese is pork, so if you want some other kind of meat you need to specify.

Students also enjoy eating at the countless small restaurants outside the West Gate (西门)and the East Gate (东门). When eating outside of BNU, it is important to exercise considerable caution. Many restaurants have cleanliness ratings (rated A through D), but those ratings might not be an accurate reflection of the restaurant's sanitary conditions. Students should be especially careful during their first several weeks in China to avoid eating food from street vendors and from unsanitary restaurants.

Must See

Holidays & Special Events

Further Reading & Links

The "Official FSP Guide" provided to students by the Chinese department is a tremendous resource.