This wasn't the China I was expecting

flagOne of the things that had most intrigued me and simultaneously most scared me about moving to Beijing was this concept I had of China’s central government playing Big Brother in the daily lives of its citizens and visitors. I'd read an article about what it was like 20 years ago, when foreign visitors were almost always accompanied by a state monitor, and even as recent as my first visit to mainland China in 2004, we were told to leave behind any Western publications on the plane. The change that took place between then and now must’ve been enormous because, from all that I’ve seen and experienced so far, there is little to suggest that the government is really poking its eye into everyone’s business.

Read more: This wasn't the China I was expecting

From Boston to Beijing

A typical Beijing intersectionLike most college students from Boston, who may or may not have forfeited a car in order to live there, I love to walk. Love to feel the pavement underneath my feet, slowly savoring the sights, instead of watching them all flash by from behind a glass door. I firmly believe that the best way to learn the intimate details of a city is by traveling on foot, and that is exactly what I intend to do during my six weeks in Beijing.I’m participating in China Study Abroad’s summer Mandarin program at the Beijing Language and Culture University and most importantly - learning about China in a way that textbooks just can't provide.

Read more: From Boston to Beijing

No Tip, No Problem

chinese-money-16835659Been wondering what is the proper amount of tip to pay in Beijing? If I'm a student and don't go out to eat with large groups I should give about 10%, right? WRONG. Whatever amount is written on the menu is exactly what you will end up paying. No tax, no tip. For the first time in my life, I can calculate my bills in whole numbers, without messing around with percentages and decimals. It’s so incredibly convenient... even if something here is worth part of a yuan, everything is counted in tens, not hundreds (you know who I’m talking about, Penny). Many stores don’t even take pennies anymore, making it silly to even bother carrying them around.

Read more: No Tip, No Problem

Bruce Lee really wants you to eat here... or maybe not

bruceIf you're like me, you probably don’t notice a lot about your surroundings when you’re walking around. You're either familiar with your surroundings, or you're not really paying attention to the stuff in between your origin and your destination, or both. I’ll admit it’s true even here in China, if only because I’ve been here almost 3 years now. Still, sometimes you see something that will stop you in your tracks.

Read more: Bruce Lee really wants you to eat here... or maybe not

Welcome to the all-new China Study Abroad blog!

Hello and welcome to the brand-spanking new China Study Abroad blog! We're here to bring you the best of living, studying and working in China. We'll show you what it's like to be here, from all different perspectives. You'll hear about the good things and the bad things from people who are actually here on the ground, in places like Beijing and Shanghai. First-time culture shock of new exchange students. Trials and tribulations of long-term residents. Awe and wonder of visiting tourists. These are just some of the things you can look forward to reading about. We may even occasionally sneak in the views of a Chinese person, having to deal with all these foreigners! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the blog. We hope you find it insightful, entertaining and engaging. One last thing - don't forget to let us know how we're doing! We appreciate your feedback and comments, and we hope to build the best online community about studying in China!

Why Learn Chinese?

Learn to Speak Chinese in China with CSA

Why Learn to Speak Chinese?

Chinese calligraphyYou’ve probably heard at least couple of reasons why you should learn Mandarin Chinese: it’s the language of the future; a billion people speak it; it’s a good investment. All true, all good reasons.

Of course, you may be skeptical of the need to learn a new language, particularly one as difficult as Mandarin. After all, it’s not like English is going the way of the dodo anytime soon, right?

While it’s true that learning a new language is pretty hard, let’s remember the old adage, “no pain, no gain”. Plus, the chances are you’re reading this because you’re interested in learning the Chinese language, even if it’s just a tiny little bit. Let us help explain why we think that would be a great decision.

1. The numbers.

Let's look at a few of them: China’s population (1.3 billion, more than Europe and North America combined). China’s economy (second-biggest in the world, growing at almost 10% per year). China’s development (over $500 billion USD invested in infrastructure in the last 2 years). China’s influence (Chinese investments in SE Asia and Africa grow every year). China’s companies (many are now leading in markets like telecommunications, transport and energy that were once dominated by Western companies). China’s products (just think of all the stuff that is “Made in China”).

If the 19th century belonged to Britain and the 20th century belonged to the United States, then the 21st century looks more and more like it will belong to China. Invest in yourself and learn Mandarin Chinese now, staying ahead of the numbers curve.

2. The culture.

Learn Chinese language, unlock the secrets of the cultureOkay, so you're probably not very interested in singing Mandarin songs at a karaoke bar in Shanghai, but think of all the books that have been written in a language that existed before the Roman Empire. Think of all the songs composed in words that cannot be adequately translated into English. Think of all the poems depicting scenes of a grand empire or the harshest reality.

Learning Chinese is your key to unlocking the cultural puzzle that is China.

3. The history.

The Chinese value their traditions and history – after all, they have a recorded history of almost 5000 years. There's a certain richness in all the expressions and idioms of a language as old as Mandarin. For instance, the word for “computer” is 电脑, (pronounced diàn nǎo) which literally means “electric brain” – clever, no?

And don’t forget about the possibility of economic payback. Most of the world’s colonial powers (including every G8 member except Canada) of the last 200 years has been involved with China, most visibly through the multiple concessions in Shanghai and Tianjin, and the shame of being second-class citizens in their own country has never been forgotten by the Chinese. Do you want to be on the wrong side of history when it happens?

4. The utility.

A Beijing crowdMandarin isn’t likely to replace English as a lingua franca, but more and more people around the world realize the value of speaking and studying Chinese. In fact, Mandarin is one of the 6 official languages of the United Nations, making it very important for people with aspirations to work internationally.

Even if you’re only interested in China as a tourist, it still helps to learn Mandarin (at least a few words) since English is a rare skill here (and you’d be surprised at what passes for English sometimes). Locals will be impressed and getting around will be much easier. You may even meet a new friend or two (hundred…thousand).

With China’s influence growing daily, it’s not just in places like China and Taiwan where knowing Mandarin will be useful. For instance, it’s easier to get around in South Korea with Mandarin than English. Strange but true.

5. The opportunities.

Being able to speak Mandarin Chinese will open doors for your career – you can apply to more interesting jobs, qualify for higher positions and higher pay. Being able to speak Mandarin will open doors for your travels – you'll be able to meet the locals, talk to new friends, immerse yourself in China. Learning Chinese will also open doors for being your own boss – China is a relative newcomer to the modern economy, with many areas still underdeveloped and opportunities galore for the entrepreneur.

If you’re interested in working for a multinational firm, or dealing with international relations, or even just living overseas, you already understand the benefits of knowing another language. But even if you aren’t specifically interested in China, chances are good the company that you work for does, or the company that your company works for does. So why limit yourself? Learn Mandarin Chinese and benefits will be endless.


Apply Now Sign up for a CSA program with a friend and you both receive a 5% discount!
  • Beijing

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    3610 Capital Mansions,
    6 Xinyuan Nan Road, Chaoyang
    Beijing, 100027
    Phone: (+86) 10 8468 3799 
  • London

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    154 Bishopsgate
    London EC2M 4LN
    United Kingdom
    Phone: (+44) 0207 377 84 
  • Hong Kong

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    Rm 604-7 Dominion Centre
    43-59 Queen’s Road East
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (+852) 800 968 924 


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