Improve your Chinese in one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.
This nine-week program immerses you in one of the world's most dynamic cities and offers four levels of intensive Chinese language studies from first through fourth year. All four skills are emphasized in the classroom, in drill sections, and through private tutorials. Group excursions in and around Beijing, lectures by local experts, and a week-long travel break give you insight into Chinese society and lifestyle, and provide a variety of environments in which to use your language skills.
Program Structure and Costs
During the summer, you will complete one academic year of Chinese in nine weeks. Intensive language courses take place every morning, followed by drill sessions in small groups and individual tutorials in the afternoons. Chinese students from local universities serve as language partners for extra practice and for exploring the city with your local peers. Group excursions and cultural activities are organized throughout the duration of the program. A one week independent travel break in the 5th week allows you to take a break from the classroom to explore this vast and dynamic country on your own.
Dates for 2017
Applications due: March 1
Arrival in Beijing: June 15
Travel break: July 15-23
Program ends: August 19
Costs are still being finalized and will be posted here when available. Students who have started an application will be notified when the site is updated.
Program Fee: TBA
Tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustees approval and may change.
Estimated Out-of-Pocket Expenses: TBA
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Check with your home school's department, study abroad office, or scholarship office to see if any funding or scholarships are available to you.
Foreign Language and Area Studies Scholarship (FLAS)
Find out who administers the summer FLAS program at your home school. For Columbia/Barnard students, the FLAS Fellowship competition is open to undergraduates and graduate students, including Ph.D. candidates, who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents. Undergraduates must be applying to study the third year level of the language or above.
Weatherhead East Asian Institute Funding for Columbia Students
Columbia University's WEAI offers funding for research, language acquisition, unpaid internships, and dissertation write-up during the summer and academic year to selected Columbia students committed to professional and academic engagement with East and Southeast Asia. Eligibility varies depending on the particular funding opportunity.
Freeman Awards for Study in Asia
Created to assist U.S. undergraduate students (U.S. citizens or permanent residents only) with demonstrated financial need and limited prior experience in East and Southeast Asia, Freeman-ASIA will fund approximately 400 U.S. students over the next two academic years (2016-17, 2017-18), with awards ranging from $3,000 per student for summer study and $5,000 per semester, to a maximum of $7,000 for a full year abroad.
The Blakemore Foundation
For those who already have a bachelor's degree.
David L. Boren Scholarship
Summer-only programs must be eight (8) weeks or more and are limited to science, technology, engineering and mathematics students.
Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship
Award amounts will vary depending on the length of study and student need with the average award being approximately $4,000. Undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at two-year or four-year colleges or universities are eligible to apply. Students who apply for and receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad are then eligible to receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement from the Gilman Scholarship Program for a total possible award of up to $8,000.
Graduate Student Summer Tuition Credit
Columbia Ph.D. students who wish to use the summer tuition credit must apply directly to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Since the program fee covers both tuition and housing, please note that you will be responsible for paying out-of-pocket the portion that is attributed to housing.
Graduate students from other schools should check with their home schools and their departments for funding.
The Summer Language Fellowship for International Students supports international Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences who need to study a foreign language (applies to all languages) abroad during the summer. GSAS will endow summer fellowships with a maximum award of $3,000.
Other Financing Opportunities:
For current Columbia University students and alumni, reach out to the Office of Global Programs and Fellowships to explore and apply for internal, national, and international fellowships. The Fellowships team will inform students about a full range of opportunities and help them determine which programs best meet their goals.
For Columbia College & SEAS students, financial aid is usually not eligible to be applied to study overseas in the summer. Please note that different schools do follow different policies. For this reason, meet with your financial aid advisor as soon as you can to discuss your personal financial situation.
- Must be a currently enrolled undergraduate student in good academic standing. Graduate students and post-graduates may also apply.
- For first year level: No previous Chinese language background required
- For second year level: One year of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
- For third year level: Two years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
- For fourth year level: Three years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
- Minimum 3.0 average language GPA
- Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
How to Apply
Want to apply? Click the “Apply Now” button to the right. You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:
- Application questionnaire(s)
- Letter(s) of recommendation
- Official transcript(s)
Based on their applications, students are provisionally placed in one of the courses below. Final placement occurs in Beijing after students take a placement test.
Chinese O1101x-O1102y. Elementary Chinese (first-year level).
Texts: Approaching China (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press)
Introduces basic sentence structures and vocabulary in colloquial Chinese and focuses on developing basic skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The Pinyin system and traditional characters are used.
Chinese O1201x-O1202y. Intermediate Chinese (second-year level).
Prerequisites: One year of college-level Chinese or the equivalent.
Texts: Jingua Chinese (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press; traditional and simplified characters)
Consolidates and develops language skills used in everyday communication. Texts are presented in the form of a narrative that provides language situations, sentence patterns, word usage, and cultural information. Comprehensive exercises rely on highly structured practice in vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Semi-formal and literary styles are introduced in later lessons as transitions to more advanced levels of Chinese language study. The first half of the course emphasizes skills for conducting everyday tasks such as shopping, making telephone calls, seeing a doctor, or looking for a job. The second half focuses on aspects of Chinese culture: the social norms of politeness and gift giving, traditions such as inter-generational relationships and marriage ceremonies, customs such as special foods and holidays. While providing practical training, the course aims to raise the student's linguistic competence in preparation for advanced studies in Mandarin.
Chinese O4005x-O4006y. Advanced Chinese (third-year level).
Prerequisites: Two years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
Texts: Jingua Chinese (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press; simplified characters)
Introduces Chinese social values and attitudes, focusing on the rapid changes now taking place in China. Uses materials from Chinese newspapers and modern short stories to teach essential elements of semi-formal and formal writing. Reading and writing are routine tasks and oral discussion and debate are important components of the class, allowing students to integrate and improve their communication skills in Chinese.
Chinese O4015x-O4016y. Reading in modern Chinese (fourth-year level).
Prerequisites: At least three years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent.
Texts: articles by contemporary and modern writers; readings from current newspapers and magazines.Simplified characters used.
Furthers students' language skills in semi-formal, formal, or written styles through reading and writing, while improving fluency in oral communication. Weekly individual oral presentations and written reports are required.
Note: The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.
The language classes meet Monday through Friday from 8:00 am-12:00 pm. During the first two hours, 12-17 students make up each class. During the last two hours, classes are broken down into smaller sections and might have 6-8 students per section.
One on one individual conversational sessions with a tutor are scheduled each weekday in the afternoons. These sessions are factored into your grade, so you cannot miss sessions for travel. Additionally, you are expected to meet with your instructor for 20 minutes two times a week.
NOTE: Attendance at all classes is mandatory
Upon successful completion of the program, grades are entered into Columbia's online grading system. Non-Columbia students (including Barnard) can request electronic transcripts online through the Columbia University registrar.
Life in Beijing
You will live with another program participant in a shared suite in the student dormitory of Peking University's Global Village. Each suite includes a bathroom, air conditioning, telephone, TV and internet access.
Most meals are not included in the program fee. You should plan to bring between $5-$10 a day to cover the cost of your meals and bottled water. You will be issued a Peking University student ID which can be used as a meal card to be used in the dining halls on campus. The cafeterias have a wide range of food and are really inexpensive, about $1 per meal. A meal at a local restaurant is not very expensive either. Places that cater to foreigners and offer western foods tend to be more expensive where prices can be similar to those in the U.S. If you think you will frequent these types of places often, you should plan to budget more money for food.
The program will include several group trips to historic and cultural sites including: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, watching an acrobatic show (Chaoyang Theater) and a Peking Opera show (Huguang Theater).
Depending on student interest, workshops in taijiquan, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese traditional music, and Chinese dance may be available.
In past years, program students have participated with university students in round-table discussions and an end-of-program talent show. Local experts are invited to speak about contemporary topics such as the Chinese economy and doing business in China. When possible, young local alumni are invited to speak with the group so they can learn more about how what it is like to actually live and work in China.
Part of your summer experience includes time spent with language partners: selected students from local universities that spend time with you in a relaxed, out-of-class setting, not only to practice your Chinese, but also giving you their perspectives on what to see and do while in Beijing.
"The experiences I had with my language partner made the summer semester infinitely more fulfilling...I was able to transcend the tourist and international student barrier and integrate into the Beijing community."
The program is based at Peking University (PKU). Founded in 1898, PKU (commonly known as “Beida”) is one of the most prestigious and selective universities in China. It was the first national university covering comprehensive disciplines in China, and has been a leading institution of higher education in China since its establishment. The campus, known as “Yan Yuan” (the garden of Yan), is situated at Haidian District in the western suburb of Beijing. It is located near the Yuanmingyuan Garden and the Summer Palace. Peking University is proud of its outstanding faculty, brilliant students, and open and diversified atmosphere. Its aim is to rank among the world’s best universities in the future, and has fostered extensive linkages with more than 260 universities and research institutions all over the globe.
The Program Director, Lening Liu, holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and has been a faculty member in Columbia University's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures since 1995. He has taught in the Summer Language Program in Beijing since 1997.
The head instructor for the language courses is:
Local university faculty are hired to teach different sections of the Chinese language courses and trained language tutors are assigned to support students on an individual basis.
A Program Assistant will be hired locally for the program.
Columbia has such an incredible program. I was impressed with everything and this summer has been truly memorable. The experience of studying abroad, learning the language, and immersing myself into the everyday life is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
I felt my teachers were incredibly serious about having us learn about not only the language but also history and popular culture. One of my teachers specialized in ancient characters and spent no small amount of time teaching me the origins of words which I found incredibly exciting. I love Chinese poetry and my teachers went out of their way to find and teach me songs and poetry and stories. They did all this on top of teaching me the relevant textbook material.
The quality (and number) of teachers that I had was very impressive. There were so many qualified people that I saw throughout the day whom I could ask for language help (not mention advice about more to go, questions about Chinese culture, etc.). In particular, the one-on-one teachers in the afternoon really made a big difference to my speaking ability.
A great program that strikes a good balance between intensive education and having free time to explore the city.
Try to balance studying and enjoying Beijing. If you get too caught up in your studies you will realize at the end how much you have been missing out on the international aspect of the program.
This program definitely exposed me to the Chinese way of life. At first moving to a completely different country can be overwhelming but eventually you get used to the differences. My advice to future participants could be to make use of all of your time in China because even though nine weeks seems long, the time flies by! It is easy to get into a routine for eating at the same places and doing the same things everyday, so make sure to explore Beijing while you are here!
I highly recommend the homestay program to all with a serious interest in learning Chinese. Becoming a part of a Beijing family gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in Chinese culture, cuisine, and language. It was also nice to have the environment of a home away from home.
Take advantage of what you can't get in the U.S. I would definitely recommend the homestay.
Be prepared to study hard but I also encourage students to seize this experience, to go out and explore Beijing and use their Mandarin speaking skills as much as they can. One of my friends would always strike long conversations with taxicab drivers. Although I found this strange at first, I began to see it as an excellent way to practice one's language skills with locals and gain a local Chinese person's perspective on various issues, which is a very unique opportunity.
Check out old Beijing--it won't be around for long!
Main Contacts in New York
Office of Global Programs
606 Kent Hall
1140 Amsterdam, Mail Code 3948
New York, NY 10027-6902
For questions related to the topics below, please contact the person listed:
In the event of an emergency after office hours, please contact Columbia University Emergency at 212-854-5555 or Columbia University Security