Columbia in Beijing

Language of Instruction: Chinese
Term: Academic Year, Spring, Fall

Immerse yourself in a rare opportunity to directly enroll in a broad range of courses at Tsinghua University, one of China’s top institutions.

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Challenge yourself on this supported immersion program by taking regular Tsinghua University courses taught in Chinese in a variety of disciplines. You will become familiar with Tsinghua’s academic culture and campus life by taking courses alongside local Chinese students. You can live independently as an international student, but will also have a support system of a small on-site staff and graduate program tutors.

Program Overview

The program begins with a one week orientation to introduce you to the campus and academic life. You will take approximately five courses including one Chinese language course and four regular Tsinghua University courses. University options include courses in the humanities, social sciences, economics, environmental science, sciences, information sciences, engineering, and architecture. On-site staff will organize trips and cultural activities throughout the semester based on students’ preferences and previous experiences in China.

It was one of, if not the most intellectually engaging semester I've had in college. The courses were small and the professors were real experts. It was also a really incredible to study Chinese history in China. It delivered on the promise of being a new perspective - very hard, and very rewarding.

-Charlie Argon, Princeton University '17

Eligibility and Application

  • Must be a currently enrolled undergraduate student and in good academic and disciplinary standing
  • Must have completed at least three years of college-level Chinese, preferably more, or the equivalent, and have a firm grasp of reading and writing in Chinese. Students who have completed at least two years of Chinese in heritage tracks (W track at Columbia) may also apply.
  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
  • Students can complete part of the language requirement by participating on the Summer Language Program in Beijing or the Summer Business Chinese Program and then continuing directly to the fall or academic year program at Tsinghua.


Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application" button at the top of this page. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications. 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)
  • Personal statement
  • Letter of recommendation from someone who has recently taught you Chinese
  • Letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you at the university level who can attest to your academic skills
  • Official transcript(s)
  • Home school approval/clearance

Please note that Tsinghua University does not accept applications from students with Chinese citizenship.


A full course load is 15 points which is equal to approximately five courses. You will select courses from the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences since the program is based at these schools. You may choose up to 8 points (2-3 courses) outside of these two schools.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.


Chinese OC3991 or OC3992. Chinese Language, 2-6 point(s)

You will take one Chinese language class through Tsinghua's International Chinese Language and Culture Center or through the Department of Chinese. Courses may include Comprehensive Chinese, Chinese Composition, Business Chinese, and Classical Chinese.

Academic year students may not be required to take a Chinese language course during the spring semester and should plan to enroll in all Tsinghua University elective courses.


You will study alongside matriculated Tsinghua students. Graduate students from Tsinghua will be available to serve as tutors to help you navigate the Chinese academic system.

East Asian Studies OC3991 or OC3992. Supervised Study in the Chinese University, 2-15 point(s)
Choose three or four Tsinghua University courses (taught in Chinese) from a variety of subjects offered by the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences. The School of Humanities includes the Departments of Chinese Language & Literature, Foreign Languages & Literature, History, Philosophy. The School of Social Sciences includes the Departments of Political Science, Sociology, Economics, International Relations, Psychology and the Institute of Science, Technology and Society. Courses are usually worth between 2-4 points.

If you have interest in other subjects, you may choose up to 8 points outside of the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences in the following departments:

  • Department of Chinese Language & Literature (within School of Humanities; international student courses only)
  • School of Economics and Management includes the Departments of Management Science and Engineering, Economics, Finance, Accounting, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Human Resources and Organizational Behavior, Business Strategy and Policy, and Marketing. (Note: Columbia does not have an undergraduate business school so Columbia may not be able to provide credit for some "business" courses.)
  • School of Sciences includes the Departments of Mathematical Sciences, Physics, Chemistry, and the Center for Earth System Science.
  • School of Architecture includes the Departments of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design, Building Science, and Landscape Architecture.
  • School of Information Science and Technology includes the Departments of Electronic Engineering, Computer Science and Technology, Automation, Microelectronics, Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics, Software and Information Technology.
  • School of Civil Engineering includes the Departments of Civil Engineering, Hydraulic Engineering, and Construction Management.
  • School of Mechanical Engineering includes the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Precision Instruments, Thermal Engineering, Automotive Engineering, and Industrial Engineering.
  • School of Aerospace includes the Departments of Engineering Mechanics and Aerospace and Astronautics Engineering.
  • Department of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Department of Electrical Engineering
  • Department of Chemical Engineering

Note: Other schools at Tsinghua include the Academy of Arts and Design, School of Public Policy and Management, School of Law, School of Medicine, and School of Journalism and Communication. You will not be able to register for courses in these schools since Columbia cannot provide undergraduate credit for courses taken at the professional schools.

Sample Tsinghua University Course List

View a list of sample course offerings below that past students have taken. (These courses will be taught in Chinese but titles have been translated into English.) Note the list below is not exhaustive, and you will receive more comprehensive course directories upon acceptance to the program.

Theory of Architecture and Urban Design
Introduction to Modern Architecture
Fundamentals of City Planning
Traditional Folk House and Rural Planning

Art History
History of Contemporary Western Arts
History of Western Chamber String Arts

Principles of Biochemistry

Chinese (Please note that international student courses in the Chinese department are considered outside of the School of Humanities and School of Social Sciences and are included in the 8 point limit.)
Reading Business Articles in Chinese
Chinese Calligraphy
Foundation of Eloquence

Computer Science
Website Design

East Asian Studies
Marxism Theory
Chinese Film and Opera
Deng Xiao Ping Theories
Chinese National Overview
I-go and Chinese Culture
Chinese Classics: Reading the Masterpieces
Appreciation of Chinese Classic Novels
Cultural Relics and Chinese Culture
Chinese Society
Chinese Opera
Cultural Relations between China and the West
Lu Xun Readings
Survey of Buddhist Culture
Modern Chinese Dialects

Development Economics
Modern Chinese Economic History
Statistics for Economics and Business
Financial Economics
International Economics
International Trade
Corporate Finance
International Finance
Environment and Research Economics

Environmental Science
Water Resources and the Water Crisis
Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection
Environment and Development
Environmental Ethics
Introduction to Sustainable Development

International Film Critique and Appreciation

A Survey of Chinese History
Ancient China

Introduction to Topology
Numerical Analysis
Complex Analysis

Mechanical Engineering
Green Manufacturing
Principles of Circuits

Introduction to Music

Operations Research
Operations Research

Introduction to Logic

Political Science
China-U.S. Relations
Japanese Economy, Politics, and Foreign Policy
Political Institutions and Economic Development
Issues in National Security
Chinese Foreign Policy
Comparative Politics
Mass Media and International Relations
History and Chinese Foreign Affairs
Contemporary Economics and Politics
International Political Economy

Religious Studies

Outline of Science and Technology

History of Western Sociological Thoughts
Rural Sociology
Urban Sociology

Grades and Transcripts

All courses taken on the program are converted to an American grading scale and transmitted to students as follows:

Columbia students: Grades appear on SSOL and your transcript any semester grades from courses taken at Columbia. For more information, please see the section on Academic Credit in Steps to Study Abroad.

Barnard students: Grades appear on eBear and your transcript as any semester grades from courses taken at Barnard. For more information, please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Barnard Students on our Barnard student pages.

Non-Columbia students: Grades are entered into Columbia system and you will need to request a transcript to obtain your final grades. Please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Non-Columbia Students on the Non-Columbia student pages.

Life in Beijing


The Zijing International Student Apartment Complex, situated next to local dormitories, houses international students in single rooms. A bed, desk, shelves, wardrobe, a sink, and a private bathroom are included in each room. Internet access, a telephone, air conditioning and regular cleaning service are also provided. There are laundry facilities and study rooms on each floor.


The Tsinghua campus has over 10 canteens (cafeterias) to choose from, all of which offer a variety of dishes at fairly inexpensive prices of approximately $1-2 per meal. Some canteens specialize in one regional cuisine or specialty. Kitchen facilities are not available in the dorm.


The program organizes welcome and farewell banquets, trips and cultural activities. Past activities included: guided visits to local Beijing sites, theater and opera performances, and a weekend trip to a important historical location such as Chengde, an imperial resort town, or Henan, home to several ancient Chinese capital cities. Trips and activities are arranged based on students’ preferences and previous experiences in China. Program activities will vary each semester.

You will also be able to join the Tsinghua student clubs and meet local students through activities such as sports, hiking, singing, and volunteering. International students may also access the university's sports fields include running tracks, a soccer field, basketball courts, and baseball fields.

Daily Living and Schedule

Schedules will vary depending on the types of courses you take. Generally, you may have fewer class hours than at your home campus. You may not have regular, continuous assessments in class and instructors will expect you to keep up independently outside of class. You may also find that for many courses, a large percentage of your grade will be based on a final exam. Tsinghua graduate students, who serve as tutors, are available to meet with your regularly to provide academic guidance and support in your classes.

You may also devote a few hours each week to student clubs where you can continue your extracurricular interests in Beijing and socialize with local students.


Founded in 1911, Tsinghua University is one of China's top universities with outstanding offerings in science, engineering, economics, humanities, and social sciences. With a student body of 26,000, Tsinghua provides an ideal environment to meet and study alongside some of best and brightest university students in China. The campus is located in Beijing's northwest district of Haidian, home to a number of China's prominent universities and Zhongguancun, also known as China's Silicon Valley.

The spacious campus encompasses small parks, numerous lakes, and tree-lined walks. The surrounding neighborhood includes bookstores, shops, and restaurants.


The Resident Director is Professor Zhiqin Shi, Professor and Chancellor of the School of Social Sciences and Dean of the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University. Professor Shi is also a resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Shi’s research interests focuses primarily on comparative politics and international relations, especially concerning European issues and China-EU relations. Professor Shi primarily works with the Office of Global Programs and Fellowships to oversee the administration of the program and serves as the liaison between the university and the students. He also acts as the academic advisor and is available to assist students with academic and cultural adjustments.

Professor Shi's assistant is Ms. Yuhong Yuan (Xiaoyuan) who arranges the orientation, organizes program activities, serves as a liaison between the students and the program tutors, and assists students with any issues that they may have. In addition to working at Tsinghua, Xiaoyuan is also currently a Chinese history graduate student at the Central University for Nationalities.

Mr. Haohan Chi (Xiaochi) also assists Professor Shi and Xiaoyuan. He is the Program Coordinator and is the day-to-day contact for all students. He helps students settle into life at Tsinghua by organizing the orientation, finding academic tutors, assisting students with course registration, and planning program trips and activities. Xiaochi is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Law at Peking University.

Financial Considerations

Program Costs

Many students use a combination of federal student aid and home school grants to fund their undergraduate studies. Many, if not most, of these funds are applicable to studying abroad for a semester or academic year. The costs of studying abroad during the semester or academic year are frequently comparable to those of staying on campus.

All students should work with their home school financial aid office to determine what aid is available for studying abroad.

Program Costs:

Financing Your Studies in China

Eligible students may apply for the following scholarship applicable to this program:

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.
Prospective students should visit the Freeman-ASIA website for eligibility requirements, full application instructions and a list of deadlines.

For more information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:

Fact Sheet

Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
4-6 semesters of language or the equivalent (see program requirements)
Academic Year, Spring, Fall

Dates & Deadlines

Academic Year
Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Admissions Decision Date: 
Friday, March 31, 2017
Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Admissions Decision Date: 
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Program Dates: 
Sunday, September 10, 2017 to Saturday, January 13, 2018
Application Deadline: 
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Admissions Decision Date: 
Monday, October 30, 2017