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gumbico

advice on prepping for tsinghua?

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gumbico

I'll be entering the MBA program at Tsinghua (IMBA - taught in English) starting this fall for two years and was hoping to get some advice. I'm an ABC so my English is better than my Cantonese which is miles better than my Mandarin which is light years better than my Chinese reading/writing ability. I know most of the posters here are going to China only to learn Chinese, but I'm sure the lessons learned as a foreign student would be invaluable to me. Basically, what advice do you guys have for living/studying in Beijing and learning Mandarin (which I'll do on my own between my other studies)?

-Better to live on campus or off?

-Better to have a roomate or not?

-What's the best method of finding a place to live? (stay in hotel first and go search once I'm there vs find something ahead of time?)

-Is a bike absolutely necessary?

-Best way to get from the Beijing airport to Tsinghua area? (bus, cab, subway?)

-How to go about getting health insurance?

-School says they won't be able to send me the official docs and Visa application till June, the MBA program starts in August. Any possible problems with this timetable? (I'm in the USA)

-ANY other advice or things you wish you had known before stepping foot into China to study.

Any Tsinghua students that wouldn't mind me picking their brain for further details about that uni?

thanks! :mrgreen:

-Okay, since BLCU is mentioned a lot here in reference to housing and navigation, how far is Tsinghua from BLCU?

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JamesGoff

BLCU is like 10 mins walk feom BLCU its in teh same university area of Beijing.

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adrianlondon

BLCU is like 10 mins walk feom BLCU

Someone is going round in circles :)

But yeah, qinghua isn't far from BLCU, but it is a large campus. A nice one, too, imo.

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Dan Bang

you gotta be pretty fucking fast to walk from BLCU to Qinghua in less than 10 minutes! :) However, the two universities (or the two front gates, remember Qinghua's campus is really huge) are more or less within the same distance from the subway station (which is a kind of centre of Wudaokou), just in two different directions.. But yes, you can definitely use the information about finding housing close to BLCU..

If I was you, I would the first month or two live nside campus - especially since you're not in a hurry - and then move out when I find it convenient.. Living on campus is expensive seen in relation to what you get, however, it's a good way to get to know the university and your fellow students. And you'll have time to check out the area, and get an idea of where you would like to live.. Honestly, I do think it would be a bit foolish to find an apartment before you leave; there might be a big difference between what you get told and what you'll see when you get here, you might end up in something relatively far away, and so on. Perhaps you know somebody here who could help you, I just, based on my experiences, feel much safer about seeing an apartment with my own eyes before considering a rent..

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gumbico

thanks for the info fellas! sounds like the smartest thing to do is to go there first and then search for a home. I have no problems with staying in a dorm for the first semester, it's just that from what I've read, the schools don't seem too reliable when it comes to holding rooms for ya (not sure if that's the case with Tsinghua tho).

I'm also considering going to Beijing a month or two before classes start to take some Mandarin lessons. Are there short little programs like that or are there only semester long options like those at BCLU? Related to this is the Visa thing, can I go to Beijing early on my own under a tourist Visa to take these classes and then have it converted to a student Visa once my Tsinghua classes start? My understanding is that I can only enter with a student Visa if I'm sponsored by an institution, but since I don't plan on attending a formal class, I won't be able to get one.

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amandagmu

-Better to live on campus or off?

I've heard Qinghua is better than BLCU since they have new dorms, and a friend of mine was there this past semester. I'd say ON. Anywhere else, I'd say OFF probably.

-Better to have a roomate or not?

Here's where I probably differ from many other people: no roommate if possible. Though some would think this sounds anti-social or like I want to study too much, the truth is that I found it impossible to get any privacy in Beijing outside of my room. (I lived in dorms as an undergraduate and that never bothered me because I could still get quiet time.) I absolutely relished going home at night (after dinner, gym, tutor, etc) and being able to read, study, call my parents and friends, or watch a movie without other people around. Call me crazy, but honestly this is a big thing for those who are not used to 14 million people in one city (many of whom seem to have gotten used to the lack of privacy). I couldn't get privacy anywhere else.

-What's the best method of finding a place to live? (stay in hotel first and go search once I'm there vs find something ahead of time?)

Staying at a hotel for a day or two and finding something once there. Don't bother ahead of time.

-Is a bike absolutely necessary?

No...the bus systems is perfectly fine and it's 15 cents/ 1 kuai a ride. However, if you go to Qinghua, I recommend a bike because the campus is freakin' huge compared to BLCU.

-Best way to get from the Beijing airport to Tsinghua area? (bus, cab, subway?)

Cab. Without question. Only take a legal taxi with the sign on top. Don't succumb to the pressures of the illegal guys yelling hello hello as you walk out. It's a bit overwhelming at first. Just ignore and head straight to the legal taxis.

-How to go about getting health insurance?

Good question. Luckily my workplace technically covered me, but I also took out some extra insurance. I don't remember the name of the company... do some google searches. You can buy most of it online and it will be mailed to your house ASAP. Shouldn't cost too much, I think I may have paid $80-$120?? Sorry I don't exactly remember. You can use the health clinic on campus... but they don't give out strong meds, only herbal. I found this out when I returned to the U.S. with a nasty upper respitory infection and told my doctor what they gave me... needless to say she smirked and said "herbal... ok I'll give you something to cure it" and it was gone 3-4 days later. Beijing has at least two Western style hospitals. If I go back for a longer time I'm going to make sure I'm covered with insurance through these hospitals, because if I have the same situation again at least I know I can go somewhere and get "real" prescription drugs to cure me.

-School says they won't be able to send me the official docs and Visa application till June, the MBA program starts in August. Any possible problems with this timetable? (I'm in the USA)

Not til June? Hmm... seems late. I got my Visa in < 5 days, but I also live in the suburbs of DC so it was just a matter of driving downtown for me. I remember once mailing things once 4 years ago... that took about 2-3 weeks. But I wouldn't recommend starting on one visa and switching to the other, unless you've been told by someone this is OK. By that I mean you should check with someone in the visa office ahead of time. I've never tried that.

-ANY other advice or things you wish you had known before stepping foot into China to study.

Well, I tried to cover most of this in my other posts. If you like to go jogging outside I wouldn't recommend it in Beijing, that's how I got sick. If you're picky with your food (and there are different definitions of picky, but I find many Americans tend to be) then I'd suggest bringing along some snacks in your bag and shopping at some of the stores I've mentioned in my other posts. I made a pretty good trail mix there once a week in a giant ziplock bag. I found it difficult to find snacks and smaller, portable meals in Beijing. It seems like a lot of Chinese people like to eat three big meals at defined times every day. I prefer to eat 4-6 smaller meals each day. But the campus was better about having other options for foreign students, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

The Internet was a big thing for me. See if you can get it in your room -- in fact, if you're addicted to your computer like I am, I would only get a place that has internet (and by the way DOUBLE CHECK before agreeing to take the room -- people have been cheated out of this feature before). Internet cafes are everywhere and don't charge a lot, but they can be very crowded, they often let people smoke in them creating a lovely cloud of grey (ugh), and worst of all, they will block a lot of websites in most cases. If you have your own connection you may actually be able to read BBC, CNN, NyTimes without too many problems (but never guaranteed).

As far as learning Chinese goes... I would recommend picking up some more spoken and reading Mandarin if you go before your Qinghua semester starts. There are a couple ways of doing this. BLCU has some short term intensive summer programs (4-6 weeks) or you could just sign up through one of the numerous tutoring, small group sessions at another place. There are plenty of places and schools. If you're in that WuDaoKou area walk over to BLCU and read the bulletin boards, ask other foreigners. Nearly everyone will be able to tell you of places or refer you to a board/place to find out more. If you're not into structure and even if you are, I would also recommend the bulletin boards for 1) finding a tutor if you want one, they're cheap but check on reputability first (some have worked for companies or as English teachers while others just want money) and 2) language exchange partners -- aka, free if you help them with their English in exchange for Chinese. The best part about language exchange partners though is that they are often willing to help you do the kind of stuff you need to do in your first few days there- -- like find a decent place to live, buy a mobile phone (and it's way different from the U.S.), ask questions at the registration office, buy a phone card to call home, etc etc. Just speak English to them, eat lunch with them, etc. It's a great way to make quick Chinese friends.

Let me know if you have more questions. Also, I'm trying to get ahold of the girl I know who is studying at Qinghua (she's from the DC area as well) so if I get her information maybe I can pass it along to you.

Amanda

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gumbico

Woah Amanda, you are a fountain of knowledge! Thanks! :mrgreen:

I've read over your other informative posts but didn't figure you'd still be hanging around these forums. I myself am in the DC metro area too (Fair Lakes in Fairfax) and I'm assuming that you attended George Mason? I was actually attending their part-time MBA program for two semesters before I got tired of the focus on government contracting (even tho I am a government contractor :roll: ). I was trying to keep my salary and still get the degree, but realized that this wouldn't really get me into China as fast as I wanted.

Thanks again for your tips! I'll definitely be hitting up that BLCU bulletin board. If you could find that Tsinghua contact, that would be very helpful indeed. I've emailed their international student office for details but with Spring Festival going on, I think it'll be a while before I hear anything. One more question regarding the health insurance, you mentioned coverage at the major hospitals in Beijing.

-Would those plans be provided by US companies for international travelers/expats or are they from Chinese insurance companies?

-Oh one last thing, money. What's the best way to manage finances while in China? I only have Bank of America and ING accounts. Neither of which exist in mainland China. I'd prefer not having to deal with travelers checks or exchanging cash (as I would have to carry around a fat wad for that) for the next 2 years. I saw another post on here about banking in China but it had no conclusion.

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amandagmu

How long are you going to be in China? If only to study and decide later... keep the American bank account and use the ATMs... but not any ATMs, only those in a more secure place such as ones located on your college campus. DO NOT plan to exchange traveller's checks. That's actually tougher I found out. There is also a market for fake currency so you're more likely to get real bills out of the ATM machines. Of course, one of the most frustrating things is that the biggest bill in China is the 100 RMB bill, which is worth $12, and the machine ONLY distributes these bills. So, when you go to eat at somewhere cheap people sometimes won't take the big bill. I'd recommend using it at a grocery store and keeping as much smaller bills and change as possible to use for eating, small shops, newspaper stands, buses and the subway.

The insurance - I bought it through an American company. I've heard some horror stories from other people about "Chinese insurance" they bought which turned out to be fraud. I would stick to something you can find here and then buy it for the time you'll be in China, just make sure it is standard and can be used at the hospitals. I think I somehow knew it would be possible to use my insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield world wide) in Beijing. I had all the addresses and numbers written down in case of an emergency.

Amanda

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gato

You can open an account at a Chinese bank with your passport and if you give them a local address. There's generally no minimum deposite level, I believe. You can deposit foreign checks in local banks (at least at Bank of China, you could), but it takes them about 45 days to process the checks. In the meantime, you can use the ATM. American banks may charge something like $6 per transaction for foreign ATM usage. That would add up over the course of your study here.

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gumbico

I'll be there for 2 years at a minimum (unless I fail out or a revolution erupts - i'll stick around for a pandemic since the whole world will be pretty much SOL anyways :x ). If I can land a decent position afterwards, my stint in China will be extended indefinitely. Thanks for the travellers' check and large bill tip. I'd use an ATM if I didn't have to pay those fees (I don't even use ATMs here in the states unless they're BoA ones). gato pretty much nailed my point. Regarding opening an account with BoC, how easy would it be to move that money to my BoA account in the distant future. I've read the problems associated with exchanging cash, but is it a hassle to move funds thru banks? Say I work in China for a few years and my BoC account grows, how much regulation is there controlling where I can move that money?

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gato

I can't speak from experience, but I know that the regulations are quite cumbersome to get money out of China. Once you are employed, your employer may be able to help you navigate through the process.

http://www.goldentianjin.net.cn/en/center/eglgd/labour.htm

If the salary, or other legal incomes of the foreign employees are in foreign currencies, the money may be either remitted or taken out of China after paying taxes. If the incomes is in RMB, the money, after paying the tax, could either be used to purchase foreign currencies at designed banks with an effective certificate issued by the foreign currency control department and then be remitted or taken out of China.

Here's Bank of China's web page on international wire transfer. It mentions that you need to get the approval of the foreign exchange management bureau if you want to wire more than US$2000. I can't tell exactly when this would apply. By its language, it would seem to apply to your case as well because its definition of resident includes any foreigner living in China for more than 1 year.

http://www.bank-of-china.com/cn/common/fourth.jsp?category=1098586663100

持有的外币现钞汇出用于经常项目支出

一次性汇出等值2000美元以下,直接到银行办理;2000美元以上(含),首先持证明材料向外汇管理局申请,之后凭外汇管理局核准件到银行办理。

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gumbico

great links gato, thanks for your help! it does seem like it will be a pain to move RMB out of China. I guess I'll have to figure out a way to get my future employers to pay portions of my salary in US$ and depo them into my US accounts.

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roddy
Regarding opening an account with BoC, how easy would it be to move that money to my BoA account in the distant future. I've read the problems associated with exchanging cash, but is it a hassle to move funds thru banks? Say I work in China for a few years and my BoC account grows, how much regulation is there controlling where I can move that money?

In the distant future, who knows. Currently your options are:

1) If you are officially employed with a residence permit, foreign experts certificate and proof that you've paid tax, you can change RMB to foreign currency at the Bank of China. Expect to wait for hours while they use the abacus to check the calculator didn't incorrectly confirm what the computer told them. Once you've done that you can talk your officially converted currency and wire it out of the country.

2) Black market - either with a black market money changer (can be dodgy, but I've heard more good stories than bad) or someone you know who has spare foreign currency - international school and embassy staff, for example, often get paid in foreign currency. You may or may not need to explain it's origin when wiring it out though, not sure.

3) Carry RMB into HK, where you can change it into American dollars, German marks or even Latvian dancing girls if you wish, and then wire it to the four corners of the earth. One country, two completely different systems.

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claust

Gotta say, I'm very glad to have found this forum by mistake in a Google search.

Gumbico, thank you for asking all these questions. I am considering the Tsinghua iMBA program for this fall as well and this is obviously very useful.

Please tell me, have you had any luck with gettting an early visa? I was also told by SEM that I would only get the forms in June and I was hoping to go in June.

Please feel free to contact me directly.

thanks

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gumbico

hey claust,

I'm in the same boat as you. I wanted to come a little early to attend some chinese classes before the mba classes start. but that doesn't seem to be doable as you said, we won't get the official acceptance package until late June/early July. Which doesn't leave much time since new graduate registration starts in mid August.

right now i'm just trying to find a place to live. :wall

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claust

Either Rechal or Amy (I can't remember) had forwarded me some contacts for help in finding Haidian or Wudaokou apartments that an expat student gave her a few months ago.

I would prefer not to publish them online however, so if you are interested, please email me directly so that I can reply with the info in a private email. Your current settings do not allow me to send you an email directly.

As far as Chinese goes, I was hoping for a similar pre-semester primer. I have attempted to get a bit of a head start on my Mandarin in Montreal (my hometown), but it's nothing like living in it. I intend on making learning Mandarin a priority when I get there. From what I gathered on this board, I quick an dirty BCLU intensive course or hiring a private tutor could be good.

On a seperate note, I'd be very interested in meeting (for coffee perhaps) before orientation if we are both going to be there earlier in the summer anyway. Ideally I'd like to meet a bunch of our classmates during the summer. Let me know your thoughts!

best,

claust

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gumbico
:mrgreen: tried PM'ing you but that didn't work. so I shot you an email!

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comfort

Hey Claust and Gumbico,

Ni hao fellas. I have also applied to Tsinghua's IMBA and have been accepted. But I am deciding on either Peking's IMBA vs. Tsinghua's IMBA. It's really driving me crazy :help . I'm wondering, have you two also applied to Peking's IMBA? If so, why have you guys chosen Tsinghua over Peking U.? I'd appreciate any feedback.

I'm currently in Beijing..

Gum, If you're worried about finding an apartment we're definitely in the same boat. In fact, I just checked out this one apartment complex today called 'hua qing jia yuan.' Seems like the best and most expensive apt. complex in the Hai dian district. I went to a realtor and was shown a 2 brd/1bath apt. that went for 6500 rmb. If your looking for an apartment worthy of a U.S. apt comparison, I'd check this place out first. Other apts. in the area seemed abit dodgy, but that's me.

'Hua Qing Jia Yuan'

POSITIVES:

1) Location: directly south of Tsinghua U.

2) Convenience: has a supermarket across the street, internet cafe, restuarants, fitness center, next to wu dao kou subway station

3) Most luxurious apt. in the area

NEGATIVES:

1) Many drinking bars/clubs right outside of the complex. actually this can be a positive depending on your preference. Personally, I enjoy an occasional beer to unwind. ; but not when I got to wake up for that 8 am class. (I was told that the place can get pretty loud late at night until 3am)

2) Dangerous? (I've been told that fights often emerge from the bars/clubs) :(

3) Congested: I know, China has a 1.3 bil population. But this area is no joke.. there are cars, people on bikes, people on foot everywhere you turn (Straight elbow to elbow) I am from the suburbs of L.A. it might be that I'm just not used to these situations. But after walking around this area for an hour can make you nauseous.

I'm actually thinking about getting a quieter place farther from Tsinghua/Peking Campus. (Not yet decided)

Anyway, I'll be going back to the U.S. next week. Then I'm coming back to Beijing in June, also thinking about improving my Chinese beforehand and preparing myself for Beijing life for the next 2 years. Regardless of which campus I choose, It'd be great to meet up together before the program starts.

Cheers!:D

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claust

Hi Comfort,

I sent you an email a little while ago, but I am begining to doubt that you received it.

If you are interested in discussing Beida vs Tsinghua further, which was a really tough choice for me as well, or anything else for that matter, send me an email.

here is my address

claust[at]mail[dot]com

best,

Charles

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gumbico

Hey Comfort, please come and expand Claust and my little IMBA group. PM me your email and we can hopefully figure things out over there. You'll most likely be helping us out more since you've already been there.

To answer your question, my background is in IT consulting and my undergrad was from Virginia Tech. Tho I was looking for a decent MBA program, I still wanted one from a techie institution (I know, some logic is missing here but it's just my preference). Therefore, PU wasn't even on my radar. I know its MBA program was recently ranked higher than TU's but the difference is negligible to me, both are good. So I applied to HKUST and TU with TU as my primary choice.

That probably doesn't help you much, but I'd say look at each program's course offerings and major paths. If there's a path in PU that fits in with your future plans, then go there. If not, join us at TU! :mrgreen: Here's TU's list.

Thanks for the apt tips. Tho I'm paying $1400 right now for my 1 bd rm apt here in the States, I have no desire to pay over $300 over in Beijing. Being close to campus would be perfect, but far away from bars and clubs would be even better. I'm checking online at woowu and the classifieds on that's BJ. But i'd much rather see things with my own eyes before signing any leases. My backup plan is to bum around the campus dorms a few weeks at first and then relocate to an apt once I get more settled over there. Of course, I'd much rather have everything worked out before landing over there, but it's hard trying to arrange things while I'm still over here.

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