This post contains lots of information and useful tips for studying Chinese Language at Peking University for at least one semester. I hope that this posts helps prospective students to get a clear overview of the living and study costs at PKU. Enjoy the read!
1. PKU programme application and fees
When I applied for the semester-long programme at PKU, the applications had to be sent in both online and offline through the postal mail. The specifications for the applications can be found here. You will need to fill in the Peking University Application Form, print out the downloaded form out, sign and attach a passport-style photograph and then mail it to the international office of PKU, the address can be found below.
International Students Division, Office of International Relations
3rd Floor, New Sun Student Center,
Peking University, Beijing 100871
People’s Republic of China
To the application you should attach a certification of the highest degree attained or a letter of enrollment from your university. These have to be either original documents or certified copies in either Chinese or English (highly recommended). The letter of Motivation or Study Plan with 500-1000 words has to be attached, in can be in both Chinese or English. Furthermore, at least one recommendation letter from your school/company (original documents, either in Chinese or English) should be attached. Finally, you have to include one photocopy of your valid passport ID page. Be aware that PKU does not return your application documents, irrelevant of the application outcome. This means that you should not send any original documents, only certified copies if you want them back at some point. 😉
The non-refundable application fee amounts to 75 USD/400 RMB and has to be paid either in cash, by Yinlian bank card in the office of PKU or through an online payment such as VISA creditcards (check for applicable currency exchange rates and choose the best creditcard available for international students such as DKB’s student credit card).
2. Visa application and fees
Once you are admitted to PKU, you can apply for the visa together with your admission notification and the JW202 form. You can apply for the visa at the chinese embassy or consulate in your country of residence. In Germany, the most popular or frequently visited embassy for Chinese Visa applications is in Frankfurt. You can find more information on their official website, which appears to be down sometimes, due to some unknown reasons.
If you have decided that you want to study in China longer than six months, you can directly apply for the X1 VISA, which expires after 30 days upon arrival in China and will then be transformed into a residence permit after registration in China. If you plan to stay less than six months or are not sure yet whether you want to extend your stay after the first semester, simply choose the X2 Visa and carry out the Visa extension application about a month before your Visa expiration including the medical check if necessary.
The visa fees amount to 125.45 Euros for citizens of Schengen countries and are only valid for applicants who visit the office in person. When I applied for my Visa, I had to visit Frankfurt twice. Once to apply for the Visa and the second time to pick up the Visa.
3. Study program fees (Semester-long)
The fees at PKU are counted per semester and you need to pay them in one go, there are no payment rate instalments available unfortunately. One semester for the Chinese language course costs 18000 RMB, which is currently 2,348 Euros (April 2020). It includes all lectures and even a trip to a selected destination for a long weekend in the first semester. However, you have to take the bank transfer fees into account that apply for international bank transfers, so the amount could vary up to 50 Euros more than the original fee. It is of course always cheaper to pay in the local currency, so you can also pay the fees on the first day of the semester in the international office at PKU.
4. Housing fees (On-campus accomodation)
If you are lucky enough to get a spot in the local dorms in the global village (中关新园), the housing deal is great for the extremely expensive city centre of Beijing. You can get a single room in a two-room apartment with a shared bathroom and living room (no furniture in the living room) right next to the university campus for about 420 Euros per month. The rooms itself have a bed (gotta love the hard Chinese beds, you will get used to it and your back will thank you for it!), a nightstand, a desk and shelf, a large closet and a water cooker.
Here comes the catch however, those couple of hundred rooms are sold out within one second for the entire semester… I somehow magically came across one of those blogposts about previous international students who went to 北大 (Bei3da4) (Chinese name for PKU) and explained that you have to be online exactly at 9:00 AM Beijing time the day of the apartment release to book a room. Which by the way was 3 AM in the Dutch time zone, and I was, due to my previous experience with concert ticket sales, prepared with two laptops and four different browsers open to increase my chances of getting a room in the ‘lucky draw’. In the end, I was actually lucky enough to book a room at exactly 3:00 AM, even though it turned to be a basement room with a tiny and prison-style metal-covered window, but that’s another story for another blog post. (I got a room upgrade in the same building six floors up with a great view and full glass-front wall after a month which was totally worth the search for the hidden room management office).
For the people who didn’t get a room in this split-second that the room slots are published online, don’t worry too much about finding a room in Beijing. The question is only whether you can find something that is somewhat affordable and close to PKU, hence in the 中关村 (Zhong Guan Cun) and 五道口 (Wu Dao Kou) area. Rooms are quite popular there, but you should be able to find something around 500-600 Euros per month once you are part of the useful Wechat apartment or student groupchats. Other international students also can guide you with tips and connections to find a suitable room for your stay in Beijing.
5. Living expenses in Beijing
Transport in and around Beijing is very affordable and absolutely worth trying, apart from the major rush hours in the Beijing metro, most busses and other forms of public transport are conveniently available throughout the city. During my time in Beijing, I almost exclusively used the metro and bus lines to get around the city. To get from 北京大学东门 （PKU metro station） to the city centre such as 天安门 (Tiananmen square)，it would cost around 9 yuan, which is a bit more than 1 Euro for a 30 min metro ride, not bad at all compared to the rather pricey public transport in the Netherlands.
Having delicious food in Beijing can be crazy affordable (you can literally have dinner for 20 cents in the Beida canteen and get two large carrot-mushroom filled steamed buns in the global village campus canteen which, no offense, but would literally only allow you to get a plastic fork in the Dutch canteens). On the other hand, you can also get a world-class level dining experience in one of the many fine restaurants around town. Luckily for the students’ budget, the costs of eating out in a Korean or Japanese restaurant in Beijing are still a lot more affordable than in the Netherlands. You can get a delicious Korean table stew for two people with fresh vegetables, kimchi, tteobokki, tofu and ramen for about 70 RMB (9.13 Euros) in most of the Korean restaurants located in 五道口.
6. Managing tuition fees
Apply for a Chinese government scholarships by e.g. taking part in a confucius centre learning course prior to your China experience and take advantage of the large number of scholarships that are available for interested international students. The scholarships do not only cover on-campus housing and tuition fees but even include a monthly allowance which is a great contribution by the Chinese government to improve the experience of Chinese-language students in Beijing.
The time of studying abroad can be a fantastic experience and gives you lots of opportunities to connect with international peers, immerse yourself in a different culture and expand your horizon with a different worldview. Take this amazing opportunity and make the most out of this time while it lasts!