Semester in China

Basic information

  • Location: Beijing, China | Map
  • Dates: Fall 2021
  • Class requirement: Sophomore
  • GPA requirement: 2.50+
  • Cost: To be announced

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this off-campus program has been suspended. The information on this page is available for reference and planning purposes, but may no longer be accurate. If and when Calvin is able to re-open this and other off-campus programs, information will be provided at the main Off-Campus Programs website. If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Off-Campus Programs office.

For years, China was shrouded in mystery to westerners, but now this 1.3 billion person nation has opened itself up to the outside world. Spend a semester alongside expert professors and curious peers studying all things Chinese, both traditional and modern.

Calvin has its own semester-long program in China, offered every other fall semester, that offers you the choice between a language-focus track or the language and culture track.Even without a background in Chinese, you'll have the time of your life getting to know this deep, ancient culture. You'll have everyday adventures in bustling Beijing looking for the best place to eat Chinese dumplings and visiting the city's National Library, sports facilities, parks and countless other important cultural sites. On the weekends and during special trips you'll travel to the outlying areas, walking on the Great Wall or visiting the ancient city of Xi'an and its Terra Cotta Warriors.

To learn more about what it's like to spend a semester studying in China, listen to this panel discussion in which four Calvin students discuss their experience as participants in the Semester in China program.

Beijing, China


Beijing, China

In northeast China, Beijing is the capital of a nation that covers 3.7 million square miles of land. With the Forbidden City at its core, Beijing expands outward in a structure of concentric ring roads. It is a destination known as much for its ancient sites as its modern cityscape.

Things to do

Beijing is the political and cultural center of China. You will find ancient temples and palace complexes as well as skyscrapers and museums easily accessible via Beijing's public transportation system or by rental bike.

The program includes travel outside of Beijing to various cultural and historic sites every other weekend and two longer trips to places like Xi'an, Shanghai and Dalian.

Beijing was first populated over half a million years ago, but the first Chinese Emperor was crowned in 221 BC. In 1421 the third Ming Emperor, Yongle, established Beijing as the new capitol and created the Forbidden City, the grid system and many landmarks which are still there today. The late 19th and 20th centuries saw Beijing as the center of political turmoil and unrest, marked by fighting between China and foreign forces as well as between Chinese nationalists and communists. After the creation of the People's Republic of China, much of the city's traditional architecture was destroyed. Since then Beijing has gained economic strength, most notably demonstrated in their being awarded the 2008 summer Olympics.
Approx. 22 million
Summer in Beijing is hot and humid, with most of the year's rainfall happening in July and August, and temperatures can exceed 104° F (40° C). Winter is cold and dry with occasional snow and can dip to -4° F (-20° C). Air pollution levels can also occasionally affect travel plans.

Program Profile: China

In most cases students adapt well to their circumstances, but it is helpful to know what to expect as you prepare for a specific experience. If you have specific questions about a program, we would encourage you to speak directly to your off-campus instructor or director or, feel free to stop by the OCP Office at any time.

Physical expectations: Moderate
Language Importance: High
Cultural acclimation difficulty: High
Level of Cultural Interaction: Moderate
Safety & Security Considerations: Moderate

Health Considerations: Moderate
Mental Health Considerations: High
Lodging: Dorms
Cost: $$

Social Expectations: By their nature, semesters and interims off-campus are inherently social experiences. Heavy emphasis is usually put on building a strong sense of community within the group, which requires openness, sociability, and a collaborative spirit from everyone involved. Acknowledging that having a diversity of personalities makes a group stronger, it is expected that all participants willfully agree to be an active part of the social community of their interim or semester program.


Physical Expectations


These experiences require no more physical exertion than being on Calvin’s Campus. You don’t have to worry about doing anything physically demanding unless you want to. No physical preparation is required to make the most of this experience.


Moderate physical activity is expected and an average level of fitness is required. You will be doing a great deal more walking then on campus, often over uneven surfaces and rough roads. Some physical preparation is recommended before departure to make the most of this experience.


Be prepared for some serious physical activity requiring an above average level of fitness. This will include a high level of walking over all kinds of terrain as well as other physical demands in all kinds of extreme temperatures. The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy this experience as many activities will be challenging.


Language Importance


English is the predominant language in course location.


Knowing another language is helpful to fulfill the goals of the course but English is also prevalent in course location.

Knowing another language is important to fulfill the goals of the course.


Cultural Acclimation Difficulty


Western conveniences are prevalent. Host culture is very similar to traditions and culture of West Michigan.


Few western conveniences, the need for students to blend in with the surrounding culture is important. Host culture shares similarities and differences with the culture of West Michigan.

No western conveniences, the need for students to acclimatize to local culture is readily apparent. Host culture is vastly different than West Michigan.


Level of Cultural Interaction


Interaction with local culture is limited and very formal (e.g. through organized tours).


Intentional opportunities to interact with local peoples and culture.


Intensive immersion in local culture – host families, service-learning, etc.


Safety & Security Considerations

Although no one can guarantee your safety or eliminate all risks from a study-abroad experience, Calvin College is committed to doing its utmost to provide secure environments in which you can live and learn. Our goal is to minimize risks and keep you aware of special situations as you make decisions about studying off-campus.


Safety concerns are similar to living on campus. Incidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are no specific safety concerns of the U.S. State Department for the areas where you will be studying. However, additional care must be taken to assure a safe and secure experience. You always need to continually be aware of what is going on around you and partner with your Calvin instructor or director to assure your safety while off-campus.


There are safety concerns you should be aware of as you commit to this trip. The U.S. State Department has issued a Travel alert or Warning for the area where you will be studying. You will need to partner with Calvin in addressing safety concerns and follow all safety guidelines for the experience.


Health Considerations

Remember, Calvin follows the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for all Calvin sponsored off-campus experiences.


Health concerns are similar to living on campus. Illnesses and accidents can happen anywhere, but there are no indications that you are more at risk during this experience then you would be at home. Health Care resources (clinics, medical personnel, etc.) are numerous and you would have easy access to medical care if needed. Some vaccinations will be required, but overall precautions are minimal.


In general, health concerns are slightly higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced and appropriate health care is available but can be harder to access than on campus. Several vaccinations may be required and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Health concerns are higher than living on campus. Typical travel illnesses (diarrhea, intestinal issues, etc.) are often experienced at some point. Plans to assure adequate health care are in place but health care facilities could be hard to access during the experience. There may be many vaccinations required for the experience and students must be diligent in taking precautions before and during the experience.


Mental Health Considerations

Remember, the Broene Counseling Center cannot provide on-line or phone consultations with students.


Mental health resources are similar to living on the Calvin campus. Mental Health resources (clinics, counselors, etc.) are available and you would have access to these resources, if needed. It could be challenging to find the right resources on short notice and for a short period of time.


Mental health resources are present in various locations during the experience but maybe difficult to access for a variety of reasons.




Group will be camping (living outdoors) at times during the trip.

Host Families

Students will be staying with host families for parts or all of the experience.


Staying in College dorms, similar to Calvin. Roommates will be other Calvin students or other international students depending on your preference.


Dormitory style lodging, shared bathrooms.


Individual rooms (with roommates) and private baths.



Cost of off-campus experiences vary as a result of a number of factors, including the number of students enrolled in the program. Amidst all these factors, the following categories could be helpful, but students are encouraged to check with instructors and directors on specific cost information.


$ Within $500 of tuition, room & board on campus
$$ Between $501 and $2,000 of tuition, room and board on campus
$$$ More than $2,000 over tuition, room and board on campus


$ Less than $2,500
$$ $2,501 to $3,800
$$$ >$3,801


Calvin's China semester program partners with Capital Normal University.

Calvin offers two options for study in China:

The Language-Focus Track (15 credit hours)

  • 12 credit hours of language study
  • STCH 290: Emerging China
  • 1 credit hour for participation in group excursions.

The Language and Culture Track (16 credit hours) 

  • 8 credit hours of language study
  • STCH 210: Traditional Chinese Civilization
  • STCH 211: Modern China
  • STCH 290: Emerging China

Learn more about direct-enroll transfer credits in academic services.


The grades from the culture courses courses will be factored into your GPA. The grade from your Chinese language course will be listed on your transcript but will not factor into your GPA.

Course Fulfillments

STCH 210 and 211 each fulfill the Global & Historical Studies core requirement. STCH 290 fulfills the Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCE) core requirement.

Course Descriptions

STCH 210: Traditional Chinese Civilization - An introduction to Chinese civilization from its earliest times to the end of the Ming dynasty. This course will look not only at the historical foundations of early China, but also at the religious and philosophical underpinnings of Chinese civilization in the form of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. This segment will culminate in a trip to Shandong Province, where students will visit Confucius' birthplace and Mount Tai, China's most famous mountain. In the Beijing area, students will visit the Confucian Temple, the White Cloud Daoist Temple, the Capital Museum, and Matteo Ricci's grave. (3 credits)

STCH 211: Modern China - Starting with the fall of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century, this course will look at the events and forces that have shaped China in the last three hundred years.  Special attention will be paid to China's collision with the West in the 19th century, the rise of Communism in the 20th century, and Communist history since Liberation in 1949.  Students will visit sites such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Marco Polo Bridge, and a hutong (old alleys) tour. The class will culminate in a 10 day trip to Xi'an, Nanjing, and Shanghai. (3 credits)

STCH 290: Emerging China - Starting from the end of the Cultural Revolution, this course will look at the period of "Opening and Reform" and its present course of development.  Students will examine the tough questions of contemporary China: population growth, the transition from a socialist to a market economy, religion in post-communist China and China's place in the larger global community.

CHIN 2XX - Chinese Language - Students will choose courses from several Chinese language sections offered through the local university (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).  *No previous knowledge of Chinese is required. (8 to 12 credits)


You will live with another Calvin student in a westernized international dormitory at the Capital Normal University.


You must be of sophomore status and have 2.5 GPA or higher to study in China.

There is no prerequisite for the China semester program. Even though the great majority of students who participate in this program have already studied some Chinese language, a background in the Chinese language is not required. The semester program in Beijing averages 12 students each year, but can accommodate more than that number.


The final program cost is expected to be within $1000 of Calvin tuition and room and board on campus. More specific cost information will be sent with your acceptance letter. The final program cost is based on many factors and is not known exactly until the number of students in the group has been identified. The financial information page covers the details that go into the cost of the program and rough estimates for each. The cost for the China semester will include:

  • Tuition and administrative fee
  • Round trip airfare United States/Beijing
  • Housing (in a university dorm)
  • Food allowance
  • Program excursions

Additional expenses not included in the program fee: passport, visa, books,medical insurance (required), required immunizations, personal spending money and personal travel.


Start the application process

Applications for the Fall 2021 China semester will be available in early 2021. 



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