Study Abroad Guide for China - Plan Your Expenses


Studying in a culturally very different country such as China might be one of the best ways for Americans students to learn about a new language and way of life. It is an opportunity to pursue an invaluable education while gaining great culture experience at the same time. China, a country with 1.4 billion population, a very diverse culture (56 races and ethnicities) and one of the world’s largest economies attracted around 440,000 foreign students in 2016, an increase of 35% from 2012. It ranks as the most popular country for foreign students in Asia. With the recent USD/RMB rate movement from 6.00 in late 2014 to today’s 6.80, a 13% revaluation of dollars relative to yuan in 2.5 years, there’s no better time to think about a study program in China.

Finance and Payments

During your stay in China for school, you should fully focus on experiencing the culture and customs that you would never be able to have back home, instead of worrying about international money transfer and payment. What’s more, choosing a good payment option will save you a lot of money over time especially when you plan to stay longer in China.

Our currency specialists who can help you in every step from finding the cheapest and best payments option, to opening a bank account and paying your tuition on time. You can use our comparison tool to find the cheapest service provider, or use our guides to explore different currency specialists out there and find the right one for you. 

china university dorm

Choosing where to study

Many of the country’s best and most prestigious universities are in Beijing, Shanghai and other coastal cities. In the 15 years leading up to 2014, the number of higher education institutions rose from 39 to 727. The academic programs offered by private institutions are generally more practical than those from the public sector.

For higher education, China offers both degrees and certificate programs. Just like the educational system in the United States, China offers three levels of degrees: bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree.

About 25 million students in China pay an average of $400 to $2200 a year in tuition payments, which includes living expenses like instruction, room/board, and meals. However, the cost of private institutions varies greatly and many of them might surpass $2200. For example, the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, a subsidiary of University of Nottingham from the UK, cost $9000 a year due to its high reputation. 

What’s more, you need to think very seriously which city you want to study, because the cost of studying and living varies widely among different places across the country.

Choosing where to live

After you’ve decided the city/town and the study program, the next question would be where to live. In general, there are four options you can choose to live during your stay for study:
·       Live in the dorm on campus
·       Find an apartment to live by yourself off campus
·       Find an apartment and share with your roommates off campus
·       Find a host family for homestay

The average cost of living in tier one cities like Beijing or Shanghai is higher than the rest of the places. Unless you truly want to live in tier one cities, don’t overlook lesser known cities where you may only need to spend $150 a month for a room on campus, especially when you are on a tight budget. While in Beijing, the most expensive city in China, your rent might be around $250-350 for an apartment.

Day to day living

Unlike in the United States, it will be very expensive if you plan to own a car for your day to day transportation. If you live in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou, the best transportation vehicle would be a subway. It is easy, fast and you don’t have to worry about traffic. The bus is preferred in less well-known cities where the subway system has not been built yet. If you plan to take a trip to different cities during your weekend and holidays, we highly recommend you should try China’s high-speed train. For example, if you are studying in Shanghai, and plan to take a trip to Beijing (approximately 750 miles), you can easily find a price around 500 yuan for a 5-hour trip.

The cost of food varies widely depending on the kind of food you choose to eat. The western food is more expensive than local Chinese food. For example, if you choose Chinese breakfast, a bowl of noodles costs around 8 yuan, a bowl of rice porridge costs around 3 yuan. While if you try western breakfast of bread/cake and yogurt/milk, it will cost 10 yuan in a bakery, and 30-40 yuan for a set breakfast. If you try a cup of coffee in a coffee shop, it will cost around 40 yuan.

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