Summer Palace

Columbia Summer in Beijing: Chinese Language

Language of Instruction: Chinese
Term: Summer

Improve your Chinese language skills in Beijing, one of Asia's most dynamic cities.


Program Notifications Sign-Up

Notify me when the application for this program is available

Due to the the unpredictable nature of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, the Columbia Summer in Beijing: Chinese Language program has been cancelled for Summer 2020.

This nine-week program immerses you in Beijing and offers four levels of intensive Chinese language studies from first through fourth year. Reading, writing, speaking and listening are emphasized in the classroom, in drill sections, and through private tutorials. Group excursions in and around Beijing and a week-long travel break give you insight into Chinese society and lifestyle, and provide a variety of environments in which to use your language skills.

This program was the most challenging academic experience of my life – and I say that as a compliment. The teachers were very skilled and pushed me hard to achieve an incredible amount of learning in a short period of time. My Chinese improved dramatically during the program. I appreciated the program's intense academic curriculum, but also a good amount of freedom to explore the city and practice my language in real-world situations.

-Jackson Cooper CC '12

Program Overview

During the summer, you will complete one academic year of Chinese in nine weeks. Intensive language courses take place every morning, followed by drill sessions in small groups and individual tutorials in the afternoons. By meeting with Chinese students from local universities who serve as language partners, you will gain extra practice outside of the classroom and can explore the city with your local peers. Group excursions and cultural activities are organized throughout the duration of the program. A one week independent travel break in the 5th week allows you to enjoy time outside of the classroom to explore this vast and dynamic country on your own.

Eligibility and Application

  • Must be a currently enrolled undergraduate student in good academic and disciplinary standing. Graduate students and post-graduates may also apply.
  • For first year level: No previous Chinese language background required
  • For second year level: One year of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
  • For third year level: Two years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
  • For fourth year level: Three years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA
  • Host University (Peking University) does not allow applications from Chinese citizens

How to Apply

Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application” button above. 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(s) of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s)


Chinese language courses

Based on your application, you will provisionally be placed in one of the courses below. Final placement occurs in Beijing after you take a placement test.

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

Chinese 1101-1102 OC. Elementary Chinese (first-year level). 10 points.

Prerequisites: None.
Texts: Approaching China (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press)

Introduces basic sentence structures and vocabulary in colloquial Chinese and focuses on developing basic skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The Pinyin system and traditional characters are used.

Chinese 1201-1202 OC. Intermediate Chinese (second-year level). 10 points.

Prerequisites: One year of college-level Chinese or the equivalent.
Texts: Jingua Chinese (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press; traditional and simplified characters)

Consolidates and develops language skills used in everyday communication. Texts are presented in the form of a narrative that provides language situations, sentence patterns, word usage, and cultural information. Comprehensive exercises rely on highly structured practice in vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Semi-formal and literary styles are introduced in later lessons as transitions to more advanced levels of Chinese language study. The first half of the course emphasizes skills for conducting everyday tasks such as shopping, making telephone calls, seeing a doctor, or looking for a job. The second half focuses on aspects of Chinese culture: the social norms of politeness and gift giving, traditions such as inter-generational relationships and marriage ceremonies, customs such as special foods and holidays. While providing practical training, the course aims to raise the student's linguistic competence in preparation for advanced studies in Mandarin.

Chinese 4005-4006 OC. Advanced Chinese (third-year level). 10 points.

Prerequisites: Two years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent
Texts: Jingua Chinese (Columbia University staff, published by Peking University Press; simplified characters)

Introduces Chinese social values and attitudes, focusing on the rapid changes now taking place in China. Uses materials from Chinese newspapers and modern short stories to teach essential elements of semi-formal and formal writing. Reading and writing are routine tasks and oral discussion and debate are important components of the class, allowing students to integrate and improve their communication skills in Chinese.

Chinese 4015-4016 OC. Reading in Modern Chinese (fourth-year level). 10 points.

Prerequisites: At least three years of college-level Chinese or the equivalent.
Texts: articles by contemporary and modern writers; readings from current newspapers and magazines.Simplified characters used.

Furthers students' language skills in semi-formal, formal, or written styles through reading and writing, while improving fluency in oral communication. Weekly individual oral presentations and written reports are required.

Grades and transcripts

Grading Policy

Click here for the Columbia summer program grading policies.


No credit is granted to students who do not complete the full program.

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 as 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: can request electronic transcripts online through the Columbia University registrar.

Life in Beijing

Most importantly though, studying abroad allowed me to learn more about myself, and my place in the world as a global citizen, than I ever thought possible in just 9 weeks.

-Will Scott, Columbia General Studies '20


You will live in a shared hotel room close to the university campus with another program participant. Each room includes bed sheets, desks, air conditioning, a telephone, TV and internet access. There are no kitchens or cooking facilities in the hotel.


Most meals are not included in the program fee. You should plan to bring between $5-$10 a day to cover the cost of your meals and bottled water. You will be issued a University student ID which can be used as a meal card to be used in the dining halls on campus. The cafeterias have a wide range of food and are quite inexpensive, about $1 per meal. If you choose to eat out, a meal at a local restaurant is not very expensive either. Places that cater to foreigners and offer western foods tend to be more expensive where prices can be similar to those in the U.S. If you think you will frequent these types of places often, you should plan to budget more money for food.


The program will include several group trips to historic and cultural sites including: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Pearl Market, a Chinese acrobatic show (Chaoyang Theater) and a Peking Opera show (Huguang Theater).

Excursion to the Great Wall of China

Excursion to the Great Wall of China

You will be matched with a language partner (local Chinese university student) to help you practice your Chinese outside of the classroom. Taking the initiative to spend time with your partner in a relaxed, out of class setting will also give you the opportunity to gain perspectives on what to see and do while in Beijing.

In past years, program students have participated with other university students in a speech competition and an end-of-program talent show.

Depending on student interest, workshops in taijiquan, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese traditional music, and Chinese dance may be available. Local experts are invited to speak about contemporary topics such as the Chinese economy and doing business in China. When possible, young local alumni are invited to speak with the group so they can learn more about how what it is like to actually live and work in China.

Daily Living and Schedule

The language classes meet Monday through Friday from 8:00 am-12:00 pm. During the first two hours, 12-17 students make up each class. During the last two hours, classes are broken down into smaller sections and might have 6-8 students per section.

You will have a break for lunch at noon where you can eat at an on-campus canteen (cafeteria).

One on one individual conversational sessions with a tutor are scheduled each weekday in the afternoons. These sessions are factored into your grade, so you cannot miss sessions for travel.

Cultural and social events are often scheduled at night during the week, and cultural excursions take place on Saturdays.

NOTE: Attendance at all classes is mandatory.



The Program Director, Lening Liu, holds a Ph.D. in linguistics and has been a faculty member in Columbia University's Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures since 1995. Currently, Professor Liu is Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Director of Columbia's Chinese Language Program and Confucius Institute Director of Chinese Language Pedagogy. He also serves as the co-director of the Certificate Program of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages. He has taught in the Summer Language Program in Beijing since 1997.

The head instructors for the language courses are:

  • Ling Yan, Senior Lecturer of Chinese at Columbia University
  • Lingjun Hu, Lecturer of Chinese at Columbia University
  • Congmin Zhao, Instructor of Chinese at Phillips Academy, previously taught at Columbia University and Harvard University

Local university faculty are hired to teach different sections of the Chinese language courses and trained language tutors are assigned to support students on an individual basis.

A Program Assistant will be hired locally for the program to support students with daily life.

Financial Considerations

Program Costs

Program Fee for Summer 2020: Includes tuition, housing, course excursions, group dinners, orientation and cultural activities: $11,200.

Please see our cost breakdown for detailed information on additional estimated expenses.

Tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustees approval and may change.


If you are on financial aid, check to see if it can be applied to studying abroad. In general, summer financial aid is not available to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering students, but may be available to School of General Studies students. Non-Columbia students should check with their home schools for funding availability.

Funding Your Summer in Beijing

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

Guanghua Scholarship

This scholarship is designed to give Columbia and non-Columbia students the opportunity to pursue intensive Chinese language study, engage with Chinese local students and the culture, and gain valuable international experience. Scholarships (ranging from $1000-$5000) will be awarded to a select number of students (up to 10) who demonstrate financial need. The awards will help defray the cost of the program tuition. To apply, please select the "Guanghua Scholarship" option in the "UGE Administered Scholarship" questionnaire in your online application.

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 applicants are eligible to apply for awards of up to $3,000 per student for summer study.

Columbia students may also be eligible to apply for the following scholarships:

Weatherhead East Asian Institute Funding

Columbia University's WEAI offers funding for research, language acquisition, unpaid internships, and dissertation write-up during the summer and academic year to selected Columbia students committed to professional and academic engagement with East and Southeast Asia. Eligibility varies depending on the particular funding opportunity.

Summer Language Fellowship for International Ph.D. Students
The Summer Language Fellowship for International Students supports international Ph.D. students (who are not permanent residents) in the humanities and social sciences at Columbia who need to study a foreign language (applies to all languages) abroad during the summer. The fellowship award maximum is $3,000. Students can apply online and should contact with questions.

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

withdrawal policy

If you decide to withdraw from the program once it has already started, please be aware of the financial consequences and the office policies by clicking here.

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Foreign Language Learning
Barnard College, Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies, Columbia Graduate Students, Non-Columbia Graduate Students, Non-Columbia Undergraduates
Language of Instruction:
Asia and the Pacific

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Admissions Decision Date: 
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Program Dates: 
Thursday, June 11, 2020 to Saturday, August 15, 2020
Dates are subject to change.