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Semester Programs: China

It's a country that until recently was shrouded in mystery to westerners. Now China has opened itself up to the outside world, and you have the opportunity to spend a semester studying all things Chinese, traditional and modern. 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 trekking up China's most holy mountain, Taishan.

Even without a background in Chinese, you'll have the time of your life getting to know this fascinating eastern culture.


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

You do not need to have any background in the Chinese language.


The Fall 2015 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 includes:

  • Tuition and administrative fee
  • Round trip airfare Grand Rapids/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.


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

Watch a tour of Beijing Normal University:

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Choose one of two options for study in China: the Language-Focus Track or the Language and Culture Track.

The Language-Focus Track consists of 12 credit hours of language study, the Emerging China course (in English), and 1 credit hour for participation in group excursions.

The Language and Culture Track consists of 8 credit hours of language study and the following courses in English:Traditional Chinese Civilization, Modern China, and Emerging China.

STCH 203 Traditional Chinese Civilization - Prof. TenHarmsel
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. 5 week course, including 4-day trip 3 semester hours, fulfills Global & Historical Studies core
STCH 204 Modern China - Prof. TenHarmsel
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. 6-week course, including 10- day trip 3 semester hours, fulfills Global and Historical Studies core
STCH 210 Emerging China - Prof. TenHarmsel
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. 2-week course 2 semester hours, fulfills Cross-Cultural Engagement (CCE) core
CHIN xxx Chinese Language - Chinese instructor and student tutor
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. Semester-long course 8–12 semester hours**

If you have already taken HIST 245, 246 or 371, you may, with the permission of the director of Off-Campus Programs, substitute one course at the Beijing Center for STCH 203 or 204.

**Please note: The grades from Professor TenHarmsel's courses will be factored into your GPA. The grade from your Chinese language course will be listed on your transcipt but will not factor into your GPA. Grades below "C" in the language course will not be accepted for credit.


To apply for the program, please follow the directions to apply through our Horizons online system at this link.

Guest students may apply for this program.


Program Director
Wayne TenHarmsel (lives in Beijing)


Location: 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.

Population: approx. 14 million

Sights: Much of old Beijing survives in its temples, palaces and alleyways that crisscross the city outside the second ring road. Inside this area, you'll find huge avenues, vaulting overpasses, towering skyscrapers, shopping malls and Tian'an Men Square.

People: In Beijing you'll meet a mix of affluent shoppers, trendy youth, beggars and senior citizens in faded Mao jackets.

Entertainment: Traditional Beijing opera, modern jazz and punk clubs, countless parks, the Beijing zoo


Traversing over 50 degrees of latitude and covering 3.7 million square miles of land, the People's Republic of China is one of the most extensive countries in the world with over 20% of the planet's population calling it home. It is bordered by 14 countries and has a 12,400-mile long Pacific coastline.


The program includes travel outside of Beijing to various cultural and historic sites every other weekend and a ten-day trip to Xi'an, Nanjing and Shanghai.