If you’re here you know that this blog is going to be my soundboard while in China. A travel blog of sorts but I’ll be in one place most of the time. I plan to go to China to study for a year or two, and the subject matter will be Mandarin Chinese.
If you’re here you know that as of 7/24/15 at 9:01AM, I’m still anxiously awaiting my scholarship verdict from the Chinese Embassy in D.C. If there is anything I know about Chinese institutions is that they’re not known for being prompt with these kinds of things and they can be quite disorganized.
I wanted to talk a bit about the scholarship application process. Not the most exciting material but it might be helpful to the fellow wanderluster on a budget. The scholarship is always subject to change (it changed this year) but as of 2015 it covers tuition, a dorm (cheapest option), basic medical insurance, and a monthly stipend to live on (which increased this year because they removed the ‘off campus subsidy’).
The process follows these steps:
Research schools and programs to find the best fit. If you’re choosing a degree program, the school’s prestige will come into play. Language programs don’t matter as much and the city might be more important than the school itself. Some things to consider:
- Temperature/Climate – I chose a northern city because I am much hardier with cold weather than I am with hot.
- Cost of living – stipends granted with scholarship are the same regardless of your geo, so if you’re in relatively expensive places like Hong Kong or Shanghai, you might need to supplement your income with your own money. You’ll have an easier time making your stipend go further if you’re in a place with a lower overall cost. I did not consider schools in more expensive cities for this reason.
- How adaptable are you? – Some cities, like Beijing or Shanghai (or even smaller cities in the richer southern cities) have A LOT of “western” convenience. They tend to have food from pretty much anywhere so you’ll not have to go without some home food comforts. You can find things like 星巴克咖啡 (Starbucks) and Walmart. These tend to be pretty common in more “international” cities. Sometimes size of the city is a good indicator, but in some cases, smaller coastal cities might have more international influence than a larger western one. Should this be important to you, find out what’s there! Google maps is a beautiful thing. My city of choice I chose specifically because it’s more “Chinese” and less of an international city. I’m going to China, not the UN! In general though, if you’re a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person like me, you’ll probably be fine.
- FOOD – Of course food is relevant. If you do not like spicy food AT ALL, perhaps Sichuan isn’t a good fit. I typically recommend to people to try the cuisine if they can before making snap judgements. While Sichuan food is spicy, it isn’t ALL flaming asshole spicy. It depends on the dish, so if you have some ability to handle averagely spicy dishes, it might be something you can handle, especially if you’re there and will adjust to it. Just bring the Pepto Bismol. Another food consideration: If you don’t like seafood. I was so annoyed at the lady in my English teaching group when I was in Zhejiang who would always be like “I don’t like any seafood” and she’s getting free food in a coastal town. She was a nice lady, but I’d think “woman, eat the goddamn food that’s given to you”.
- SIDE NOTE: Don’t go to China if you’re even picky with American food. Like.. be open to trying things as best you can and you might be surprised! When in Rome…
- Pollution – Of course it can’t be a talk about China without talking smog! While China is generally a bad place to go if you don’t like pollution, it varies wildly from east to west, north to south. Consider your own possible problems with poor air quality. For most people, the time you’ll be in China to complete a degree or language program, will not impact your life. Get an air filter for your room and you’ll be fine. If you’re more sensitive that this is a major factor for you, go south to Fujian to escape the worst of the smog. While I wouldn’t go to some of the worst areas, Anshan is still better than Beijing, but I wasn’t too worried about it as long as it wasn’t at like 170 on the air quality index every single day.
You’ve found some good choices. Now what? The next phase of the application process is to reach out to the schools you’ve found and start narrowing down to 3 choices (if you’re not there already). You will want to ask specific questions that you cannot answer using their website. Some good questions are, “Are utilities/is internet included in dorms?” This is not always assumed! You will want to know when the registration times are because it can be as early as Aug 28th or as late as Sept 15th. This might be a factor for your schedule or working situation.
A big thing that helped me narrow down the schools based around communication and immersion friendliness. My 3 choices ended up being Anshan Normal University, Dalian University of Foreign Languages, and Zhejiang University of Science and Technology in that order.
My reasoning for my first choice is from the perspective of a cold/winter loving language student who is fearless:
Pros – Cold, my contact at the school was quick to reply and give good complete answers. She was super helpful along the way and took a lot of the stress out of the process. I want someone like that in my corner. Low cost of living, and the school is within the city so walking around and exploring will be easy! Easily upgraded to single room for cheap. Yay privacy!
Con – Pollution is a bit worse than other two, a bit inconvenient to get there as flights direct to Anshan are super expensive.. I have to go to a nearby city or Beijing first then take train.
The other two schools were either, hot, not super responsive, or I would be stuck in a double, triple, or quad room. They were good choices though, and wouldn’t be depressed to go to them. Dalian is the city I’d want to go to the most.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to 3 schools, email them and inquire about a preadmissions letter. This is a big deal and you’ll want to include it in your CGS application. Now some schools do not give them. If they do not respond or advise they do not offer such letters, then you won’t be able to include it, but that’s ok. If you CAN include it you want to, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get scholarship without one. Having one just increases your chance of getting your first choice school since the school is advising CSC (Chinese Scholarship Council) they will accept you. If you put a first choice down, with no letter, then the CSC will contact the school to see if they’ll take you but they might not. The result is probably the same either way but you’ll get added peace of mind if YOU know that you’ve been accepted to the university already.
Getting a pre-ad letter is usually pretty easy. You send in highest diploma, transcript, passport, and anything else they might email you for and it only took my letter 2 days to be emailed to me after supplied all of my materials.
The application for Chinese Gov Scholarship is April 15th, but you want to start getting materials well in advance as some might take you awhile. The application and required documents are on the Chinese Embassy site. Of these documents some are obvious like a notorized copy of your diploma. Other forms can use a bit of explanation or some protips:
- Medical Form (filled out by a physician):This part can be a pain as you need blood work done and a chest exam. Seems extreme but this medical form is used for the student visa you’ll need. While there are plenty of people who will say on the forums that talk about this subject matter, that the medical exam isn’t necessary, it can be grounds for your application being tossed. I wouldn’t risk it and strongly recommend providing all that they ask for in the manner they ask (translated, notarized, etc). Keep in mind this is only valid for 6mo so you probably want to finish it and have it signed for sometime in March. You’ll likely have to get a medical exam when you get to China anyway though. Annoying!!
- AGENCY NUMBER: this is at the top of the actual CGS application. It should be correct. If you’re applying through the People’s Republic of China Embassy in Washington D.C. then your agency code is 8401. If through a university, they should be able to tell you but there is also a list online of Chinese University Agency Numbers on CUCAS.
- Study Plan: This seems strange at first. I remember thinking, “My study plan is whatever my professors tell me to do..???” This is basically a paper telling the Chinese Government that their culture is awesome, the language (or University) is awesome, why you’d benefit greatly to study in China over other places, and some good things about “global understanding” and “cultural connections”. Basically tell the Chinese Gov why you want the scholarship and why you deserve it, but make sure they know why it’d be good for YOU to go there. This is actually pretty easy for the US applicant.. it’s no secret that China and the US are always looking to better relations. To have a better understanding of the rich Chinese culture, language, and ancient history to help enhance and improve relations between two great and powerful nations. Yeah. If you’re doing a Masters or PhD and actually DO have a legitimate ‘study plan’ or something then you can focus on that a bit more. As a language student, mine would be a bit more fluffy and fuzzy.
Try to get your materials in before April, so if you’re missing anything or if something is wrong, there is time to get it fixed. The Embassy or University (depending on who you apply through) will contact you if anything is wrong.
The waiting game is strong with this one. You will expect to wait. And want. AND WAIT. You will hear rumors on the forums or people might “know” their results in June. Don’t believe a word of it if you applied through Embassy. Each year, typically masters/PhD students find out first.. but as a whole, university-route applicants will find out before those who apply via Embassy. For this reason, it’s smart to apply through the university if you can! If you’re doing a degree program, you have a choice, but language students will have to go through the Embassy. As of today, July 24, 2015 the embassy applicants worldwide are only now receiving their responses. None have recieved their materials in the mail, but some Chinese Embassies have called their applicants or emailed them that they are recieving the scholarship. So far us US Applicants are playing the waiting game. So much stress!
I have tried to write a quick guide on some key components of the scholarship application process that might be helpful to someone. Please ask any questions in the comments below if I have missed something! With a good 1.5 years being on top of the process and asking questions, I’m pretty familiar with it now.
Shiloh – 陆冬恋