Beijing is a 3,000-year-old city that has been the capital of China for most of the past 600 years. In recent decades, it has gained international importance as a political and economic hub, while retaining a rich historical and contemporary cultural heritage. Combined with its status as a center of Standard Mandarin in a linguistically diverse country, these qualities make Beijing an ideal location for your intensive Chinese language study and cultural immersion.
The Harvard Summer Program in Beijing, also called the Harvard Beijing Academy (HBA), offers you the opportunity to gain a full academic year’s worth of Chinese language study in the course of a nine-week summer session. The program offers five intensive courses in modern Chinese at the intermediate and advanced levels, all of which include a one-week Social Study project, as well as curriculum materials designed to develop and reinforce all aspects of Chinese language ability—including speaking, oral comprehension, reading, and writing, in authentic cultural contexts.
The course structure is designed to maximize your language acquisition, with five hours of class (lectures, drill sections, and a one-on-one session) every day, Monday through Thursday, from morning until early afternoon. Written and oral exams are held every Friday. You will devote much of the remainder of each weekday to homework, study, and review, but also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, as well as semi-weekly “Chinese tables” where you eat lunch with other students and teachers in a relaxed setting. Teachers hold office hours in the evenings from Sunday through Thursday, and you are encouraged to come by for help with their lessons or just to talk with teachers and classmates.
On the weekends, there are performances (e.g., acrobatics show) and excursions (e.g., the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, and the Beijing Art District). You may also spend time on weekends with host families to experience the daily lives and customs of Chinese families. This school/society nexus gives the program its unique participatory flavor, with language instruction continually related to its Beijing setting.
Jennifer Liu, PhD, Director of Chinese Language Program, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
Who should apply
This program is open to students and recent graduates from all institutions and countries. It is designed for English speakers who have completed at least one year of college-level Chinese or have substantively equivalent ability. With a two-to-one student–teacher ratio, the program provides the best environment for you to make substantial improvement in all areas of Chinese language ability.
You must be at least 18 years old, have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student, and be in good standing to apply.
The application materials, outlined below, are due no later than January 15.
Although the online component of the application will not officially close until January 28, please be aware that we can only guarantee review to applications submitted in full (including all components listed below) by January 15. Applications completed and submitted after this deadline will only be considered for review if spaces remain.
Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis; early application will increase your chances of admission. Students may submit the various components of their applications as early as they wish. The online registration component may be completed at any time after it becomes available in early December. All admissions decisions will be released during the last week of January.
- A completed online application (available in early December) that includes:
- A $50 nonrefundable application fee
- A paper application that includes:
- A typed English statement of interest
- A handwritten Chinese statement of interest
- A recommendation form from a Chinese language teacher, written in either English or Chinese
- Transcripts (student record accepted for Harvard students)
- First-year college students who do not yet have any course grades must include a sealed recommendation from their academic advisor or the equivalent
- If your transcript with fall semester grades is released after you have submitted your application, you may mail it in separately for consideration as part of your application file
- An audio recording in Chinese (approximately 3 minutes) introducing yourself and explaining why you would like to study at HBA. The recording should be done in an impromptu manner, and should not be scripted
- E-mail your recording (in MP3 or WMA format) to email@example.com
- Include both your Chinese and English names in the subject line of the e-mail
- Two photocopies of the photo and signature pages in your passport
- Please make sure that the entire two pages are included in the photocopy and that all text is clearly legible
- If your passport expires before February 2017, you should apply for a renewal immediately, as Chinese government regulations stipulate that visas may only be granted to applicants whose passports are valid for at least six months after their planned departure from China.
- Applicants not currently enrolled in Harvard may be asked to have a brief Skype interview with an HBA faculty member. The purpose of this interview will be to enable us to get better acquainted with students whom we do not already know through the Harvard Chinese program.
- You will be notified in advance of the details and timing of the interview, which will be scheduled once all the student’s application materials have been received.
Mail the paper application form, teacher recommendation, transcripts and passport photocopies directly to the HSS Study Abroad Office, preferably in one envelope. Harvard students may submit their application materials in person to the Harvard Beijing Academy program office (5 Bryant Street, room 104).
Notice to all applicants and accepted students
Due to the lengthy nature of HBA, we recognize that it may overlap with other potential commitments. You should only apply to HBA if you are able to commit to attending for the full nine weeks, from the listed arrival date to the listed departure date. This has been the tradition of our program since its founding, and while we regret any inconvenience it may cause, we also found it essential to maintaining the intensive and high-morale environment that makes HBA so successful each year. In addition to attending all class sessions and other mandatory activities, you are required to remain within Beijing for the duration of the program.
There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The program cost includes the following:
- Room and two meals each week
- Course materials
- Scheduled local excursions and extracurricular activities in Beijing
In addition to the program fee, you are responsible for:
- Most meals
- A health insurance fee (waived if you have US insurance that provides coverage outside of the United States)
- Transportation to and from Beijing
- Transportation within Beijing
- All costs relating to the social study project (including room, board, and travel expenses if staying outside of Beijing); rooms at the university are covered for students doing their social study in the Beijing area
- The cost of passports and visas
- Any immunizations
A laptop computer is strongly recommended. Every student must have at least an iPod or other MP3-capable device to listen to the audio recordings that accompany the textbook.
How to pay and funding options
See Payment and Funding for payment deadlines and more information, including funding options for Harvard College students.
The Chinese-only pledge
You must speak only Chinese during the entire program (with exceptions for emergencies and private communication with friends and family). Every student signs a pledge agreeing to this commitment, which is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of the HBA immersion system.
OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview—computerized)
HBA students take the OPIc, a computer-based assessment of spoken Chinese ability, during both the first and last weeks of the program. This assessment, designed by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages, provides a standardized and substantive measurement of students’ improvement in spoken ability over the course of the summer.
Obtaining a visa
To attend HBA, students must obtain a 180-day X2 visa. Accepted students should refer to the HBA Student Handbook and emails from the program coordinator for more information on the details of the visa process.
The host institution, Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), is located in the modern and trendy Wudaokou District of Beijing. You will live in comfortable, single rooms at the university’s conference center with private bathrooms, air conditioning, television, and other amenities. The conference center is steps away from the classrooms. You must stay in program-provided housing.
The conference center and the BLCU cafeteria both offer reasonably priced Chinese and foreign food, and there are many restaurants and shops within short walking distance of campus.
Contact the program coordinator, Alex Lopatin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch a video project by HBA student Bo Young Choi, taken during the 2014 Inner Mongolia Social Study trip.