Exchange at Tsinghua University (Beijing, China) – by Michael Norris

I am currently completing a semester exchange at Tsinghua University. Below I’ve documented my experiences to date under three broad categories, with the aim of providing some tips for making the most at China’s foremost university.


As an exchange student, you have 20 credits of study to complete per semester. Most subjects are 4 units, but 2 unit subjects are relatively commonplace, which means you may have a modest 5 subjects to complete per semester or, at worst, a rather hefty 10. How much you want to do really comes down to timetable planning. Pleasingly, 8 of your 20 units can be chosen from faculties outside the faculty you are studying in, which means you can get a taste of how other subjects are taught. Interestingly, Tsinghua offers an increasing number of subjects taught in English, which would suit those less confident in their Mandarin ability.  Ultimately, all my subjects were conducted in Chinese, which created the foundation for a great environment to accelerate my understanding of the Mandarin. If I could offer one word of advice, it would be to seriously think about enrolling in 8am classes – attendance is graded, so if you value your sleep, an 8am class might not necessarily be the wisest choice!


Travel is really where China shines as a destination for exchange studies. China is such a diverse country and this lends itself to a variety of travel destinations. Coastal cities, inland cities, ancient capitals and sprawling metropolises await. I travel at least once a month, and everything is made all the more convenient by China’s ever-growing high-speed rail network. I highly recommend you familiarise yourself with the top travel websites in China (CTrip and Qunar), as well as the equivalent of Google Maps in China (Baidu Ditu). These will prove invaluable to ensuring your travel experience is as inexpensive and smooth as possible. In terms of travel recommendations, Xi’an (home of the Terracotta Warriors) is a fantastic place to visit – everything is preserved wonderfully and is largely open for you to explore.

Social Activities

Tsinghua’s range of clubs and societies is impressive – by far greater than what is offer at the University of Adelaide. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to try a range of extra-curriculars and make a bunch of new friends from a variety of different countries. I joined the translation club, ultimate-frisbee association and the international relations society. I found that all the activities are scheduled reasonably well – the clubs go to great lengths so that activities don’t clash with regular class time. Tsinghua’s International Students’ Society is also incredibly active, and exchange students are encouraged to take part by joining an event committee that interests them.

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