Beijing: Exploration Program

Photo: The New Summer Palace
Final App Deadline: 
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Language Requirement: 
Lauren Schneider

The Beijing Exploration Program is open to incoming first-year University of Chicago undergraduate students only.

Program Description

The 2017 Beijing Exploration Program is an opportunity for a small group of students from the Class of 2021 to gain exposure to the University of Chicago Center in Beijing and UChicago-style study abroad before coming to campus for Orientation Week. This two-week program will situate China, with Beijing as its capital, both as a center of ancient East Asian civilization and culture, as well as a modern global superpower with the Chinese Communist Party at its helm. The program will introduce students to aspects of Chinese culture, society, domestic and foreign policy, and history from the imperial era through present day. Participating students will study with Professor Judith Farquhar, Department of Anthropology and Faculty Director of the Center in Beijing, and Professor Kenneth Pomeranz, Department of History and East Asian Languages and Civilization. Beijing itself, the fabled “Northern Capital” of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, now the political and cultural capital of modern China, plays a key role in this program. A series of excursions and site visits helps connect the courses with the physical reality, past and present, of China.

The group will take a weekend trip to the Shanxi Province city of Pingyao, an 18th and 19th century banking center where classic architecture and urban form has been preserved and where there are several locally important and unique temples. Pingyao is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Students participating in this program will arrive in Beijing on Friday, August 18, 2017 and depart on Saturday, September 2, 2017. More details regarding arrival and departure logistics and the daily program schedule will be communicated to admitted students over the summer.


“Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Global City”
August 21–25, 2017
Professor Kenneth Pomeranz

This short course uses the city of Beijing to look at the development of four major themes in the creation of modern China: (1) securing the capital’s food supply, famine prevention, and the shift from an economic vision focused on safeguarding subsistence to one focused on promoting growth; (2) popular religion and its relationship to state-sponsored orthodoxies; (3) the arrangement of urban space as an expression of political ideas; and (4) environmental management and public health, with an emphasis on water control.

“Chinese Ways of Knowing”
August 28–September 1, 2017
Professor Judith Farquhar

East Asian science and technology has a long and fascinating history. This short course will explore the history, philosophy, and aesthetics of Chinese forms of systematic knowledge. We will learn about indigenous medicine, cosmology, topography, divination, poetics, and politics through close readings of primary texts translated from Chinese and by sharing a few classic articles about Chinese science. We will also visit sites in and around Beijing where we can see Chinese traditional knowledge applied in architecture and technical objects.

Center in Beijing

Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Beijing is the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, one of the University’s three research and teaching centers in Asia, enhancing the University’s traditionally strong ties to Chinese thought and culture. Located in the bustling Haidian district in the northwest quadrant of Beijing, the Center is situated within a short distance from several of China’s most prestigious universities and serves as a home for UChicago faculty, researchers, and students, hosting several undergraduate and graduate programs. The Center features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library, and event space. For participants in UChicago’s programs, the Center in Beijing provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place, and a welcoming UChicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Asia.


Students in this program will reside in the modern and newly renovated international student dormitory on the Renmin University campus, a few minutes’ walk to the Center in Beijing and immediately accessible via the subway line 4. Students have single bedrooms within furnished, shared suites with a bathroom, Internet, phone, and television, as well as access to on-site kitchen and laundry facilities. The residence hall also offers a coffee shop, a convenience store, and 24-hour security and reception.

Travel and Visas

All students will require a passport that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into China (through February 2018). If you need to apply for or renew your US passport, you can do so here: Please note that regular passport applications and renewals can take up to eight weeks to process, so please consider expedited passport processing.

All students who do not have a Chinese passport will need to apply for a Type L - Tourist Visa to enter China for this program. For students with US passports, you will need to apply for your Chinese visa through the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China that serves your home state. See the Chinese Embassy’s website to determine which Consulate General serves your home state.

All students must apply for their Chinese visa allowing ample time before their departure for China. Students who are traveling internationally extensively over the summer prior to participation should notify Lauren Schneider as soon as possible to discuss their plans. If a student does not live within a short distance from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate General and therefore cannot apply in person, he or she will need to entrust a visa processing agency with delivery of their application materials to the Consulate and return of the passport with visa by mail. The Consulates General of China do not accept any applications by mail, nor will they return passports with visas by mail. If you cannot submit your visa application at the Consulate serving your home state’s jurisdiction in person, you may consider working with an agency such as Travisa, Perry International, or CIBT visas, or another visa processing agency. Agencies will likely charge additional fees for their services. The University of Chicago does not officially endorse any particular visa processing agency.

The visa processing time may vary depending on the Consulate but will typically take 4-8 business days. The following documents will be required from all visa applicants with US citizenship:

  • Original signed passport, valid at least six months beyond date of entry into China
  • Photocopy of the ID page of your passport
  • Visa Application Form (V.2013) and passport photo
  • Document showing the itinerary including air ticket booking record (round trip)
  • Invitation letter from the University of Chicago Center in Beijing (to be provided by Study Abroad)
  • Visa application fee: $140.00 USD, payable by credit card or money order

Some Applicants may also need to provide the following documents:

  • Photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas (applicable ONLY to US citizens who were former Chinese citizens and have obtained US citizenship)
  • If the student was born in the USA and is the child of one or more Chinese parents, then you may require additional documentation. Please contact Lauren Schneider for more information.

Study Abroad will provide guidance throughout the visa application process, but it is the student’s responsibility to obtain the required Chinese visa prior to departure.

If you are not a Chinese citizen or US citizen/permanent resident, you will need to refer to visa application instructions and procedures provided by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate that serves your consular jurisdiction in the country of your nationality. You may have different visa application requirements, fees, and processing times. Please contact Lauren Schneider for more information.

Credits and Registration

These courses are not for credit and will not appear on a student’s transcript.


Students participating in the Beijing Exploration Program pay a program fee of $2,500. Financial aid is not available for this non-credit experience.

The program fee includes:

  • Accommodation for the dates of the program
  • Instruction
  • Course materials
  • Student support (including a graduate student coordinator who resides with the group)
  • Program excursions and activities

Eligibility and Application

The Beijing Exploration Program is open to incoming first-year University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The online application will be available starting May 1 and must be submitted by May 31. To apply, you will need to complete the online application form, including a statement of interest addressing how this experience will fit into the scheme of your education at the University of Chicago. You may wish to comment on what you feel will be the most challenging (or most rewarding) about the program, or what you hope to gain from your time in Beijing. Please be sure to let us know about your prior travel experience, if any, and your language skills (Mandarin or otherwise). Each application is examined on the basis of this statement, along with the applicant’s existing application materials on file with the University of Chicago.

Admission decisions will be communicated by June 9. Students will then receive pre-departure information and instructions for booking travel from Study Abroad.

Further Information

To discuss the Beijing Exploration Program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Lauren Schneider in the Office of Study Abroad (Harper 211B; 773.702.0991;

Student Video

Watch a short video by Logan Leak, Class of 2020, who participated in the 2016 program.


Learn more about the
Center in Beijing.

What you’ll see: 

Photo: The New Summer PalacePhoto: Great Wall of ChinaPhoto: Dean Boyer’s visitPhoto: The Forbidden City