Bilder zum Bericht

Summer palace

Campus in Fall

Great Wall of Badaling

Beihai Park


zur Übersicht




Austausch - OUT


14/15 WS


Beijing - Tsinghua University


Volkswirtschaftslehre (3020)


This exchange semester in Beijing was a very rich experience that I recommend to anyone interested in living a challenging life, very different from Switzerland for a few months. I wish I could have stayed one more semester. This indicates how much I enjoyed studying in China!


The deadline for the application at UZH is at the beginning of January and their answer   came early (beginning of February) but the official answer from the Tsinghua University as well as the welcome package came quite late (mid July). Moreover, the list of courses taught in English was also published very late. Therefore, you can only start to plan your travel and courses in detail in summer which can have some inconvenient, especially for booking flights if you plan to travel before the semester.

I would definitely recommend to participate in the buddy program. You will receive an inscription in the welcome package sent in July. 


I booked a flight for Tokyo with return from Singapore. This option was about the same price than a return flight to Beijing but gave me the opportunity to visit a few countries before and after the semester. I would definitely recommend this option if you also plan to travel, especially because as a student, you can only apply for a single entry visa. So if you want to travel outside China during the semester (for example during the week of National Holidays) you will have to apply for another visa on campus and this takes quite some time.

I arrived in Beijing 10 days before the semester started since I had to search for a collocation but you will only need 2-5 days. You can also contact on Facebook (exchange students of Tsinghua University) other students looking to share a flat before arriving in Beijing. I used the public transport which are very cheap and safe (although very crowded at rush hour). Taxis are also very cheap but it is rare that the driver can speak English so it is better to ask someone to write down the address for you. The name of the subway's stations is written both in Chinese and English. I met my buddy a few days after I arrived and she helped me buying a bike (almost indispensable on the campus) for 200 yuan, in a bike shop near the main gate as well as a Chinese SIM card (you can find several operators near the Wudaokou station and also on campus).


Tsinghua University started in the Fall semester 2014 a new accommodation program with one Chinese and one foreigner student living together in an apartment on campus. This option sounded quite interesting but I did not want to live 24/7 on campus so I rejected the offer and started searching for a collocation. I first looked on websites like The Beijinger and found some ads from students looking for roommates as well as ads from agents. I answered one ad and met an agent near Wudaokou station. Although he could not speak more than a few words of English, he showed me two collocations near the subway station. He then asked me to chose but I asked him to show me more rooms. Finally, I found a very nice room for 3200 yuan per month. It is important to know that you will have to pay one month deposit, one month of agency cost (you can try to bargain) and in my case, the four months of rent at the signature of the contract. So make sure to have enough cash because ATM only let you withdraw a quite low maximum amount of cash per day. For the signature of the contract, I would also recommend to ask your buddy or a Chinese friend to come with you.   

Most apartments are very near from the campus as well as the subway station and supermarkets. The less good think is that Chinese people do not have the same concept of collocation as in Europe. I lived with 4 young Chinese people and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about their culture, cook together and hang out. But actually, only one of my roommates could speak English and they had almost no contact with each other, everyone living with closed door. Still, I do not regret my choice as I was much more independent than on dorms where for example, guests have to register. Moreover, if you decide to live outside campus, you have a large choice. You can tell the agent if you prefer to live with other Chinese people as I did, have an apartment for you alone or an apartment with several rooms that you can share with your friends.


What I did not know before applying at Tsinghua University is the difference if you are a faculty or university exchange student (both at master level). For the former ones, you will participate in the MBA program which is very well organized (information about courses, events...). However, university exchange students are not considered as being SEM students (School of Economics and Management). Therefore, I could not fully participate in the MBA program (I could only take two courses from the SEM) and never received any news or information from the SEM. As far as I know, UZH will not send anymore master students through university agreement.

As a university exchange student, I had a different online tool than MBA students to book courses. It is is Chinese so again, you will need the help of your buddy. You have a few weeks after the beginning of the semester to book your courses. However, you can drop courses at the mid-semester but you have to pay for each dropped course. It is also important to know that some courses last the whole semester (week 1-16), while other courses last only the first or the second half of the semester (week 1-8, resp. 9-16). Therefore, you can already have finished all your courses in December, depending on what you chose.

Some economics courses were offered and indicated as being taught in English but they were actually taught in Chinese. Therefore, I had not much choice. I could only take two courses from the SEM (actually the MBA program) and I chose one from the industrial engineering department. The two MBA courses were R&D Investment and Intellectual Property Management (accepted as Wahlbereich, 6 ECTS) and Alliance and Cooperative Strategy (accepted as VWL 2, 4 ECTS), while the last course was Decision Making (accepted as VWL 3, 6 ECTS). The grades are based on case studies or homework which have to be handed in every week, several group presentations/projects, participation as well as individual reports. The work load during the semester is much higher than at UZH. However, after the semester, it is much lower since I only had one final exam (25% of the grade). In general, you can easily have good to very good grades.


You can find almost all you need on campus (dozen of canteens, supermarkets, sport centers, cinema, printing shop, bank, post office...). Moreover, there are two big supermarkets outside campus: Lotus, near main gate where you can buy almost all you need to arrange your room if you live outside campus and one with a lot of imported products in the basement of the U center, just next to the Wudaokou station. Chinese food is excellent and very cheap so you can even afford the best restaurants.

To go out, I would recommend Sanlitun with many clubs where you can have free entry and free drinks if you are on the guest list. For those interested in meeting and having a beer with Chinese young people and travelers, I can recommend the weekly meeting from Couchsurfing which is held every Thursday evening in a bar close to Wudaokou station.

Beijing is a huge city with many sights to visit. Moreover, traveling is quite cheap in China so I would really recommend to visit a few other cities. You can buy train tickets directly at the train station. However, it is better to book online well in advance if you plan to travel for example during the National Holidays (1 week at the beginning of October).

A last important point concerning that it is quite different from Switzerland. We are used to fast and efficient services (mostly for administrative issues) and fast wifi but you will soon learn that in China, everything takes more time and you might have to visit several offices...several times, be it on campus or outside! Moreover, some people might seem to have weird habits at first (burping loud in the library or spitting back bones on a table's restaurant). But you will probably then understand that it is part of their culture and you might even start doing the same ;-) Daily life in China is very different from Switzerland but still, it is a great experience and if you are open minded, I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!