To give you a small guide I think it’s best to start from the beginning of my semester abroad, which started with the registration. I must admit, that we were all a bit shocked about how chaotic it was. The room where it took place was packed and the people behind the counter did not speak English. You might feel a bit lost, but it was a really good opportunity to meet new people. After having registered we got our room cards. Culture shock is definitely one thing you need to consider before coming to Beijing, but you should not let that be a reason not to come because even though it might take a few days to adjust to the new culture, you will get used to all the differences and start liking it soon.
The first week consisted of various activities from IBS, which is the International Business Faculty of BFSU. We had a short introduction, a welcome speech, some team building activities and a Chinese test (don’t be afraid if you cannot say a word, it’s just to assess your level. The other courses are selected for you by Macromedia University. Still be sure that you know which courses you have to take, because you will have to select them online anyway. There are 5 compulsory courses and you can choose up to two additional ones. So in case there is a course that interests you, feel free to pick it.
Being used to a small campus from Macromedia, the campus here seemed huge at first and we all underestimated the distances. It is split into two parts: East and West campus. There are various buildings including a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a library, some supermarkets, two canteens with several levels as well as other places to get food, dormitories, offices and study facilities. There are also some little parks and a small pond, which is the catch-up point to go out partying or to have some beer. For partying there are lots of options and due to WeChat-groups you will always know what club to go to on that day. Alcohol and entrance are mostly free, which makes you feel a bit like a VIP.
Most of the exchange students have classes from Mo. till Thu., which is great because you have a long weekend, where you can go and explore Beijing or other parts of China. China is very well-connected, and it is easy to go to Shanghai, Xi’an or other places over the long weekend. The metro is also easy to use even without Chinese skills and you will be surprised by how punctual they are (especially when you are used to the German DB). In case you don’t like to go by metro, you can always get a taxi or DiDi, which is the Chinese UBER. For longer distances there are the options of going by train (if possible, take a fast one. I have spent 27 hours twice on a hard sleeper and I can assure you, that the fast train is so much nicer) or by plane (which I recommend if there is no fast train and the distance is too long).
Beijing has got lots to offer and I still find it fascinating how many sides it has. You have got the old parts, which are represented by the Hutongs as well as really modern ones, such as Sanlitun. Some must see places in Beijing are definitely the Great Wall of China 中国长城, the Forbidden City 紫禁城, the Summer Palace 颐和园, Lama Temple 雍和宫, Sanlitun 三里屯 (the party area), the business district with the Beijing’s tallest China Zun, CCTV tower and of course the Hutongs. There are definitely various other sights that you should visit and explore, but those were my favourites so far. Apart from that, I recommend you just take walks around and discover the little parks, shopping centres and restaurants. China is definitely not boring and in terms of food there are so many tiny restaurants that will serve you the best local food you can think of. By the way: Beijing cuisine is not spicy. (Just in case you were worrying about that.)
About the food in general: You will not become poor due to spending too much money on it because it’s really cheap (e.g. a lunch at the school canteen costs you between 1.50€ and 4€). If you like to go to Chinese restaurants in Germany, I must point out, that they don’t have that much in common with the food you’ll get here. Still there are many different dishes and definitely something for you as well. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you will also find various options. I am vegetarian myself and I wasn’t sure if it is possible to not eat meat in China before I came. I was therefore really surprised by the variety of vegetable dishes they have. (One thing I have to say though is that you should not be too strict. The reason is that they sometimes put in pieces of meat even though it doesn’t say it on the menu or use the same spoon to scoop out the food from the trays. I therefore recommend you (especially for the beginning) to bring a piece of paper that shows in Chinese characters of what kind of ingredients you avoid. For vegans: the trend has not fully arrived in China yet, but due to the fact that Chinese don’t really consume or use any dairy products, it is actually easier than you might think to live plant-based. The only thing you will have to take care about are eggs.
Apart from Beijing, I have already been to various places in China like the Inner Mongolia, Zhangjiajie, Fenghuang, Tianjin, Shanghai or Xi’an. It is amazing how different all those places were and I could not tell which one was my favourite.