• About this Program
    • Program Overview
    • On Location in Beijing
  • Academics
    • Semester Curriculum
    • Faculty
    • Credits, Grades, and Transcripts
  • Field Component
    • Capstone Research Project
    • Semester Internships
    • Documentary Film
  • Calendar and Fees
    • Academic Calendar
    • Program Fees
  • Daily Life
    • Student Housing
    • Chinese Language Partners
    • Food and Meals
  • Activities and Excursions
    • Extra-curricular Classes
    • Local Field Visits
    • Field Study Trip
  • Already Accepted?
    • Already Accepted?
  • Photos

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Popular Culture and Social Change

Program Overview

Beijing’s place at the forefront of Chinese popular culture and social change has deeply influenced new generations of Chinese and profoundly shaped their views of the world. Our Popular Culture and Social Change program offers students insider access to the currents driving contemporary Chinese society. Building upon a multi-disciplinary foundation spanning the arts, media, and political culture, students also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience by enrolling in an internship or exploring their own research interests through the visual medium of documentary filmmaking.  

Students may enroll for the fall or spring semester. All students are encouraged to consider spending an academic year in China, whether continuing in their current program to deepen their knowledge of Beijing, or at a different Alliance program to broaden their understanding of China’s regional diversity. 

Meet our on-site staff members!


  • 3.0 GPA minimum
  • Enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at an accredited U.S. institution
  • No prior Chinese language study is required
  • Students who wish to pursue an internship must have a minimum of three prior semesters of Chinese language instruction

Academic Structure

For a total of 15 credits in fall and spring terms students take the following curriculum:

  • Chinese language courses
  • English-taught area studies courses
  • Optional Internship or Documentary Film course

Classes are offered exclusively for Alliance students. Chinese language course placement is contingent upon the results of a placement exam after arrival in China. 

Academic Year

All students are encouraged to consider a full academic year abroad with the Alliance, whether continuing in the same location or trying a new city (or even country!). Deepen your linguistic and cultural immersion and explore your internship or research interests further – and to help you do so, you will receive a $500 continuer’s discount, for any combination of programs, countries, or terms.

On Location in Beijing

Fresh from a massive urban renewal in conjunction with the 2008 Olympic Games, China’s bustling capital city of Beijing is the nation’s political, educational, and cultural center. It has more universities and research institutes than any other city in China, making it the intellectual hub of the country. Beijing’s 3,000 years of history is reflected in its art, architecture, music, and traditions. Among its innumerable attractions are the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, and the nearby Great Wall. While the city is replete with historical treasures, modern Beijing is buzzing with restaurants, museums, and movie theaters.

Check out this interactive map to locate the Alliance's resources across Beijing:

View Alliance On Location: Beijing in a larger map.


Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) is located just east of the vibrant and international university neighborhood of Wudaokou (五道口) in the Haidian District(海淀区)of North West Beijing. Wudaokou is close to a number of universities and research institutes and is home to a growing student population. Minutes from campus, students will find themselves in the heart of Wudaokou surrounded by a large shopping mall, movie theater, grocery stores, and many restaurants serving Japanese, Korean, Mexican and American cuisines in addition to a wide variety of Chinese cuisines. Students also have easy access to coffee shops and book stores along with other cultural resources and the rich academic ambience in the immediate vicinity of BLCU and the Haidian District at large. The Wudaokou subway stop, located on line 13, makes exploring the entire city extremely convenient. Even the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube of the 2008 Olympic Games are just a short bus ride away. BLCU’s exciting central location is a perfect place for the international student in Beijing. 

Beijing Language and Culture University

Founded in 1962, the Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言大学)is considered to be one of the nation’s premier institutions for the teaching of Chinese language and culture to foreigners. The majority of Chinese Language textbooks are written at BLCU by BLCU professors. These books are used in Chinese classrooms across the United States and throughout the world. BLCU confers degrees at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels and is comprised of 11 faculties and research institutes. The university hosts 14,000 foreign and Chinese students. It is located in the Haidian district, which is home to the majority of Beijing’s universities.

Semester Curriculum

The foundation of this 15-credit program is a 6-credit Chinese language curriculum and a 3-credit core course. Students build upon these classes with electives that offer the opportunity to examine modern China through various themes and disciplines such as economics, environment, foreign policy, arts, music, design and film. All area studies courses are taught in English. 

All area studies courses involve a minimum of 44 contact hours. All field component and language courses involve a minimum of 120 contact hours.

Students must enroll in:

Core Course

Click hyperlinked course titles to view syllabi

SOCI260 Contemporary Culture and Social Change in China (required, 3 hours/week, 3 credits)

This course examines the transformation in Chinese society since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, with emphasis on the changes brought about in the wake of the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. Topics include the developments in urban and rural social transformation introduced by the reforms, the changing relationship between the individual and society, the urban and rural divide, and population control and the one child policy. Students explore the social consequences of China's rapid integration into the global economy. All students complete a Capstone Project as part of this course.

Elective Courses

All area studies courses are taught in English and meet for three class hours per week. Class lectures, readings, and discussions are complimented with relevant fieldwork and site visits. Students must enroll in one from the following list. Students with at least three semesters of Chinese may elect to participate in a 3-credit internship as one of their electives.

Not all electives may be offered in a given semester depending on enrollment and faculty availability.  Students are encouraged to identify alternative electives on their Course Preference Form and secure approval from their home campus. 

IAFF370 Continuity and Change in Chinese Foreign Policy (3 hours/week, 3 credits)

This class provides an overview of Chinese foreign policy from 1949 through 2008. The first six weeks of class present historical and cultural background from 1949-2002. The remaining portion of the semester is devoted to exploring China's foreign policy during the Hu Jintao administration (2003-present), providing an overview of foreign policy structures, principles, general practices, and characteristics of China's current interstate relationships.

MUSC365 Chinese Culture Through the Contemporary Music Scene (3 hours/week, 3 credits)

Rock and roll, or yaogun, emerged from the ashes of the Cultural Revolution during the collective re-examination of society that took place during the Reform and Opening Up era. How did a form of musical expression so alien to China become so mainstream? What social, cultural, and technological developments have played a role in the dissemination and development of yaogun? How have Chinese musicians encountered, embraced, or rejected “Western” rock and roll? Students not only learn about the contemporary music scene in China, but also develop a deeper understanding of Chinese society through its embrace of jazz and rock and roll.

FILM360 Contemporary China through Film (3 hours/week, 3 credits)

This course will examine contemporary China through study of the themes in Chinese cinema from the May Fourth and Republican era (1911-1949), the Maoist era (1949-1978) and the Reform era (1979-present), including films by 5th and 6th Generation Chinese directors. Students will explore the artistic merits of these films and will consider Chinese representations of the themes of cultural, social, and political change.

INTS 380 Internship (10-12 hours/week, 3 credits) 

All students may apply for an Alliance internship, with the understanding that placements are highly competitive. Students with at least three semesters of Chinese will have the greatest range of possible placements, but other foreign languages or professional skills may assist in the placement process as well. Interns are placed in Chinese, joint-venture, or foreign-owned companies and not-for-profit organizations. Interns spend approximately 10 hours per week (or 105 hours a semester) at the internship site and complete a final academic paper (10-12 pages) and with an accompanying oral presentation. Internships are supervised by a faculty advisor who meets with students at least twice individually and at least three times as a group.

Language Courses

Chinese Language (required, 9 hours/week, 6 credits)

No prior language study is required for admission. Upon taking a placement exam after arrival, students will be placed into the appropriate language level. Courses emphasize listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Alliance programs teach Simplified Chinese Characters, which are standardized Chinese characters officially used in mainland China. Language classes have a maximum of 8 students per class. Click here to view a full listing of textbooks by Alliance program and course.


Language classes taught by full-time language faculty selected and trained by the Alliance. Area studies courses are taught by faculty from various universities in Beijing.

Dr. David Groth, SOCI 260: Popular Culture and Social Change in China

Dr. Cheng Xiaohe, IAFF 370: Introduction to Chinese Foreign Policy

Dr. Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, MUSC365: Chinese Culture through the Contemporary Music Scene

Prof. Teng Jimeng, FILM 360: Contemporary China Through Film


Credits, Grades, and Transcripts

A study abroad experience is first and foremost an academic experience. All Alliance for Global Education courses have undergone a faculty review and approval process, and are transcripted by an accredited U.S. university. All Alliance programs from Summer 2014 and beyond receive transcripts issued by Butler University.   For all Alliance programs through Spring 2014, transcripts were issued by Arcadia University.

While in most cases students who have received approval from their home institution to study on an Alliance program can be assured of credits transferring, it is a student’s responsibility to work with their study abroad or academic advisor and home school faculty or academic departments to ensure credit transfer for specific courses.  

Credits and Accreditation

Credits granted for Alliance courses are identified in course listings on the Curriculum page for each program, and appear on the official transcript issued at the completion of a student's term. Credit is issued in U.S. semester hours, ensuring that students continue to make progress toward their degrees and verifying the full-time course load they completed while abroad.

All Alliance courses have been reviewed and approved by Butler University’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee. Butler University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Programs approved by the Butler University College of Business—which include the Alliance’s International Business Program in Shanghai—are accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.


Students receive a letter grade on a scale from A to F for every course they take while enrolled on an Alliance program. Withdrawals (W) may be granted due to exceptional circumstances. Although policies at students' home institutions may differ, the Alliance does not permit students to take courses on a credit/no credit or pass/fail basis. Student grades are determined by criteria set forth in course syllabi.  

The grading scale used in determining letter grades for Alliance courses is as follows:


At the conclusion of a program, an official transcript is sent to the participant's home school, with an unofficial copy forwarded to the participant. 

Because timelines for final evaluation may vary due to respective program calendars or administrative structures of partner universities abroad, transcripts may take longer to issue than they do at U.S. institutions. While the timeline varies by program, a general timeline for issuing transcripts is:

  • Fall programs - transcript issued in late February
  • Spring and Summer programs - transcript issued in late September

Transcripts are not released for students with an outstanding balance of program fees or other charge incurred while on the program. Students enrolling in consecutive terms with the Alliance do not receive their first term transcript until their second term fees are paid in full.

Students in Alliance programs from Summer 2014 and beyond can request additional transcripts of their transcripts online at any time from Butler University's online transcript ordering service provided by the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization serving the higher education community. 

Students in Alliance programs through Spring 2014 can request additional copies of transcripts online or in writing at any time from the Arcadia University Registrar's Office.

If you have a question about the transcripting process or timeline, please feel free to contact your Student Services Manager.

Capstone Research Project

A distinctive component of the Alliance's programs in China is the capstone research project. Students are challenged to engage with Chinese people and deepen their own understanding of one aspect of Chinese policy, society, culture, or business practice through their research. While utilizing academic research and articles as a foundation, students are encouraged to use local resources, such as interviews, participant observation and surveys, to craft their final paper and presentation. 

The capstone project is a graded component of the required core course, Contemporary Culture and Social Change in China, and comprises 40% of that course's grade. Graded project work includes a project abstract with a problem statement and research methodology outline, a PowerPoint presentation, and a final paper.

Featured Capstone

Kristen Prevost (Kenyon College)

Teaming up with Alliance Music and Performing Arts professor, Jeroen Groenewegen, Kirsten analyzed the origins and development of modern-day rock music festivals in Beijing researching the role that social and political factors may have played. 

“The objective of my research is to ultimately explain a particular method through which such a notoriously controversial and seemingly chaotic genre of music was able to enter the mainstream music scene in Beijing. This question interests me due to the prevalence of two perceived notions of Chinese culture in particular: That Chinese state governments are quick to suppress large public displays of creative expression, and the notion that Chinese people in general may be too reserved or cautious to find such themes appealing. If these western perceptions of Chinese culture were true, why would these festivals, and fandom for the genre, exist? Could they be in some parts true? If so, in what ways did this challenge the rise of rock music performance?”

Examples of Student Capstones in Beijing

  • Attitudes Toward Gay and Lesbian Life in China
  • Birth Control Policy and Women's Social Status in China
  • Chinese Contemporary Arts - 798 Art District
  • The Education of Migrant Workers' Children in Urban Areas
  • Intellectual Property Rights and Entrepreneurs in China
  • Street Vendors: Another Side of Chinese Culture
  • Rising Nation, Falling Hearts: Heart Disease in China
  • The Popularity of Wuxia films among Chinese Youth
  • How American Media Affect Intercultural Communication in China
  • The Increase of Cosmetic Surgery in China
  • The Chinese Beauty Standard
  • Video games Consumption habits amongst Chinese College aged Youth in Beijing
  • Tracking anti-Japanese sentiment in China: Reasoning and perceptions
  • Cultural and Language Barriers African Students Experience While Studying at BLCU
  • Impact of South Korean soap operas on Chinese pop culture

For more Capstone project ideas from Alliance students in all our China programs, click here. To read more abstracts of Alliance students' capstones, click here.

Semester Internships

In Beijing, students have the opportunity to participate in a 10-12 hour per week, 3-credit internship at sites that may include Chinese and foreign businesses, NGOs, and government organizations. Students must have completed at least three semesters of college-level Chinese language, and will be expected to complete the academic requirements of their internship to receive credit. 

* Students interested in the internship field component should contact their Student Services Manager, Emily Heron, at

GETTING AN INTERNSHIP: The Alliance makes every effort to place student interns at companies or organizations that match the organization’s needs with what each student brings to the table - including but not limited to the student’s Chinese language level and communication skills, prior experience, and work competencies. Students should not contact organizations themselves. The placement process begins with the submission of the Field Component Form during the program application process, and placements are typically finalized after an in-person interview in China. 

For more information, see the Beijing Internship Handbook.

Featured Internship Placement

Christie Civetta (Northeastern University)

"My internship was with Black Sesame Kitchen, a small, privately run restaurant that caters towards expats and foreigners. The goal of BSK is to bring traditional Chinese cuisine to those who do not normally have the opportunity to experience it. The most surprising part of my internship experience was how easy it was to assimilate to the BSK family and way of working. I actively looked forward to spending my weekends with them cooking, laughing and working. In addition, my Chinese improved immensely! Adapting to a new work environment, especially not in your native country, can be difficult. But at BSK, they welcomed me with open arms. Communication was tough at times, but they did their best to help me out – it was like being accepted into a mini family. Working at BSK was probably one of the highlights of being in China. From customs to everyday life, I was able to experience it and not just hear about it. I have learned so much from my experience there – not just about the Chinese culinary world."

Sample of Past Beijing Internships

Although the Alliance makes every effort to accommodate student preferences during the placement process, applicants are also encouraged to be flexible. Certain fields and industry sectors may limit the types of work available to undergraduate interns. The internship field in China’s large cities is highly competitive and the number of available placements is limited.

  • CERNET-Blackboard Information Technology, a Chinese-American joint venture providing online education services worldwide
  • Samsung OpenTide China, a convergent management and digital marketing consulting firm
  • International Committee of the Red Cross, an independent organization ensuring humanitarian assistance for victims of war and other situations of violence
  • Huiling Community Services, a charitable organization helping mentally challenged individuals and orphans learn basic life skills
  • Peking University International Economic Law Institutea research think-tank servicing multinational corporations and organizations
  • American Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization representing over 2,700 individuals from 1,200 U.S. companies doing business in China
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest non-profit global network that addresses pressing environmental challenges
  • Modern Sky, a music company that organizes rock and electronic music festivals

Documentary Film

The documentary film option allows students to conduct and present research through a visual rather than written medium. Working closely with a faculty member and, where necessary, an additional academic subject area expert, Alliance students are trained in the art and technique of documentary filmmaking. Introductory classes during the semester provide students with a basic foundation in the theory and history of documentary film, as well as teach them to develop critical skills in documentary film language, camera technique, and the craft of post-production. These sessions, complemented by various field exercises during the term, equip students with the skills need to produce a short film on their selected subject area. For all majors; no film background is required; students must provide their own digital video cameras.

*Students interested in the documentary film field component should contact their Student Services Manager, Emily Heron, at 

A draft syllabus for the course is provided hereIt is expected that students will take at least one elective relevant to the topic they plan to explore.

Academic Calendar

  • Spring 2015 term: January 21 – May 18 
  • Fall 2015 term: August 26 – December 21

The Alliance orientation is mandatory. You should make your travel plans accordingly. More details can be found in the Accepted Students: Travel Arrangements section.

Given the program’s busy academic schedule, weekly local activities and excursions, and field study trips, the Alliance strongly discourages students from hosting visitors until the end of the semester. Please encourage family and/or friends to visit after the program has ended.


  • Suggested flight departure: August 25
  • Arrival in Beijing: August 26
  • Orientation: August 27-30
  • Classes begin: August 31
  • Independent Travel*: TBD
  • Mid-term Exams: TBD
  • Field Study Trip*: TBD
  • Final exams: December 14-18
  • Students may depart: December 19
  • Students must move out of housing (by 12 noon): December 21

* Organized trip dates are subject to change at any time.

Program Fees

Fall 2015 Program   $ 14,650
Spring 2015 Program   $ 14,500

What's Included

The program cost includes tuition and fees, pre-departure materials, guidance with applying for a visa, orientation, housing, weekly activities, all textbooks, the services of a full-time Resident Director, medical and evacuation insurance, and a one-week field study trip. 

The program price does not include airfare to China, meals, passport and visa fees, independent travel, and other items not mentioned as included. Students who opt to live with a Chinese host family must pay an additional fee. 

Our breakdown of fall 2015 and spring 2015 program fees includes an itemized list of additional expenses that students may encounter abroad.

Multiple Term Discount

The Alliance encourages students to enroll for more than one term and to consider studying with more than one Alliance program. Students who continue into a second term with the Alliance receive a $500 discount on the program fee for the second term. All combinations (two semesters, semester plus summer, two semesters plus summer) are possible.

Student Housing

Students are housed in the International Student Dorm #17 in double rooms with other Alliance students. Rooms include: two single beds, two desks, two chairs, small book shelves, cabinets, desk lamps, TV, and air-conditioning, and a private bathroom. They are also wired for high-speed internet. Bed linens, including blankets and pillows, are provided by the dorm and cleaned once a week. Towels are not provided. Each floor is equipped with washing machines. Students can purchase tokens for the machines at the front desk of the dorm. Tokens cost approximately 4 RMB for the washing machine and 8 RMB for the dryer. There is also a kitchen with a stove and microwave on each floor. Students are able to borrow some basic cooking equipment from the Alliance.

Chinese Language Partners

Each student in Beijing is paired with a Chinese graduate student whose major is teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Alliance students and language partners meet one-on-one for Chinese tutoring three times a week for an hour per session. However, students and their language partners often meet more regularly than the minimum requirement to explore Beijing together. Language partners provide Alliance students with additional opportunities practice their Chinese in an informal setting, pick up popular Mandarin slang, and deepen their cultural understanding. In addition to tutoring, language partners help orient Alliance students to campus life. A consistently popular component of the Beijing program, language partners serve as valuable linguistic and cultural resources throughout the term.

Food and Meals

Meals are not included in the Alliance program fee. Students can choose to eat at the small restaurants on or nearby campus or eat in the dining halls, using meal debit cards. Students should budget around $10 per day for meals.

Vegetarians will find that good food is available in China. Most restaurants serve lots of vegetables, tofu dishes, and staples such as rice, noodles, or dumplings. Note that some restaurants may use animal fat in preparing dishes.

Extra-curricular Classes

The Alliance arranges extra-curricular classes which may include Chinese painting, calligraphy, cooking, taiji or other martial arts, pottery, seal carving, or paper cutting. These classes offer a wonderful opportunity to learn more about traditional Chinese culture.

Local Field Visits

Throughout the term, students are invited to take part in a full schedule of excursions, events and lectures - all designed to enhance their understanding of China and the historical and modern influences that impact its culture and people. Students explore the great historical and cultural monuments of the capital and benefit from visits to Beijing's art districts, lectures on China's environmental protection policies, or workshops on Chinese food culture. Below is a sampling of activities from previous terms. Specific activities for future terms are subject to change.

Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square Tour

Students visit the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, typically during their orientation. The tour is followed by Wang Fujing shopping street tour and Chinese acrobat show.

Houhai Lake Hutong Tour

This tour includes some of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Beijing, with beautiful traditional Chinese courtyard houses. Previous students visited a local artist's house and paper cutting gallery. They also enjoyed lunch with a family in one of the courtyards and learned to make dumplings.

Hiking the Great Wall of China

For the hiking expedition, students travel to Hebei province to hike an 11 kilometer stretch of one the best-preserved original sections of the wall.

Chinese Ethnic Minority Park

Students and their sociology professor visit the Chinese Ethnic Minority Park for an introduction to the 56 official minority groups in China via their unique dress, cuisine, music, and dance.

American Chamber of Commerce

Four "AmCham" staff members met with Alliance students to talk about US-China relations, trade policies, and cooperation between the American Chamber of Commerce and the US and Chinese governments. They also introduced their personal study abroad/work abroad experience and offered suggestions for professional development in a China focused career.

Lectures and Film Screenings with Local Artists

Past Beijing students had the opportunity to learn firsthand from local writers, filmmakers, musicians, and/or calligraphers about Chinese art forms.

Ming Dynasty Tombs

During this activity, students visit the resting place of 13 Chinese emperors. The tombs are located approximately 30 miles north of downtown Beijing at the tranquil foot of the Jundu Mountains.

A Guided Tour through Chinese Popular Music

Film students enjoyed a guest lecture from Professor Jeroen Groenewegen on the evolution of popular music from the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party through the present time. He shared a fantastic selection of video clips highlighting each genre, including official Chinese propaganda music, Miao ethnicity folk music, and performance in mainland Chinese talent shows.

Field Study Trip

The Alliance organizes a one-week field study trip for students during the fall and spring semesters and a five-day field study trip during the summer term. Destinations may vary but usually include Yunnan or Qinghai province. Through exposure to China’s social, economic, and geographic diversity, as well as regional and ethnic inflections to the Chinese language that has been a focus of their studies, students gain a richly textured sense of the many realities that exist within China.

Yunnan Province

Yunnan province in southwestern China offers China's most diverse ethnic minority population, stunning scenery, and a rich history. Students gain deep insight into Yunnan's local culture and artistic heritage. They have the opportunity to experience urban life in Kunming, visit small Yi and Miao minority villages, and hike in the gorgeous, mountainous areas of this province. Participants of the trip may also explore the great natural beauty of the Stone Forest, the rain forest of Xishuangbanna, or participate in an extensive encounter with the Bai minority culture in the ancient town of Dali.

Alliance alumna Richelle shared her Field Study Trip experience on her blog in a six-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Qinghai Province

Located on the Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai is considered one of the most beautiful regions in China. Students may visit Ta'er Monastery, one of the six most famous Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world, travel to Qinghai Lake, the largest salt water lake in China and one of China’s best bird watching sites, or explore the ancient tombs of Liuwan. Students behold the breathtaking scenery, witness the contrast in development in the region versus the coast, and gain a deeper understanding of Qinghai’s minority nationalities.

Alliance alumna Rebecca shared her Field Study Trip experience on her blog in a two-part series: Part 1 and Part 2. You can also watch a past Qinghai trip video here.

Already Accepted?

Visit the Accepted Students section