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You are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime - one of exploration and discovery, great learning, cultural immersion, and new friendships. The Alliance staff wants you to get the most out of your experience, and we know that you have many questions. Please take the time to read all sections of the Accepted Students portal.
Please peruse the content of this section carefully and print out the Xi'an Pre-Departure Checklist to keep yourself on track with preparations.
If you have questions that are not addressed on our website, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email.
The Alliance for Global Education Julia Levy, Senior Program Manager
450 S. Easton Rd. Email: email@example.com
Glenside, PA 19038
Toll Free: 888-232-8379
* To complete these online forms, log in using your last name and your Alliance Student ID number. Then, select the form you wish to complete, fill in all of the required fields completely, and hit “submit” when you are finished.
The Alliance for Global Education Phone: 1-888-232-8379
450 S. Easton Road Fax: 215-572-2174
Glenside, PA 19038-3295 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All Alliance students are responsible for reviewing and familiarizing themselves with the policies outlined in the Alliance Policy Handbook.
You are also expected to acquaint yourselves with the recommendations, rules, and cultural expectations outlined in your program's Student Handbook, below, prior to departure.
The Alliance Orientation is MANDATORY. You should make your travel plans accordingly.
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.
All students are responsible for arranging and purchasing their individual flight. Additionally, all students are required to be in attendance for the beginning of their Alliance orientation. This date coincides with the posted program arrival date. The Alliance for Global Education partners with Student Universe, a discount student travel organization located in the Boston area, to provide access to discounted student fares. Please visit the Student Universe website http://www.studentuniverse.com/study/alliance for current flight options. Prices and seat availability can vary considerably depending on when you book and purchase your ticket.
You are not required to have a Chinese visa prior to booking and purchasing your airline ticket to China.
You should plan to arrive on the scheduled arrival day. If you are flying from the US, most flights arrive in China on the day after they depart the US. Refer to the Academic Calendar section for specific details.
After landing in China, you will exit the plane and follow the arrival signs to Immigration. You will wait in line at Immigration and your passport and visa will be reviewed by an immigration official. After that you will follow the signs to Luggage to collect your luggage. Check the overhead monitors to see where your plane's luggage has been unloaded. After you have accounted for all your pieces of luggage, you will follow the signs to Customs.
Alliance China staff will be at the airport at a designated time to greet students. Check with your program manager for this meeting time. Those students who meet Alliance China staff will be transported to their student housing. After you leave the Customs area and exit to the main arrival hall at the airport, look for the Alliance Resident Director holding a sign that says "The Alliance for Global Education."
You will likely experience jet lag during your first few days in China. To help you adjust to the time difference, try to sleep on the plane and drink a lot of water (not alcohol or drinks with caffeine) on the plane and in the first few days after you arrive.
Your apartment or dorm will be available on February 12 (spring term 2014) or August 27 (fall term 2014). If you plan to arrive earlier, you are responsible for making your own hotel arrangements. You are also responsible for getting to your university dorm or apartment on arrival day. Rooms are typically ready by noon.
In order to be eligible for transportation arranged by Alliance in-country staff from the airport to housing on arrival day, you must book a flight that arrives prior to, or no later, than the designated meeting period below. Alliance staff will meet students for the arrival time listed below.
Please allow yourself enough time to exit your plane, pass through Immigration, Luggage, and Customs. You will find Alliance staff after you clear Customs, in the main terminal area (Terminal 3).
Beijing International Airport: 4:00pm - 5:30pm
In the event that your flight is delayed or you choose to arrive after the designated arrival time, you will be responsible for traveling independently from the airport to the orientation site. See below for more information.
Students arriving after the announced airport collection time should print the following TAXI DIRECTIONS FROM THE AIRPORT. These students should go directly to the ORIENTATION VENUE on the BLCU campus.
Upon securing enough cash for the taxi ride, push your luggage cart outside to the taxi stand area. Show a print out of these taxi directions with your destination to the taxi stand manager who will then call out to the next driver your desired destination and then direct you to the specific car into which you can load your luggage into the trunk. DO NOT ACCEPT A RIDE from people who approach you in the airport asking if you want a taxi.
It is common to sit in the front, passenger seat, but it is your option to sit either in front or back.
Check with your airline for domestic and international baggage allowance. Generally, passengers can check two pieces of luggage up to 50 pounds each and bring one carry-on bag. Restrictions and fees vary by airline.
Pack lightly. Most things you forget or leave behind can be purchased in China.
You will need to carry your own luggage from the airport to your apartment or dorm room. This includes getting in and out of a bus or taxi and up stairs or elevators. Even with luggage restrictions of two pieces of luggage and one carry-on, this is still a lot to manage on your own. Large, hard-sided suitcases are tough to carry and even more difficult to store. Use duffel bags with wheels or backpacks with a good, internal frame. The backpack can also be used for weekend trips and vacation (larger backpacks will count as one piece of luggage as they're too large to carry on).
Xi'an is hot and wet in summer, dry and seldom snowy in winter, and prone to extended spells of rain in spring and autumn. For current weather conditions in China, visit www.weather.com.
In the interior of China, Xi'an has fewer options for clothing markets and department stores than megacities Beijing and Shanghai. Some larger sizes for both men and women (especially for shoes) may be harder to find, so you may wish to bring these with you from home. For example, women's shoe sizes 9 or larger and men's shoes sizes 11 or larger are more difficult to find in China. Many students like to have some clothes (especially suits) tailor-made. Tailor-made shirt would cost about $13.
In general, people in China dress very casually. You should bring casual, comfortable clothing that can be machine washed and line dried. Clothes dryers are not common. Dry cleaning is available at local stores. If you plan carefully so that all articles of clothing mix and match, you can create different outfits from a minimum number of items. Remember that the weather can vary quite a bit throughout the day. Choose clothes that are good for layering. You may also want to bring one or two nicer outfits for banquets or going out.
A mandatory orientation led by your onsite Resident Director takea place Thursday to Sunday after arrival.
Students studying in Xi'an begin orientation in Beijing, and their orientation program concluded in Xi'an later that week. Transportation to Xi'an at the beginning of the program is included in the program fee and is arranged by the Alliance for all Xi'an students. However, Xi'an students are responsible for arranging and paying for train or plane transportation from Xi'an to Beijing at the end of the program. Please be sure to budget ~$100-$200 USD for transportation out of Xi'an.
Your orientation includes the following activities:
Registering with your home country Embassy or Consulate
When spending an extended amount of time overseas, it is important to notify the nearest local embassy or consulate of the country in which you are a citizen.
Alliance staff on-site will work with all students to ensure they are properly registered with their respective embassy or consulate upon arriving in China. The Alliance automatically registers all U.S. citizens in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) with the U.S. Embassy in China prior to their arrival. Information recorded in STEP regarding U.S. citizens’ travel plans allows the Department of State to better assist U.S. citizens in case of an emergency. We strongly encourage non-U.S. citizens to review the registration process for their home country and to register before arriving in China.
In order to enter China, non-Chinese citizens must secure a Chinese visa. This process typically takes 5-6 business days.
To make the process easier, we have partnered with a Chinese visa agent in Washington, DC, called Oasis China Visa. Their service fee for standard processing is $45, plus the Chinese Consular processing fee which is currently $140 for US citizens. You should submit your completed Chinese visa application form (V2013), JW202 form and Admission Notice and other required documentation, along with your passport, to Oasis China Visa. Oasis will secure your Chinese visa and return your passport to you.
Send your visa documents and passport to Oasis China Visa by Federal Express or UPS so you can track your package.
To begin the visa process, visit: http://www.oasischinavisa.com/alliance.html.
Here are some frequently asked questions about passports and visas. Please thoroughly read these answers. If you still can't find what you're looking for, we’re happy to help.
YES! Please visit the U.S. State Department travel pages for the most up-to-date information regarding passport applications and fees. If you don't have a passport, you should apply for one immediately. Your existing passport must have at least six (6) months of remaining validity beyond your Alliance program END date. If your current passport will expire before this date, you must apply for another passport now. If you are applying for your passport within three (3) months of departure, you MUST use expedited servicing and return a copy of your passport to your Program Manager immediately, in order for us to secure your visa sponsorship documents.
In addition to a valid passport, you are also required to secure a visa to enter China. A visa is an official document/seal that is glued into your passport that permits you to enter the country. Standard Chinese visa processing time is 5-6 business days. You can pay an additional fee for 1 day or 2-3 day visa processing.
Single term student visas: If you are planning to study for one term (summer, fall, or spring) then you should apply for an ‘F' visa. Summer term students should apply for a 90 day (three month) visa. Fall and spring term students should apply for visas that allow you to stay in China up to 180 days (six months). A physical examination and blood test are NOT required for those applying for an ‘F’ visa.
Multiple term student visas: Multiple term students (e.g., summer and fall; fall and spring; spring and summer, etc.) should also apply for the ‘F’ visa. After your first program in China ends, you will then apply for a temporary Residence Permit which will allow you to stay in China for your second Alliance program. Alliance China staff will advise you on this process, which requires a physical examination. This examination will take place in China.
Results of the physical examination are usually available after 5 business days. The paperwork for the Residence Permit can be submitted only upon receipt of the physical examination results. While awaiting the physical examination results, Alliance staff will assist students in preparing paperwork for a Residence Permit. Upon receipt of the physical examination results and when all paperwork is submitted, the Residence Permit will be processed in approximately 5 business days. The Residence Permit allows unlimited entries to China during the course of the permit's validity. Again, this process is only required for multiple term Alliance students.
Refer to our Visa Instructions section for detailed information on applying for your Chinese visa through our visa agent, Oasis China Visa, located in Washington, DC. If you have additional questions, please contact your Program Manager.
You first need a valid passport. Once you have that, you must wait to mail your passport and visa application materials to Oasis China Visa in DC until you receive TWO IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS from your Chinese host university.These documents include a JW202 form and an Admission Notice. These visa documents are mailed to students from the Alliance as follows:
Unfortunately, it is not possible to receive these documents any earlier from your Chinese host university. Your patience is appreciated.
YES. Please make a copy (or even multiple copies) of all visa-related paperwork (JW202 form and Admission Notice) before submitting your application to the visa agent, Oasis China Visa in DC. You will be required to submit to Oasis China Visa your actual passport (and a photocopy), original JW202 form and Admission Notice (and photocopy), completed visa application form (V2013) and the Oasis China Visa online receipt form. You must also attach a current photo to the V2013 form.
Be sure to bring photocopies of your JW202 form and Admission Notice with you to China and keep them for the duration of your stay.
Although visa rules can change without notice, past participants have been able to extend their visa for a short time after the program ends if your visa was issued outside China. Speak to your Alliance Resident Director about extending your visa. The current cost to extend your visa is approximately $140, but this fee can change at any time. Keep in mind that if you want to stay in China longer than 180 days, you are required to get a physical.
This depends on the number of ‘entries’ your visa contains. If you wish to travel outside mainland China during or at the conclusion of your program, you must request a 'double' entry visa or a 'multi' entry visa. Whether or not you are awarded a 'double' or 'multi' entry visa is at the discretion of the Chinese consular officer processing your visa application. Oasis China Visa service usually secures multi-entry visas for all Alliance students. However, if you are awarded a single entry visa, you can purchase another visa 'entry' when you arrive in China for an additional fee.
Your Alliance Resident Director can advise you on this process.
The first step to staying healthy in China is to fully disclose any pre-existing health issues or concerns on the Special Needs Form before you go. This allows the Alliance to be sure that your needs can be accommodated in the local context and anticipate any care that you might require.
Failure to fully disclose any and all physical or mental preconditions might not only impact our ability to provide adequate care in China, it might be grounds for you to be sent home. Please know that all medical information is treated confidentially by Alliance staff and shared only on a need-to-know basis.
All students enrolled in an Alliance program automatically receive insurance. The Alliance’s plan is offered through HTH Worldwide and underwritten by BCS Insurance Company, Oakbrook Terrace, IL. The plan also provides for political and natural disaster evacuation services with Drum Cussac (DRUM). The plan is effective throughout the duration of the participant's program. There is no deductible per injury or illness, and the maximum medical expenses of the policy for accident or sickness is $500,000. Additional information about the HTH Worldwide plan will be emailed to students upon acceptance and enrollment in an Alliance program.
Personalized information and support for participants about health care and prescription medication is available through "Well Prepared" at www.hthstudents.com. HTH Worldwide will send an e-mail to accepted Alliance students automatically approximately four weeks prior to the program start date. The e-mail will contain information about coverage, the individual ID number and certificate number with HTH. Students can then print an ID card and activate a "Well Prepared" profile.
HTH Worldwide also has a website which includes information for parents. Parents can go to www.hthparents.com and create a sign-in with their son's or daughter's e-mail address. Parent(s) have access to provider information and health and safety services. In order for a parent to have access to any personalized information on "Well Prepared," they must request access online from their son or daughter.
A copy of the Alliance's insurance certificate with HTH Worldwide is available here.
An outline of the political and natural disaster services with Drum Cussac (DRUM) is available here.
Please contact Julia Levy, Senior Program Manager, via email or at 888-232-8379. Your Resident Director will also provide information during orientation about where to seek medical attention near your program.
If you plan to take any prescription drugs while in China, we recommend that you take a supply to last the entire term. Also pack a prescription from your doctor for any medications you take to China in case your luggage is searched and you need to verify why you are bringing the medication with you. You should consult your doctor prior to departure about the need for any monitoring while abroad. If you plan to purchase medication in China, you will need to present a copy of your prescription and see a Chinese physician to obtain a new one. Prescriptions may be sent through the mail, but the mail is not always reliable and there may be delays in customs, so it is best to bring all of the medication you think you will need for the term.
Bringing an adequate supply of prescription medication is particularly important as prescription medication and even over-the-counter drugs are often restricted from entering China via mail service. The student health insurance program (HTH Worldwide) can also help with prescription drug replacement/shipment.
If you wear prescription eyeglasses, you should bring a copy of your prescription. It is easy and inexpensive to have glasses made in China. Contact lenses and solutions are also available in China, though not all brands you are familiar with will be available.
Vaccinations are not required for entry to China unless you have come from an area known to have reported cases of yellow fever or cholera. We recommend that you consult the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and also talk with your doctor to determine which vaccines you need before going to China. You should also make sure that all of your regular immunizations are up to date. The CDC also operates an international traveler's hotline that provides up-to-date vaccination requirements for any region or country you select. The number is 1-877-FYI-TRIP (394-8747).
Please also bring a copy of any immunization records with you to China. In the event of a medical emergency, these papers can be a useful reference for the attending medical staff.
We strongly encourage you to obtain insurance against theft and/or damage to your personal effects for the period of time you will be abroad. The Alliance for Global Education does not provide insurance for your possessions. First contact your home insurance provider to see what is covered, how coverage might be extended, and the possibility of renter’s insurance for your time abroad if your program houses you in an apartment.
The electrical current in China is 220 volts and 50 cycles, while the US current is 110V/60Hz. If your appliances are not dual voltage (110/220V) you will need a voltage converter or transformer, which can be purchased in China but may be hard to find. If you bring such appliances, we recommend that you bring a voltage converter. However, the best plan is to purchase appliances locally (such as a hair dryer) rather than bring them from home.
The most common outlets are Type A and Type I, although Type G can be found in hotels and other less common locations. Reference these pictures of electrical outlets for an idea of what to expect. Please note that power strips allowing you to plug in your computer and other hardware of variously pronged plug types are readily available at many stores and are inexpensive. These are not power converters, but they do allow you to plug in almost anything.
After you arrive in China, you will exchange your US dollars for Chinese Yuan (CNY), also commonly known as Renminbi (RMB). The unit of currency is called a yuan, and commonly called a kuai. At writing, USD $1 = 6.25 RMB or kuai.
There are a few ways to exchange money, including withdrawing funds from ATM machines or exchanging traveler’s checks. Please note that the Alliance recommendation, based on past students' preferences, is to use ATM cards from specific banks which are noted in the Bank Account section below.
When exchanging money, you will receive a receipt. Keep this receipt, as you may need it when you leave the country and want to exchange renminbi back to dollars. Do not under any circumstances exchange money on the street (on the black market). Not only is it illegal but you’ll often times receive counterfeit bills. You should exchange money at banks, hotels, and stores with authorized tellers.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in China. While they may be used at hotels and some large stores, restaurants, and airlines, most small stores and restaurants do not accept credit cards. If you have a VISA or MasterCard in your name, you may get a cash advance at a Chinese bank. However, fees for accessing money this way are high, often 3% on each transaction, and you often need to pay interest on the money immediately. We recommend that you use this method of accessing money only in an emergency situation and not as a regular way to access all your funds for the term.
A convenient way to withdraw money from your account at home is to use an ATM card that has a VISA or MasterCard logo. However, you should not rely on ATMs as your only source of cash, as sometimes cards do not work at certain ATM machines.
You may withdraw local currency at ATM machines of major local banks (e.g. Bank of China, ICBC, China Construction Bank and CITIC Bank). Usually your home bank will assess a small fee for withdrawing money from a non-affiliated bank. We recommend that you bring more than one ATM or debit card in case one is lost, stolen or gets 'eaten' by an ATM machine.
Be sure to carry the PIN number in a safe place separate from your card and also confirm with your bank that your ATM card will work internationally. Also ask if there are any bank fees associated with international ATM withdrawals. It is best to test your card in the U.S. before you leave to make sure it works with your PIN number. Call your bank or credit card company to let them know that you will be using the card in China. Banks may put a stop on card transactions overseas for customer security.
If you lose your ATM card in an ATM machine, be sure to take a receipt from the ATM and present it with your passport to a teller at the corresponding bank branch (often ATMs are adjacent to a bank branch). The corresponding bank branch will retain found ATM cards at the teller window for claiming as long as proper identification is provided. Your passport can be used for identification.
Former students recommend setting up a US bank account with either Bank of America or Citibank before departing for China. Bank of America does not assess any ATM transaction fees if you use one of their 11,000 ATMs world-wide. Bank of America has an affiliation with the China Construction Bank (CCB) which has many branches in China. Citibank, however, assesses a 3% charge for ATM transactions made outside the US. For example, an ATM withdrawal of $100 would be assessed a $3 ATM transaction fee.
Former students have also opened bank accounts with ICBC (Industrial and Commerce Bank of China), which has a wide-range of ATMs in China. Be sure you understand any bank fees associated with ATM withdrawals within and outside the network. If you withdraw money from a different bank, the ATM charge could be 0.5%-1.0% of the amount withdrawn. (Banks can change their policy at any time. You should contact these recommended banks directly for further details on establishing an account or current ATM surcharges.)
Money can be sent via an American Express branch in the US to an American Express branch in Beijing or Shanghai. Service fees apply.
Western Union is another safe and fast way to transfer money to China, usually taking two business days. In China, Western Union partners with China Post (the local postal service) and the Agricultural Bank of China. You can receive your Western Union wire at either of these institutions throughout China.
You may wish to take some traveler’s checks to China for emergency purposes since they are relatively safe to carry. However, exchanging traveler’s checks can be very time consuming and is limited to select banks in China, particularly the Bank of China. Most students do not prefer using traveler’s checks for these reasons. Still, if you have the money available, you may bring all the money you need for the semester in traveler’s checks and exchange them as necessary throughout the term. Traveler’s checks offer a better exchange rate than cash and can be replaced if lost or stolen.
When cashing a traveler’s check, it is extremely important to follow the bank teller's instructions exactly. Inadvertent writing or a signature that does not perfectly match the original signature on the traveler’s check may result in a void check, rendering the funds inaccessible.
It is most convenient to have all of your mail, including FedEx packages, sent to your Alliance mailing address provided below. The easiest way to address envelopes so that mail arrives efficiently is to paste the English and Chinese mailing address labels on the envelopes. You will receive your exact room number when you arrive in China.
Student Name: _________________
Dorm Room No.: ________________
Shaanxi Normal University
199 South Chang'an Road
Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, China
Postal Code: 710062
Cellphone No.: _________________
房间号 (Dorm Room No.): __________
Student Name: ___________________
电话 (Cellphone No.) : _____________
Regular airmail takes approximately two weeks to arrive in China from the U.S., although occasionally it may take up to a month or longer. We recommend that items of value be sent via express mail services. Fedex appears to be the most reliable carrier at this time as it delivers directly to the Xi'an SNU campus
There is only one time zone in China and it is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. When it is 9:00pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 10:00am in China on Thursday. When Daylight Savings Time is in effect from April until October, China is 12 hours ahead, as China does not observe Daylight Savings time. Thus, when it is 9:00pm in New York on Wednesday, it is 9:00am in China on Thursday.
All students will have a telephone in their dorm room or apartment and will be assigned a phone number after arriving. Students are responsible for their own phone charges. The Alliance provides all students with a cell phone and SIM card upon arrival in Xi'an. Students are responsible for purchasing additional minutes. The Resident Director will provide information during orientation about how and where to purchase additional minutes and international phone cards. Students can use cell phones to talk with friends in China and to send text messages in Chinese. All students are required to return their Alliance-provided cell phone at the end of the term of study. The phone must be returned with all provided accessories and instructions, but students may keep their SIM cards.
During orientation, students will receive information about how to call home. Using calling cards purchased in China is generally the most expensive way to call home from China. The least expensive way to communicate with your friends and family via phone is to have them call you. There are even some calling cards available on-line in the U.S. that cost 2 cents per minute to call China from the U.S. Another easy way to keep in touch with friends and family at home is to use Skype, which enables you to talk for free through internet calling if both parties have a Skype account. Skype users can also call a regular phone at inexpensive rates.
Please be aware that access to certain internet sites, such as Facebook and Youtube, may be restricted when using the internet in China. Opportunities to navigate around these barriers, such as VPNs, do exist.
In Xi'an, DSL internet service is available to students in their dormitory rooms and is included in the program cost.
You will also find internet access in internet cafés scattered throughout the city. Internet cafés usually require an ID card and deposit that will be refunded upon checking out. A common fee is 2 RMB per hour. Internet cafés are usually open very long hours.
You should plan on taking your laptop to China since there is no access to campus computer labs. An increasing number of coffee shops and cafés offer wireless internet access.
It is important to keep in mind that internet access and land-line phone service may not always be available. Allow more time than usual to complete even simple on-line tasks. Critical skills for success in China and on your study abroad program are patience and the ability to roll with the unexpected.
Orion Young, 杨华星
No. 199, South Chang'an Road
Shaanxi Normal University, Box #2
Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province, China 710062
Phone: +86 15091898987
Please note that regular airmail takes approximately two weeks to arrive in China from the U.S., although occasionally it may take up to a month or longer. We recommend that items of value be sent via express mail services. Fedex appears to be the most reliable carrier at this time as it delivers directly to the Xi'an SNU campus
Xi'an Resident Director: Orion Young, 杨华星
The Alliance for Global Education Julia Levy, Senior Program Manager
450 S. Easton Rd. Email: email@example.com
Glenside, PA 19038
Toll Free: 888-232-8379
If you are experiencing an emergency outside of US business hours, please dial our 24/7 Public Safety number at 1-215-572-2999 and wait for instruction from the operator. You will then be contacted by an Alliance member who will assist you.
If you need a break from pre-departure logistics, check out these books, films, and other resources about China -- the personal recommendations from Alliance staff and students! These materials introduce many social, historical, and economic aspects about life in China and help prepare you to make the most of your Alliance experience.