Things To Consider When Starting An Academic Career In China 

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Congratulations! You have secured an academic position and landed in China. Here are a few practical tips in getting ready to start. 

Keep doing your homework.  

Find out all you can about the city you will be living in, the university, the class schedule, general administrative matters and so on. Check out the university library resources. If you need a particular reference work or database, you should raise that with your university promptly so that items can be ordered or you can send from your home country. You will likely find English materials are patchy and often out of date. The situation with databases is better. If you can, ask your teaching or administrative assistant to add Chinese examples to your materials. 

Learn some Mandarin if you can.  

While you can make it without language skills, learning some basic notions of Mandarin will make your daily life easier. If time is limited focus on survival words for example Mandarin for:  ‘thank you’, ‘hello’, ‘yes’, ‘no’,  ‘toilet’, etc. If you have more time they are plenty of professional Chinese language tutors in the big cities or you may consider attending language classes before you make the move. 

Check what the arrangements are before you arrive  

The university HR office or your department will no doubt look after you well in terms of meeting you at the airport, getting settled in etc. butit is worth checking all these arrangements twice to be sure you are organised. 

Have pdf backups of all key documents such as visa, passport, etc.  

You will have to go with someone to the local Police station to register as a resident. Be sure to keep this form. Give backup copies of all documentation to the department administrative assistant just in case they need them for other purposes and in case yours become lost. Keep emergency contact numbers in case you ever need them. It is not a bad idea to have these plus address of your residence and university written in Chinese. 

Be sure to find out about medical insurance.  

University medical clinics may not speak English. Therefore, you may want to bring an administrative person with you to translate. In most cases you will be on a plan provided by the University. Alternatively, if you are worried at all there are a number of hospitals in the larger cities that cater to foreigners and have many foreign doctors. If you are taking medications bring a sufficient supply with you. You cannot have drugs shipped to you but you can bring your prescription with you.   


Electricity is usually on a pre-pay basis. If your electricity runs out you may have to pay an additional amount and get it turned back on. Central heating is available for the northern part of China, which includes Beijing. The government announces when the heat will be turned on (normally 15 November) and the date it is to be turned off (normally 15 March). If you are in Southern China, there is no central heating and it can be very cold. If you are arriving in the winter months, make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes. 

Finally, have fun and enjoy the differences and the experience. Check these essentials from your list so you can get started on building a career abroad.

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