If learning how to speak Mandarin and living in China is your dream, or even a plausible next step in your life, then you’ve got great timing—because China wants you, and wants you now.
China is allocating tons of money so it can lure 100,000 foreign students to China for the sole purpose of teaching them Mandarin. The United States and China created this 100,000 strong incentive to provide money for young American hopefuls to go abroad, study Chinese, love it, and give China some (hopefully) good PR.
Yup, you read that right. Free, full-ride scholarships where you don’t pay a dime.
You may feel distraught thinking that, perhaps, you’re not a competitive candidate for these scholarships—but have no fear, China is there for you.
All you need to do is remember these three letters: CSC
China Scholarship Council
The China Scholarship Council (CSC) is a government organization that awards scholarships to both nationals and foreigners. Right now, rather than sending their locals abroad, China is far more focused on spending money to bring you, a savvy foreigner, into China.
The amount of money funneled into this program is insane: meaning, if you graduated with a bachelors in a degree—any degree—then you have a good shot at getting a Chinese Language Learning Scholarship, masters, or even Ph.D in China (if you so desire).
I applied for the CSC scholarship to get a master’s degree in interpretation because simply, without a scholarship, I wouldn’t have the means to support myself (living in Shanghai aint cheap!). My whole academic future was riding on CSC.
So I did hardcore research on how to get this scholarship, submitted my documents, and awaited my response.
Applying for the CSC is a big pain in the ass, mostly because the Chinese government is horrifically disorganized. To apply for this scholarship you can either do it through the Chinese university you plan on attending or going rogue and applying independently through your country’s consulate.
The Chinese University is the best way to go, since they already have a set quota on scholarship recepients (and depending on the school, these slots usually don’t fill up—meaning, you have very good chances of getting it).
Applying through the consulate is exactly what it is—throwing your documents in an envelope, mailing it to Washington D.C., competing with all American applicants, and praying.
Since I applied a mere three months before the deadline, I only had one option: Send to the Consulate.
And lo-and-behold, a mere two months later I was awarded a full ride scholarship.
1. Full Tuition
3. Room and Board
4. 700 USD monthly stipend for food
To apply and gather more information, you can go to CSC’s official homepage and try to figure out that mess.
The real lifesaver to successfully filling out this application, however, was the Chinese-Forum. The moderator and board participants are very dedicated to helping prospective CSC applicants and give nothing but sound advice. Hell, CSC should be paying them.
This is my own personal opinion, but I felt like the CSC scholarship was far easier to get than its Japanese equivalent MEXT—not to mention a lot less hassle.
MEXT is a year long process that involves a phone interview and in-person interview.
CSC? A few months. No interviews.
Still don’t think you can get the CSC? Well, you can try for the…
Confucius Institute Scholarship
The Confucius Institute promotes Chinese language learning around the world with offices and schools in most major cities. Since the Chinese government is loaded with money and they’re aching for some good PR, tons of cash is currently being funneled into these programs and it’s just sitting there in wait.
Waiting for you.
Unlike CSC, the Confucius Institute scholarship is only limited to Chinese study. So if you want to study engineering in China, this scholarship isn’t for you.
However, if spending a year in China learning Mandarin—for free—sounds like something you might want to do… then why not give it a try?
Confucius Institute offers a myriad of scholarships for all kinds of applicants. Whether you’re a student, recent graduate, or even mid-career—the Confucius Institute is an equal opportunity provider, and they want to throw money at you so you can go to China and study.
Like CSC, you can apply for the Confucius Institute scholarship either through your university or directly online. While I haven’t applied for this one personally, I have met tons of people in China studying for free on this scholarship.
Wait, why did you throw your scholarship away?
To put it bluntly: Higher education in China is terrible.
The Masters of Translation and Interpretation program at Shanghai International Studies University was everything I wasn’t looking for, and after six months into the program I was offered a very attractive position at a famous company to be a Japanese interpreter. I had the choice to either
1. Continue a terrible Chinese university experience,
2. or make money and work at a great company as an interpreter
I think the choice is obvious.
Thus, while getting free money to study abroad may sound like a no-brainer you still have to consider: Is this worth my time?
If you want to study something that is not Chinese, i.e. study engineering or marketing in China, you may want to rethink your decision and remember that free isn’t always better. While tuition in America is exorbitant, you usually get what you pay for.
However, I definitely recommend doing the 6-12 month Chinese language programs offered at all Chinese universities. Unlike a masters or Ph.D program, it’s a much shorter commitment and it also gives you the chance to experience China and beef up your Mandarin. Basically, you invest your time more for the experience than for the piece of paper you get at the end of the program.
If you want to read more about my terrible experience at Shanghai International Studies University (and get some GREAT advice on interpreting and translating from professionals!) then take a look at the thread I started on Chinese-Forums (the name’s Angeia).
So…Is Chinese Worth It?
Hell yeah. Chinese is a great skill to have and it can make you 100x more attractive as a potential employee.
And more importantly, China is an amazing place.
Even if you go to China on a scholarship and don’t walk out speaking fluent Mandarin, it’s okay. Because China is, in my opinion, a must.