China FAQs


  • SYA China is located in Beijing housed within Middle School #2 (BNU MS #2), a model high school part of Beijing Normal University.
  • The school opened in 1994 and celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014 with a visit from the former First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Michelle Obama, and the First Lady of China, Madame Peng Liyuan.
  • Students typically take six classes; all courses are taught in English apart from Mandarin Chinese.
  • Ample co-curricular, artistic, martial arts and community engagement opportunities are available to best meet student interests. Dance, Tai Chi, music and cooking are popular activities.
  • SYA China has a range of options that allow students to immerse themselves even more directly in the community via language and culture exchange with peers at BNU MS#2.

Are there any language requirements?

SYA China does not have a Mandarin language requirement to apply; however, applicants must have classroom experience studying either a spoken or classical language.

How will I get to school each day?

Students walk, ride bikes, and use public transportation to get around their host cities. Each SYA school is centrally located in its city, and most students live within a short walk or bus ride to school. SYA students are not allowed to drive or operate motor vehicles of any kind during their year abroad.

How will my host family be selected?

SYA takes great care to match students with the best host families abroad. Many of our host families have previously hosted and all genuinely enjoy opening their hearts and homes to SYA students. Early in the enrollment process SYA students and parents will receive a Host Family Placement Questionnaire (HFPQ) and a Parents’ Memorandum (PM), respectively. These forms give students and parents an opportunity to comment on students’ living habits and lifestyles. Both forms should be completed wholly and honestly, so as to make the best match possible. The host family coordinator, who has met and interviewed each family in their home, uses these documents, as well as other elements from student applications, to match students with host families.

Will my host family speak English?

Though fluency in English is not required to be an SYA host family, the global nature of the world, and the SYA community in particular, is such that many families understand and speak some English, particularly if there are any school-aged children in the home. More importantly, your host family will be eager to help you use, stretch, and strengthen your Mandarin language skills; regardless of their English language skills you will be encouraged to communicate in the target language whenever possible. However, should the need arise, rest assured that the Resident Director, John McLoughlin, speaks fluent English and will assist if needed.

What co-curriculars are available? Can I continue with sports?

Students are able and encouraged to participate in whatever activities are offered in Beijing! Students regularly practice and play instruments, join and form bands and chorus groups, get involved with theatre, take cooking classes, study at dance studios, participate in community service, and so much more. There is an Activities coordinator who works with students to help them find opportunities to engage with the local community. Often students bring new activities to Beijing and involve their classmates and local peers. The opportunities are endless.

Students are able to continue many of the sports they play here in the United States abroad. However, there are some notable exceptions, mainly, American football and lacrosse, which are much harder to continue. Once abroad, sports are not organized by school teams. Instead, students are encouraged to join municipal and club teams where they will play and interact with local teenagers. Upon arrival to the SYA city, students will meet with the activities coordinator at their school who will help them find an appropriate team or practice facility.

How will I be able to stay in touch with my family back in the U.S.?

At SYA China, staying in touch is very easy. Though the frequency of communication to family members and friends back home is different for every student, most students choose to set up a weekly call with family back home, speaking by phone or Skype.