Frequently Asked Questions: Pre-Arrival

General Questions

Generally, no. It’s important to consider the impact of your arrival date on your overall experience. Arriving late will mean you will certainly need to arrange transportation to campus from the airport on your own (vs. having the option of meeting DKU staff at PVG airport and coming to campus on an organized bus). Furthermore, following Friday’s arrival/check-in, Saturday is an orientation day specifically for international students focused on adjusting to life in China and the start of important tasks to get you settled practically (including getting a SIM card for your cell phone, which is needed for signing up for a local bank account throughout the week). In short, arriving late is strongly discouraged; you will miss practical and valuable information, and be behind on opportunities to set-up essential accounts.  Starting your undergraduate journey from a strong position is crucial, and the arrival/check-in schedule is designed to do precisely that.

If circumstances beyond your control dictate that you will be arriving late (e.g., delayed flight, personal emergencies) it is crucial you notify DKU ISS as early as possible. 

In accordance with Chinese laws and regulations, DKU cannot be responsible for legal custody of a Minor Student. Therefore, prior to the arrival in China of a Minor Student (arrival for first-year international students is August 9, 2024), it is a requirement for parents/legal guardians to authorize in writing a temporary guardianship to either a Chinese citizen or foreigner who is currently living in China and will be living in China for the tenure of their guardianship. This person will act as the “Temporary Guardian” for the Minor Student. You can find more about the role of the temporary guardian HERE. While students are recommended to identify a legal guardian through their personal network, it’s understandable it may be challenging. As an additional option, DKU will have current DKU Chinese parents who can serve as volunteer temporary guardians for minor DKU international students. After the commitment deadline (May 1) we’ll have a separate call/session with all students (and their parents) for who this applies to walk through what is required. The guardianship is a formality and the student, the temporary guardian, parents and DKU will work in close partnership if needs arise.

DKU students can live on campus if it doesn’t make sense for them to travel home during winter or summer breaks. For example, the summer housing rate in the past has been around 5,500 RMB for the whole summer and housing costs may vary from year to year. However, DKU has encouraged international students to consider spending the breaks traveling in China, traveling with a local friend to their hometown, or they may sometimes individually make arrangements to “housesit” for a DKU employee/faculty. During summer breaks there are also a number of research programs in which students may enroll and live on campus, some of which cover housing expenses as part of the compensation (such as SELF or SRS research programs).

International students may work a maximum of 40 hours per month in administrative student worker and research assistant positions during the regular semester on campus. During the summer, international students can work a maximum of 80 hours per month. The on-campus hourly rate for student workers will vary depending on their academic program (undergrad/graduate) and the nature of the positions. The rate is decided based on related regulations and policies; currently for undergraduate students it is 32 RMB an hour for administrative positions and 35 RMB an hour for research positions. International students can also pursue off-campus employment but they are considered “internships” and must be unpaid (may have allowances for transportation and meals) and should be relevant to the student’s major or career goals. Our Office of Career Services helps support the guidance for DKU International students to understand the policy and registration procedures to intern in the Chinese Mainland.

Student Life

In mid-May, after the commitment deadline, our offices in student affairs will begin communicating with committed students about the onboarding process which includes Net ID, visa application, housing, vaccines, health insurance, arrival planning and Orientation. Information provided on these pages is intended to help prepare students for some of the more concrete tasks and planning needed prior to arrival, but all students should monitor their DKU email throughout the summer (every few days at least) to look for announcements and notifications. 

Dorms have fixed furniture that includes a single bed, desk, chair, drawers, and personal closet, but will not include bedding, pillows, towels, etc. Students can either purchase these items at a local department store or have them delivered. DKU is exploring an option for students to optionally purchase a standard linen set for their beds that they can pick-up upon arrival to campus. Notices for this will be sent to students if and when this option becomes available.

Generally, DKU’s student housing are rooms with two-person occupancy and community bathrooms for each wing. This is especially true for first-year students, as we believe it’s very important for them to connect with other students and being roommates is an excellent way to do this. Further, and to promote diversity and inclusion, we assign first-year students from different countries together in the same room. While this may invite challenges, our team is trained to support students and their learning through mediations. Roommate pairings for first-year students are made by matching students, to the best of our ability, with similar lifestyles as shared in the application (e.g., sleep habits, use of alcohol and tobacco, etc.). Committed students will receive their roommate application in June where they can share their preferences. Students may wish to request single rooms in this application, but they are available on a very limited

basis. Upperclass students have a higher likelihood of living in a one-person occupancy room, and they can select a specific roommate of the same gender, and they will continue to use the same community bathrooms as students living in two-person occupancy rooms. You can find more about the mission and strategies around DKU’s Residence Life HERE.

During breaks between Fall and Spring Semester: Yes, students may leave their belongings in their room during winter break (as long as they are choosing to stay in the same room for Spring term) and there is limited storage in every dormitory building for use during the fall and spring semesters. Generally speaking, students may store 1-2 empty suitcases in this storage space during the fall and spring terms at no cost.

During Summer Breaks: Storage is not available on-campus for students who are not staying on campus during the summer. For students who do not wish to bring all their belongings back with them, a detailed list of private storage options locally (including options for pick-up from campus directly) is given to all students;  storage providers generally charge per box, per month. Additionally, some students may choose to ask a friend that is staying locally to take their boxes/suitcases for the summer.

Students are not required to purchase a meal plan at DKU. Students can choose their preferred combination of al a carte eating on campus (meals range from 6-10 USD), cooking on their own in campus kitchens, and ordering food through extensive local delivery services.

It is common for all new college students living away from home to have an adjustment period. At DKU, for international students, they are also getting acclimated to a new culture. There will be different food, different languages, and new people, in addition to the academic challenges of a college curriculum. There are numerous support services in place to help all of our students adjust to life at DKU – and multiple offices throughout the University (including ISS, and all of Student Experience broadly) serve to help students thrive in this new environment. For campus conduct expectations and policies, including the Honor Code, see: https://duke.app.box.com/v/dku-student-handbook

Questions for Parents

DKU’s primary method of communicating with international families is through our DKU Family Hub. Our International Parent Engagement Coordinator (Jennifer.Koech@duke.edu) helps to connect and guide families to the appropriate offices/resources at DKU.  Finally, we have a student care team and 24/7 emergency hotline that parents can access as needed.

Yes, parents may wish to travel to DKU with their student for their first-year move-in. International first-year students’ move-in day is August 9, 2024 (24-25 Academic Calendar).  

Note: your student will be very busy with a full week of orientation activities upon their arrival! You should not plan on visiting with your student much after they have arrived and checked-in to campus, and they will benefit from being fully present with their new classmates during this time.

Parents may apply for a regular tourist visa, following the polices of their local Chinese Embassy or Consulate. Procedures may vary from embassy to embassy, so parents should check their local embassy for the most accurate visa information.  If parents encounter a need for further documentation from DKU about their visit, please email the office of International Student Services at DKU-ISS@dukekunshan.edu.cn.   

Parents can get a regular tourist visa to visit China. You can see more tips for planning a trip to China here: https://dku.campusesp.com/posts/435 

Money Matters

Congratulations! You’ve stumbled upon the “C’mon… we know you know how to use Google” question!  Take those fingers for a keyboard walk and look it up! You’ll even find pictures! For bonus points, search for the largest denomination of Chinese currency. Who is on every bill?  Also: You may never see one of those bills, because cash is exceedingly rare to use these days; mobile payments rule the country. 

This is a somewhat tricky question. 

You can, and are encouraged to bring some cash to China – mainly for convenience and knowing that you have the ability to pay for some things when you arrive (including a taxi from the airport if you are not arriving at PVG during DKU’s bus to campus on check-in day). Alternately – it is possible to withdraw cash from a debit card within China from an ATM at the airport – but be sure that your bank card supports Unionpay, VISA, or Mastercard to be safe.

How much?

Minimum: ~800 to 1,500 CNY. This will be more than enough to see you through initial expenses (a taxi-ride from the airport, purchasing a SIM card, some meals off-campus, initial toiletries/set-up costs, etc). 

Maximum: ~8,000 CNY – we only recommend this amount if you are concerned you may have difficulty accessing money from an ATM in your first several weeks – or longer. This will be more than enough to carry you through initial expenses. HINT: You’ll want to deposit that cash in a bank account as soon as you have one set-up so that you are not carrying it all around.

Technically, you are not required to – but we strongly recommend you do so. Remember: you’re going to be a student in China for at least four years… and having a bank account is essential to good living. 

All students will be assisted with setting up a local bank account in the first week of orientation (note: it is a lot of paperwork, and we can’t do everyone in a single day – so expect to have this opportunity within the first week of arrival).

First: to have or be paid for any campus job, you will need to have a local bank account (specifically, a China Construction Bank account).

Second: Although you can make payments for some period of time by linking foreign credit cards to Alipay or WeChat, this is intended for tourists only – and may stop working once you’ve reached a certain spending threshold. Mobile payments rule the economy (and all shopping – including food order from apps, taxis/Didis (think: Uber in China), and virtually anything that is convenient and desirable. It’s worth it: trust us.

Cell Phones, SIM cards, and Bears (Oh My)

Yes. All students will need a cell phone while studying in China. 

Part of this is good practice and needed to be able to be in communication – with the University, friends, and family. 

In reality, without a cell phone you will not be able to do many things in China – including getting a local bank account, or paying for just about everything (although cash is technically still accepted, it is increasingly rare to even see – let alone carry or use), and credit cards will typically not be accepted in smaller shops, food eateries, etc. Additionally, you will want/need a cellphone that can utilize the ever-pervasive WeChat (Weixin) – which functions as a ‘mega’ app combining features of Facebook/Instagram, Tic-Tok, Messaging, Venmo/Paypal/Zelle (and you can pay bills, order movie tickets, train tickets, flight tickets – and just about anything else you can think of). It’s that useful – and it is an essential part of living in China. 

Generally, newer cellphones (less than 3 years old) will work on China cellular data networks. You can have an iPhone using iOS, or an Android phone of your preferred band.

You will want to use a phone that can swap physical SIM cards so that you are able to register for a local phone number. This is essential for being able to set-up a local bank account, and to link WeChat/Alipay to banking options to pay for just about everything.

If in doubt, you can always purchase a new phone locally when you arrive in China – you can spend anywhere from 800-900 CNY on a new, basic phone model (local) or lots more on the newest flagship models of all major cell phone brands. 

Unfortunately, China does not currently support eSIM phones for local Chinese numbers. If you have a phone that only uses an eSIM (such as an iPhone 15), you can add international roaming and cellular data – but this will be far more expensive, and you will not be able to use this number to activate local and essential apps like WeChat, Alipay, or local bank accounts (which require a domestic Chinese cell number). 

If your phone only has an eSIM, plan on either getting a new (perhaps more basic) phone in China that can use a Chinese SIM card, or plan ahead and purchase a phone that can accept physical SIM cards once you arrive.

Chinese cellular data plans are (relatively) inexpensive compared to plans in the United States and many other parts of the world. Generally, you can add money as you go – and 50 CNY/month (around USD $7) is plenty for data and limited voice. (Pro-Tip: No one calls anymore, and voice calls are rather expensive comparatively. Use data to make calls by WeChat or other online services instead!)

There’s nothing you really need to know about bears. It was just a way of referencing an American pop-culture quote from the famed movie, “The Wizard of Oz” – first released in 1939. Consider this your reward for making it this far through a lot of FAQs.

Speaking of: DO bring some movies that you think are “essential” to someone else understanding your own cultural background and history. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to engage with this kind of pop-culture exchange, and you will be AMAZED at the things you’ll learn (and the new quotes you’ll have) from the cinematic histories of your classmates.