Exchange Spotlight: Tongji University

Published on Oct 13, 2015

By Ashley Wolfgang

Do you dream about learning about Chinese culture while still being able to earn credits toward your major? Read on to explore the Tongji University exchange program in Shanghai, China!

Columbia College Chicago students have been studying at Tongji University in Shanghai since 2012. Since the start of the exchange program, 9 students have participating including three current students. The program is flexible with each students' education plan by offering semester and year-long exchange programs. We spoke with Alex Riepl from International Programs to learn more. 

Why should students study abroad in Shanghai? 
China, and Shanghai specifically, are very exciting places to be right now. If you want to see and experience things that you would never have imagined before and to have “your mind blown” on a daily basis, then this is the place for you. China is not for everyone, but someone who wants to push themselves and extend themselves and to grow, then it is a perfect place for them.

What’s unique about Tongji University? Why is it a great place for students to spend a semester?
Tongji is a top school in China; there are so many eager and interesting students from China and around the world there. 

Where is Tongji?

How will studying abroad with this program be beneficial to Media-centric majors? 
The Tongji facilities are all very brand new, so there is a lot that you can do there. Not to mention that you will have an opportunity to see these subjects from a new perspective. There are many media opportunities in Shanghai, and China in general; anyone who is looking to find an international job in these fields right from college will have a real leg up attending this program.

What are common questions students have about studying abroad? What are some common misconceptions? 
The two biggest misconceptions revolve around cost and what classes you will take.

First the classes; students do not have to only find a study abroad program that matches their major. You will take a full course load and can take LAS, college wide electives, and/or major classes. Studying abroad can definitely be done within a student’s graduation plan. All that it requires is a little planning ahead, which our office is more than happy to assist with.

Study abroad does not have to be more expensive than studying here at Columbia. If you study on an exchange program, like at Tongji, you will pay the exact same amount for tuition as you will for a semester here and all of your financial aid applies. Plus there are additional scholarships available, if you are a Pell grant recipient, then you are eligible to apply for a Gilman Scholarship which is just for study abroad. 

Also some locations, like Shanghai, are very affordable. Cost of living is really cheap; you can have a fantastic meal for only a few dollars. Dormitories at Tongji are also very affordable, roughly $9 per day. 


How will studying abroad (in Shanghai, or generally) prepare them for a more competitive job after college? How will this experience help build a stronger portfolio? 
Many students who go on the exchange program find jobs or internships in Shanghai. This is not a formal part of the exchange or something that Tongji officially will do for you. But China at this time is just so full of interesting opportunities. You just have to be open to them.

You also have an opportunity to learn Chinese and to learn about Chinese history and culture through the program. 

If you are adventurous; if you are looking for something a little bit out there; then give it a try. Now, during college is the perfect opportunity to go somewhere you might not have thought of going before. Don’t let that pass you up.

Want a student's perspective? Check out what Abby Millner ('16) is currently doing at Tongji! 

Check out the International Programs page for more information, explore additional opportunities, and to schedule an appointment to start planning your next adventure!