MAIS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Applying to the MAIS Program
1. How long is the program?
2. When will I know if I get accepted?
3. What about the passport and visa requirements?
Money & Finances
4. What does it cost?
5. What other costs are involved outside of the direct tuition charges?
6. Do I have to live on the Concordia University Irvine campus for the summer session?
7. Is my airplane ticket to China included?
8. Are there any scholarships available to help pay tuition costs?
9. How do I handle banking and money while in China?
Studying in China
10. Do I need a computer?
11. Do I need to know Chinese language (Mandarin)?
12. How do I choose my capstone Thesis topic?
13. How do I take classes online while in China?
Working in China
14. Can I choose where I want to work in China?
15. What holiday periods will I have off in China?
16. Do employers in China prefer certain teaching candidates to others?
17. Do MAIS partnered schools in China hire MAIS students only?
Living in China
18. Can I choose where I want to live in China?
19. Do I need any special medical insurance while in China?
20. What if I get sick while I'm in China?
21. What types of immunizations are required?
22. What about clothing?
23. What about religious freedom?
Applying to the MAIS Program
Q: How long is the program?
A: The program begins in June with courses on the Concordia University, Irvine, California campus. In August you travel to China where you work and live till the following summer. Your work contract in China will be for approximately 10-12 months. You can complete the program capstone thesis project by the following summer, but most students need an additional semester to refine and write their thesis. If this extension is needed, you would not finish until the end of the second fall term. The program can be completed in as short as 12 months (June, 2013 to August, 2014) or up to 18 months with the fall term extension (June, 2013 to December, 2014). Please see the detailed MAIS course descriptions page for more in depth information.
Q: When will I know if I get accepted?
A: Once your application file is completed it will then be reviewed by the associate director of the MAIS program. This review takes approximately two to three weeks. Once the associate director has reviewed the file you will be contacted for a personal interview to review your qualifications. This interview is preferably done in person on the Concordia University campus; however phone/Skype interviews can be conducted if traveling to the Concordia University campus is not convenient for the applicant. Following the personal interview the associate director will make a recommendation regarding acceptance to the director. The time from the interview to notification usually takes approximately two to three weeks. Candidates are typically notified via email correspondence and an official acceptance packet will be mailed to the applicant's address on file. The acceptance process is a rolling process, so once you have your application file completed it will be processed using the process described above.
Q: What about the passport and visa requirements?
A: You will need to have a valid US passport prior to applying to the MAIS program. Your application file requires that we have a photocopy of your passport. Please make sure that you have read and reviewed all the information contained in your passport. This information will tell you to make two photocopies of your passport. You should leave one copy with someone at home in the U.S. and bring the other along with you and keep it in a safe place with your belongings. If you ever need to replace your passport, the photocopy will greatly speed the process. Concordia University also has a photocopy of your passport in your application file for this purpose should it be needed. Prior to leaving for China you will need to register yourself with the U.S. State Department Travel Registration via their web site travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs. Travel registration is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This is a good idea anytime you are traveling out of the U.S. The American Embassy is located in Beijing and maintains active US Consulate offices in Shanghai, Shenyang, Chengdu and Guangzhou that are always available and helpful should you need to contact them.
Once you are accepted into the MAIS program and contract with your school/employer the process of obtaining a visa begins. This typically is initiated by your school/employer in China. They will send you the necessary documents for you to apply for a work visa at the Chinese Consulate office. The people's Republic of China currently maintains one Embassy in Washington D.C., but also maintains 5 consulates-general in the following U.S. cities: New York, NY; Chicago, IL; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Houston, TX. You may work with a visa agent to help you with the paperwork, submission of documents, and delivery of the visa – particularly if you do not live in a city near a Chinese Consulate office. In some cases schools/employers will have you apply for a tourist visa and will then do the required paperwork for your work visa once you arrive in China. In either case the process to obtain your visa to enter China can take 4-6 weeks. This process requires that you have a resume and a copy of your university diploma on file with us. Additional documents can be and often are requested by the Chinese school/employer during this process.
Money & Finances
A: Direct program costs are about $24,263.00 (based on the 2012 rate. The per unit cost for the 2012-2013 academic is $590/unit and the program has 38 units. Direct program costs include tuition, student fees, housing, meals and technology fees during the summer semester on the Concordia University Irvine California campus, not including costs for books and supplies for courses, travel expenses to/from China (reimbursable from your Chinese employer). For a detailed look at the direct program costs please see the MAIS Program Direct Costs web page: Program Direct Costs.
A: If you are planning to stay on the Concordia University Irvine campus during the summer session you will incur room and meal fees of approximately $2,059 (based on 2013 rate) for the 6 week period you will be taking courses on campus. Books and supplies for courses are usually around $100-$150 per course and are not included in your tuition fees. There is a small one-time program fee (around $150) to cover electronic resources. Your travel fees to/from China are not included in the tuition charges, but are reimbursed by your Chinese employer at the end of your employment contract in China. All personal living expenses are extra; however, while in China you will be paid a salary that will typically cover most of your living expenses there. Students in International Concentration are required to fund-raise a minimum of $1000 for development projects use at MAIS. The minimum of $1000 is needed before you start MAIS in June.
A: This is not a requirement, but it is strongly encouraged. Your classes take the better part of the day (usually 9 AM – 5 PM or later with some seminars scheduled in the evenings) and are very demanding in nature. The majority of MAIS students live on campus and develop a very close community with one another that extends to their experiences in China. Typically students feel that they miss out on some intangibles of the program if they choose to not live on the Irvine campus during the intensive summer session.
A: You will need to first pay for your ticket and then when you have successfully completed the term of your contract in China your Chinese employer will reimburse you for your air ticket fee. This is a standard practice for Chinese employers of western teachers / workers. Typically air tickets to China (one-way) are about $700-$1000. Employers may include a cap on the maximum allowed for reimbursement. Please check with your individual employer for details.
A: At this time Concordia University does not offer any university scholarships for graduate school. There are numerous third party scholarships that you can apply for on your own. A good starting point for searching for what is available is www.finaid.org and look for "graduate scholarships". Concordia University does provide federal student aid for graduate school. You will need to apply for this using the FAFSA form. The Concordia University financial aid office can also be of great assistance in this process.
A: You should bring at least $3,000 U.S. dollars with you in American cash or arrange with your banks to release hold on international charges (ATM cards work well in China while as credit cards may generate international transaction surcharges). Be sure the American currency is all in the new style of bills and that none of the bills is torn, heavily used, or has any writing at all on its front or back. China for the most part is still a cash and carry economy for the average local person.
In China, most employers will pay your salary at the end of the month. For the first few months, the security deposit (for your apartment) will be deducted from your monthly salary (if you are not living in the school's supplied housing). Many employers will also withhold taxes from your salary. Make sure to ask your employer about all of the deductions from your salary, particularly in the first few months, and plan accordingly.
Your employer should help you open a Chinese bank account, and many will send your monthly salary to that account by direct deposit. Chinese bank ATM cards are often times limited to specific geographical areas; when you are outside that area you will have to go to a bank and have the ATM card activated for that area. You can deposit a US/Canadian dollar check in a Chinese bank, but you will have to wait 6 to 8 weeks for the check to clear before the funds are available.
Credit cards are accepted by many businesses in China, but check with your credit company about international transaction fees. Consider obtaining a credit card that can be used at an ATM for emergency situations. And remember that the keypad of a Chinese ATM has only numbers (not numbers and letters), so know your credit card PIN in numbers!
Internet-based Bill Paying Services: You may want to look into an Internet-based service to help manage your bills back home in the US while you are in China. Most services allow on-line bill payment for a moderate fee.
Power of Attorney: You may also want to consider giving a power of attorney to someone at home so they can sign documents for you and take care of other personal matters that arise. You should also check with an attorney, since the grantee can also use it to wipe out your bank account or ruin your credit.
A: You will hone your topic ideas as you progress through the MAIS curriculum. The research strand of courses that weave through each semester will help you develop and refine your thesis topic, while providing opportunities for hands on research and data collection as well as analysis. You may want to look at the list of topics and the detailed Capstone / Thesis information web page to see what previous MAIS students have worked on.
Also recognize that most students will change their topics multiple times throughout the program. During the months in Irvine, you will be asked to consider your interests as you conceptualize your future capstone project. Your experiences in China should be a catalyst for an upheaval of your assumptions, perceptions and even direction – as such, students wait until the end of their first semester in China (around mid-December) to draft a thesis proposal – even then, students often change or modify their topics, methodology and analytical framework into the following semesters.
A: We currently use a platform called Blackboard for online classes which allows students and instructors to communicate directly with one another regardless of their geographical location. Students are provided instruction in how to use this online learning environment during their summer semester on campus. Additionally resources and instructions may be found at Concordia University's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT).
A: Yes. You will need one for the entire program and especially for your "online" courses while in China. You need to bring a laptop computer along with you to China. Most laptops have a battery charger transformer that automatically adapts to Chinese 220 volt AC power, but sometimes the only adapter you will need is for the wall plug (which you can get easily and cheaply in China). Be sure to bring the start-up disk for the computer's operating system and a virus protection program that you up-date regularly. Some people recommend taking a surge protector with you. Computer accessories are easily available in large Chinese metropolitan cities at reasonable prices, but the sometimes the instructions won't be in English. If you need a printer, you can buy a 220-volt printer in China for a reasonable price.
A: No, this is not a program requirement. You will take basic introductory Chinese language classes as part of the summer term to help prepare you for your year in China. The Chinese language is a tonal language and can be challenging. Once you are in China most students are able to increase their speaking abilities in Chinese as they are immersed in the language and hear it on a daily basis. Additionally your employer may offer Mandarin tutoring as part of your contract. Most MAIS students find that by the end of the fall semester they have become comfortable enough with speaking the language to shop in local markets and converse on the street with local Chinese people. Of course the more Chinese you know the easier your transition will be. Students who have taken Chinese at the undergraduate level may be able to test out of the required summer Chinese language course. Students may take an optional independent study Mandarin course with a CUI professor while in China (conducted online). This course is designed to provide the accountability, evaluation and university credit that many localized Chinese courses may not offer.
Working in China
A: Yes, to a degree. The process for finding employment for MAIS students follows a process that ensures that students' rights and needs are protected (student choice and a grievance policy); students are held responsible for their professional choices (contracts and waivers); employers will provide positive conditions, appropriate compensation, and reasonable accommodations for our students; and that Concordia University will be protected from potential liability and conflicts.
Step 1: Informed Choice: Students will receive the MAIS Employment Request Form which includes a choice of preferences
- City – Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing or Kunming (note only and all ID students will be placed in Kunming)
- Educational level – English Center / Pre-K (young children), Elementary/high school, College/University
Step 2: Opt Out: Students may choose to opt out of the CUI-assisted employment process and choices. Students who chose to opt out agree to release CUI from any responsibility regarding work placement, including grievances, issues or situations that may occur. Unless otherwise approved by the Program Director, in order to remain in the MAIS program, students must find employment that meets the following minimum requirements:
- entails less than 20 hours of work per week
- is located in Shanghai or Hangzhou
- allows the University Field Supervisor to visit your classroom
- provides a legal work visa sponsored by their employers
Students must also enroll in the Teacher Practicum courses during Fall and Spring semesters with fewer or no visits from the University Field Supervisor. If the job is outside of Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, or Kunming students must accept responsibility for coursework (and any subsequent grade consequences) that may require activities that have a travel component or special requirement that is geographically focused in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing or Kunming.
Step 3: Application: Your documents (e.g., cover letter, resume/cv, diploma, passport, photo, etc.) will be sent to one prospective employer at a time by the MAIS program. Please ensure that all your documentation is complete and has been sent to the MAIS office. Once an interested employer is found, CUI will then make the connection between the employer and the student. At this time, the employer will make an appointment for a (Skype or phone) interview.
Step 4: Interview: Students will interview with the potential employer and submit any additional documents and/or information as required by the employer. The employer will then report its decision to CUI. This decision is then relayed to the student by CUI and/or by the employer directly.
Decision: Once a student has received an offer of employment, his/her response must be given by completing and signing the Employment Decision Form (EDF) and submitting it to MAIS office at CUI within 2 weeks. Every student must:
- Indicate that he/she accepts or declines ("opts out" of) the position on the EDF (submitted to CUI)
- Inform the employer directly of his/her decision to accept or decline the position
- The EDF is a contract with CUI, and will be used as a legally binding document in relation to student employment in China. If the student declines the CUI-assisted employment offer, this in effect is "OptingOut" (see 2. Opt Out above). If a student has accepted a position (indicated by the EDF), and subsequently breaks that commitment (e.g., finds a job with another employer), he/she is in violation of CUI policy and may be expelled from the MAIS program.
Students have the option of finding a position outside of the university-approved list, but if they do, they must sign a release form that waives Concordia University from any responsibility regarding work placement, including grievances, issues or situations that may occur. Even in this case, students are required to find positions in Shanghai or Hangzhou. This must occur prior to the beginning of the MAIS program.
A: These vary greatly depending upon your school / employer. Typically the biggest holiday period of the year is Chinese New Year which is based upon the lunar calendar, so it occurs at a little different time each year (similar to how Easter in the US is not a "fixed" date). Typically the Chinese New Year celebration can last from a few days to several weeks. It is a very busy time and almost all Chinese travel to be with their families during this time period.
The holiday most similar to our "4th of July" is the October 1st "National Day" – the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Many employees enjoy two paid days-off, but this can very from employer to employer. Some traditional holidays, however, are not "legal" holidays and so most people do not get paid time off work for them. The following web site has a list that may be helpful for you to review: http://www.index-china.com/index-english/chinese_holidays.htm. Some of the US holidays you have become accustom to observing, like Thanksgiving, and Easter are not recognized or celebrated. Please contact your employer once you have signed a contract to get their specific policy on holidays.
A: Typically, employers in China schools would be first drawn more to Caucasian candidates whose citizenships are with such native English speaking countries like USA, UK, Canada, and Australia, despite the fact that English may be a predominant language in many other countries as well. In addition, candidates younger than 24 years old normally receive job placements at a later stage than the more mature ones. Short phone/Skype interviews may be required by the China employers before they extend their job offers to MAIS students.
At MAIS, placements in China are not guaranteed as it is dependent upon employer decision. At the same time, do note that program participation depends on successful employment and issuance of work visa to China. However, all MAIS students have so far received placements through the arrangement of a field supervisor stationed in China. Currently we work with many partner schools/language centers and universities in Shanghai/Hangzhou/Kunming and some nearby cities.
A: MAIS partnered schools in China would give priority consideration to MAIS students for their new openings each year but they are not obliged to keep their positions for MAIS students only. Therefore, to be among the first for placements, early applications are strongly encouraged so you will be ready for job selection as soon as positions are open.
Living in China
A: Yes, to a degree. Many schools / employers will have their own "teacher housing apartments" on their campus. This is very convenient and you would be put in a "western style" teacher apartment. If you choose not to stay in the apartment provided by the school on their campus then you will need to pay for your own apartment locally. If the school does not have its' own apartments on campus they will typically assist you in finding a local apartment. Most schools have liaison offices for foreign teachers that assist in this apartment location process and you will have the opportunity to view several styles in various price ranges to find something to fit your liking. Based on several factors, the program will also determine which cities in China that students will be able to live/work in. In the past, students have been placed in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Nanjing and Hangzhou. This determination is made on a year-to-year basis, and may include fewer or additional cities than those in the past. [For the 2010-2011 school year students are required to live in Shanghai and Hangzhou.]
Your employer will provide you with a western style single apartment (or a housing allowance and relocation assistance). Many employers have their own living quarters for their employees; others will provide you with a stipend to cover the rent of an apartment close to the school/work. Employers will provide assistance in shopping for and selecting an apartment that fits your needs and is within your budget. Many students have chosen to share a 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom apartment. As in the US, this is more economical, and students are able to find superior living quarters in better neighborhoods for the same amount of money if they are able to pool their resources and share an apartment. This is not a requirement of the program, but students are encouraged to at minimum live in proximity to other students for academic, professional and personal support (students very quickly realize the need for and benefit of close fellowship with their classmates).
A: You will have access to a school or local clinic / hospital that can handle your minor medical needs for free or at very low cost (many employers will reimburse you for these costs). In the event of extended hospitalization or chronic disease the Chinese will want you to return home for treatment. Therefore you should maintain whatever major medical insurance you now have. Ask your insurance company about any limitations of their coverage abroad. We highly recommend that you buy an international health coverage policy as your employer will only cover basic health costs. You can browse various policies at www.statravel.com. A number of other companies offer major medical insurance for international settings. Some trip insurance plans include limited medical insurance such as: http://www.studyabroad.com/marketplace/insurance.html Concordia does not endorse any particular plan or company and makes no commission on any policy. If you are comparing coverage, you may want to consider some of these suggestions: Ask what the policy does not cover, as well as what it does cover. Ask for a specific price quote since the cost can vary dramatically according to age, length of coverage, and amount of coverage. Ask if a worldwide, English-speaking phone contact is available 24 hours a day.
A: The Chinese hospital or local clinic can be a completely overwhelming experience for anyone that is sick. However, one main difference with the Chinese hospital versus the typical American doctor's office is that you will receive care from a specialist for your specific medical condition. It is best to go during normal business hours, 8am – 5pm, otherwise you will be left with the night shift. As for insurance, Chinese hospitals may not know what to do with it. It is best that you pay for medical services and bill your insurance company as needed (or seek reimbursement from your employer based upon their specific policies). You should bring any over-the-counter medicine that you may anticipate needing; such as Imodium for diarrhea. A small tube of first-aid ointment is also handy to have with you, as are sunscreen and, occasionally, insect repellant and itch ointment or powder. If you have a prescription, try to make arrangements for a one-year supply. If feasible avoid mailing or express services for shipping medicines because of customs delays and expense.
A: No special / specific immunization is required for the major metropolitan cities in China where the MAIS program places you (Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, etc.). However, your physician might recommend some of the following, which are useful for travel anywhere:
- Tetanus & Diphtheria (1 shot every 10 years)
- Hepatitis A (series of 2 shots at 6-month interval)
- Hepatitis B (series of 3 shots, 30 days and then 6 months)
- MMR (Mumps, Measles, Rubella)
If you are considering vacation travel to jungle or sub-tropical areas, or remote rural areas while you are in China and the Southeast Asian area you should consult your doctor about immunization for typhoid and Japanese encephalitis. You can check on up to date medical information by visiting the CDC web site for travel to East Asia: wwwnc.cdc.gov. Soon after you arrive in Shanghai, your school/employer will ask you to take the standard national medical screening exam that is required for all foreigners who work in China. It is administered at a government-designated hospital for foreigners and includes a chest x-ray, blood test for STD and AIDS, and ultrasound scan of the liver area. It does not ask about medical history, except for Cholera, Yellow fever, Plague, Leprosy, venereal disease, Tuberculosis, AIDS, and Psychosis. The test is paid for by your employer typically (or will be reimbursed to you).
A: Western/American sizes can be hard to find in China. WOMEN—if you are under 5'8" and of slim build, you may find clothes to fit you. Women's shoes, size 8 and under are available. MEN—if you are under 5'10 and of medium to slim build, you may find clothes to fit you. Men's shoes, size 10 and under are available.
In lieu of bringing over an entire year's wardrobe, many students have had clothing tailor-made to fit their specific dimensions and needs (from shirts to dresses to suits to jackets). Tailor-made clothing in China is relatively inexpensive and typically of high quality. This allows you to select your own fabric, design, and style – often for less than what you would pay to buy it off the rack in the US. As a tip, bring magazines of clothing styles that you like and have a tailor make it for you to fit your size and dimensions.
The dress codes for teachers vary from school to school, but in general are fairly conservative. The best approach is to be very conservative at the start, even though the weather may be warm, then modify your clothing appropriately over time as you establish a respectable norm. Everyone will need one dress-up outfit for formal banquets (sport coat and tie for men; dress for women). Dry cleaning is available in China, but the quality varies from store to store. Chinese teachers do not wear body piercings, and you may be asked to remove them by your administrators. Remember the principle of dressing not for your current job, but for the job that you want.
For Men (on the job):
- Shirt or polo shirt with sleeves and collar (no tee-shirts or tank tops)
- Trousers (no jeans, cargo trousers, or shorts)
- Sweater or sport coat (during the winter)
- Always wear socks (don't wear sandals)
For Women (on the job):
- Blouse with sleeves (sleeves, even if very short, are recommended)
- Slacks (no jeans, cargo trousers, or shorts)
- Skirt (at least knee-length or longer)
- Regular shoes or sandals with back straps (so the Chinese won't regard them as "slippers")
- Socks or panty hose
A: Contrary to common perceptions in the West, the Chinese constitution actually guarantees freedom of "religious belief" (but technically not freedom of religion). It however does not allow proselytizing or promoting your religious beliefs to others. You can bring a Bible with you, or purchase one there (yes you can buy a Bible in China). There are international churches in Shanghai and Hangzhou (where a foreign passport is required for entrance) that offer services in English. You may also attend the official government-approved Chinese churches for services in Mandarin..