When preparing to go to Beijing, whether for student exchange or travelling purposes, it’s a good idea to have a look over the different types of accommodation available. This article will focus more on the dorm accommodation found at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) for students, but tourists planning to stay in the university area in Beijing may also want to look into BLCU dorms as a cheap form of accommodation.
TJ and I did a quick check over which BLCU dorm buildings were good, or at least were decent, to stay in. It didn’t take long for us to work out that Dorm 17 is the most popular and most difficult to book, one of our BLCU classmates stayed at Dorm 17 only because he booked and paid for it the semester before. [Note: The cost of accommodation in each dorm varies]
- The actual process of booking the dorm room involve:
- Calling up BLCU accommodation department
- Explaining it to staff (mostly in Mandarin, although some of them know a bit of English)
- Making a payment (1 month)
- Showing them your proof of payment when you get there
I did it the easier way by just rocking up and asking for a room. It seemed to me that the BLCU dorm accommodation is a lot more like a “first come first serve” basis because they’ll always say they’re “fully booked” but somehow magically find a room when needed.
- These are the pros of Dorm 17 from my experience. Please take into account that I never actually stayed in dorm building 17.
- It’s newer (clean)
- The fuyuans are nicer
- It’s “off campus”
- The rooms are bigger (although this is questionable)
- Closer to Wudaokou and train station
- Private gate keepers (students not staying there are meant to sign in and sign out)
- Buzzing with international students
The downside of Dorm 17 would be that it’s the dorm furtherest away from Building 1 (BLCU main study building), this means waking up extra early in the mornings to get to class or even buying a bike (highly recommended). I also question the rumour that Dorm 17 has bigger rooms because I discovered some super-huge dorm rooms in dorm building 4 (I snuck peeks while walking past open doors).
TJ and I were tossing up between Dorm 4 (old international student dorm) and Dorm 6 (near the basketball courts). TJ arrived at BLCU before me and had settled in Dorm 4, so when I got there I checked out one of Dorm 4’s rooms, and then decided to check out one of the rooms in Dorm 6 too. The major downside was that Dorm 6 didn’t have elevators.
Before my final decision, I went around checking out the apartments nearby (some of which also do not have elevators). There were apartments still under renovation, rooms for rent, people looking for an extra roommate etc. My conclusion was that living off-campus would not be beneficial for someone staying short term (up to 6 months), so I went back to Dorm 4. By that time, a lot more international students had arrived and the available rooms in the building was running out fast!
There’s a huge number of apartments around Wudaokou and BLCU because of the many schools in the area. There’s also quite a lot of hotels within walking distance which you could stay in temporarily if need be. The cost of staying in an apartment is relatively cheaper than staying in the dorms, but the dorms can be more convenient and less troublesome (especially if you have a bad landlord).
At first, I didn’t understand why fuyuans at BLCU always get you to check out the dorm room before you agree to move in, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that EVERY dorm room I went to was DIFFERENT. Most of the rooms are standard in size (sorry, I never took a photo), with bathroom/toilet in each room. TJ had a smaller room compared to mine because hers had a balcony, but some other friends didn’t even have a balcony like TJ ‘s or the extra space I had.
I didn’t think the rooms at Dorm 17 were bigger than compared to my dorm room though, and I’m sure that there are bigger rooms than the one I had… You just need to know which ones they are!
- Pros of Dorm 4
- Very central (convenient)
- Hope internet café/restaurant downstairs (you can leech off it in the stairwell on the 1st & 2nd floor, sometimes the 3rd floor)
- They don’t lock the doors when it’s past curfew
- Some of the fuyuans are nice
- Newly installed security cameras
- Buzzing with international students
On a side note, the “24” on the ‘Hope Cafe’ sign doesn’t mean 24hrs a day! They’ll stay open for as long as people are there, but sometimes close quite early (1-2am).
The furniture found in each room is the same: wardrobe, 2 study tables, 2 beds, mini fridge and TV. I like the fact that there’s a lock on the wardrobe as well as the drawer of the study table. But don’t expect all furniture to be functioning 100%.
If you decide to stay in Dorm Building 4, try and avoid the first floor!! It’s been told that there was a death in one of those rooms at the beginning of 2007. Also, the dorm rooms on the first floor seem to be prone to mould and gets quite stuffy when the heaters are turned on in Winter.
Beware, the elevators in Dorm building 4 can jam up. You might not want to stay on the top floors on the off chance you get stuck inside the elevator (it’s happened to a friend!). I was on the 3rd floor which was close enough to ground floor use the stairs when the elevators were off or out of function. It’s not fun climbing 9 floors after a long night out intoxicated with sore feet.
And last of all, I just want to mention that I had a look at the single dorm room in building 8. Just seeing the room made me glad that I was in a shared room because it’s very small, and the room looks very lonely. But of course, there are downsides of a shared dorm too (bad roommate, no privacy etc).
– – – – –
P.S. BLCU Scholarship students are put into Dorm 1 or 2 (I’m not sure if there’s other buildings). That means communal showers and toilets (http://www.selinalai.com/2008/05/squat-toilet-troubles