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Off-Campus Study

ACM Shanghai: Perspectives on Contemporary China

The ACM Shanghai program is designed for students with interests in anthropology, economics, environmental studies, geography, international relations, politics, sociology, and urban studies in the context of China’s rapid urbanization and economic rise.  The program is offered each Fall semester and is based at East China Normal University (ECNU), a highly-regarded university with a total enrollment of 28,000 students (including approximately 5,000 international students). Classes include the Chinese language, an independent study project, and elective courses taught in English that are offered through the Global Curriculum at ECNU (including a course taught by the ACM visiting faculty director).

Program Type

Associated Colleges of the Midwest


Shanghai, China

Program Dates

Fall 2018: August to December 

All dates are tentative and may change. ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have second-semester sophomore status before participation. (Transfer students may participate after the first semester on campus) Students with junior status or higher are strongly preferred.
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75 


Spend a semester in Shanghai, a centuries-old trading town that now serves as the modern and booming financial capital of China. As more Chinese residents move to urban areas, the social, political, and economic landscape continues to change.

The thriving communities in the backstreets of the Old City, the stately colonial-era buildings lining the Bund, and the ultra-modern skyscrapers in Pudong showcase various historical periods throughout this cosmopolitan city’s history.

In Shanghai, learn how major global cities can build a future that balances growth with a high quality of life.

Shanghai’s vibrant culture is the perfect location to study the issues facing contemporary China, from natural resource management to public health standards. Its banks, financial institutions, and corporate headquarters attract a huge international population, and you will grow familiar with the area as you explore everything from Chinese cuisine to fascinating historical collections in museums.


The program includes four courses. To obtain the full Lake Forest semester credit equivalent of 4 credits, ensure that you enroll for a minimum of 16 semester hours:

  • Chinese language
  • Two electives from the ECNU Global Curriculum Program
  • Independent study project


More information on course offerings can be found here.  

The course offerings at the East China Normal University are varied, ranging from humanities to sciences to business. 

In Shanghai, students will earn letter grades (A/B/C/D/F) for courses.


Academic Environment and Teaching Style

As this program was designed in conjunction with a US liberal arts college consortium, the professors understand the unique higher education system and culture of US students. Some professors, especially for the language course, will be native to China.  Other ACM courses may be taught by a visiting faculty member from one of the ACM member institutions.

As students do enroll directly at ECNU, please understand that the academic system is quite different. Grades are based almost entirely on one end-of-term exam. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of focusing on discussion or group work. Professors are often more formal than those in the United States. 

Throughout the semester, each ACM student plans and completes an independent study project under the direction of the ACM Visiting Faculty Director.  Projects may be conducted in a wide variety of fields in social sciences and humanities, with topics that are linked to the program location, and are expected to emphasize research in the community, including interviews and observation.  At the end of the program, students typically prepare written reports and present their projects to the group.  Students are encouraged to formulate projects to fit their individual interests and/or their program of study at their home campus.


Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Student Life

Take advantage of all there is to see in China! During your time abroad, you can participate in extracurricular activities, cultural events, and day trips organized through the International Students Office at East China Normal University (ECNU).

Activities organized by the ACM Visiting Faculty Director may include a walking city tour through the French Concession, visiting a park to watch a dance competition, or learning to make soup dumplings. Each term, the ECNU office also organizes a weekend excursion to another city, such as Hangzhou, Nanjing, or Beijing.

You’ll explore other parts of China through additional day trips and a three-day field trip planned by the Visiting Faculty Director. Students have a week-long holiday break and are free to travel independently.

Housing and Meals

ACM students live in international residence halls for undergraduate international students at East China Normal University (ECNU), in double occupancy rooms, with a public shared bathroom.  A laundry room is available for student use.

Meals are not included in the program fee. Students may choose to eat their meals in one of the student cafeterias or in the local neighborhood. 

Financial Information

For all programs, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee.  The program fee for the ACM Shanghai program includes orientation, housing, several day excursions, and insurance.  Meals are not included.

Here is an estimated budget for your Fall 2018 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee 


Program Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


Program Deposit (non-refundable)




Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, books, supplies, personal expenses, additional travel, etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2018. for the 2017/2018 academic year. Deposits to other programs, if required, will appear as a credit on your study abroad term bill.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate.

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  Students studying in China are highly competitive for Gilman and Boren awards, among others!

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this, will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.