You’ve selected your program, researched its location, packed your bags, and are ready to leave. Is there anything else left to do?
Actually, yes! Studying abroad in China, while life-changing, can serve a few curve balls to the student who isn’t prepared. Here’s what you need to consider before your semester begins.
1. Pack basic over-the-counter medications
It needs to be said: most students need the help of upset stomach medication such as Pepto-Bismol at least once during their stay in China. Your stomach adjusts to the new diet in a
way that may give you discomfort, and this medication will lessen the suffering.
Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and antihistamines such as Cetirizine are also good additions to your packing list.
2. Carry a copy of your passport and keep the real one in your place of residence
The fact that foreigners are targets for pick pocketing is an unfortunate reality. Losing your passport to a pickpocketer would be a headache, especially because you’d also have to replace
your student VISA.
In order to avoid this problem, carry your real passport only when traveling to places that require it (airports, hotels, and certain tourist attractions).
3. Keep tissues and hand sanitizer at hand
Many public restrooms do not provide tissue paper, and some may not even have soap. This tip will keep you happily sanitized.
4. Download Baidu Maps for accurate GPS navigation
Google and Apple Maps simply can’t compare to Baidu’s helpfulness when it comes to finding your way around China.
5. Make sure your taxi driver sets the taxi meter before he starts driving and ask for a receipt after your ride is over
The meter calculates how much you owe the driver and ensures that you are being charged a fair amount.
The receipt gives you the taxi company’s contact information, which helps you retrieve anything you may have left in the cab. It also discourages the driver from giving you counterfeit money as he knows you will be able to make him accountable for it.
6. Consider setting up a Chinese bank card
Note: You’ll need a Chinese SIM card to apply for a bank card. Chinese bank cards make you eligible for WeChat Pay, a popular online payment platform. If this doesn’t work for you, Alipay, another popular payment platform, accepts many American bank cards.
7. Keep small bills for transportation or gate fees
This tip is especially crucial for students who don’t use WeChat Pay. Some buildings and apartment complexes charge 1-2 ¥ for entering/leaving outside of a designated time period. It would be unfortunate to be stuck in this situation with only 100¥ bills!
Small bills also come in handy when contributing to group taxi fares and meals, as it isn’t customary in China to split the receipt.
8. When visiting a tourist attraction, ask the ticket office if they offer a discount (xué shēng dǎ zhé) for student IDs
Many tourist attractions let students buy tickets for 50% off.
9. Enjoy your time!
College students are often intimidated by the idea of studying in China. However, once you get there, the experience is truly unforgettable and the semester(s) will fly by. As long as you exercise normal precautions and keep an open mind, your study abroad experience will be truly enriching!
Grace Lu is an alumni of the Chengdu, China program. She is an International Studies major at Texas A&M University.