You’ve signed up for a program in China! Now, how do you prepare for your trip? Check out these five suggestions from our staff and students.
1. Learn About the Language and Culture of China
Your Chinese culture exchange experience starts now! It’s time to start learning the basics of Chinese language and culture. Any survival vocabulary you are able to master before arriving will greatly enhance your experience in China and help you build relationships with Chinese students. Podcasts that you can listen to while you drive and apps that you can use to practice during your free time are great places to begin. Don’t be worried about sorting through the multitude of resources out there! Click here and here to find reviews written by our current students and staff to get a head start on learning the language.
A great way to begin learning about the culture is to familiarize yourself with the city you will soon call home. Our program is located in Xi’an’s University City District. Xi’an, as the capital of 13 imperial Chinese dynasties and the starting point of the Silk Road, has played a significant role throughout Chinese history. Earlier blogs (“Why Xi’an?” and “What is a University City?”) give you insight on why we love this city! We also recommend reading on China and cross-cultural communication. Here is a list of our suggestions.
“The best way to learn about the culture is to make a Chinese friend!”David, Spring 2018 SRS Student
2. Apply for Your Chinese Visa
If you are joining a short-term group trip, you will have someone aiding you in the visa application process. However, if you are coming on your own, you need to begin applying for a visa two months before you arrive. If you have yet to get a passport, you will need to start the process sooner. Apply for your passport three months prior to your departure. Once you have received your passport, follow the steps explained here. We recommend using or consulting with a visa service agency like My China Visa to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.
“Don’t get anxious! Just keep taking one more step until it’s done!”Andy, Spring 2018 SRS Student
3. Plan for Communication with Friends and Family
For many of you, this experience will be the farthest and longest time away from your home country. The separation from family and friends is one of the most challenging things for students abroad. Our staff believes minimal communication with family and friends back home helps short-term students adjust more quickly to life in China and maximize time building relationships with local people. However, it is still important to have a plan for communication. Facebook, Google, and other communication platforms popular in other countries are blocked here in China. Still, there are reliable apps that you will be able to access. You can also use blocked mediums using a VPN. Click here and here to find more information about VPNs. Some of our students’ favorite ways to communicate with friends and family back home include Skype, iMessage, Facetime, and Signal. Our students and staff use WeChat for everyday communication in China and for its many other useful features, including mobile payment options. Find greater detail about communication in “Guide to Social Media and Communication in China” (coming soon).
“Internet is faster in the morning! That is a good time for video calls with family and friends.”Shea, Spring 2018 SRS Student
4. Prepare Yourself Mentally and Emotionally
China can, at times, be an overwhelming place for foreigners. Prepare yourself to approach all situations with a flexible, humble, and positive attitude. Don’t expect the same level convenience and comfort as back home. Celebrate and embrace cultural differences without wasting energy complaining about or comparing what is better or worse in another country. Check out the books “Foreign to Familiar” and “Culture Map” to find helpful advice for navigating common cross-cultural issues. If you approach the culture with this kind of positive attitude, we believe you will find it easy to make friends and many of you will fall in love with China and want to come back!
“Don’t have too many expectations. Things will always turn out differently from what you expect.”Student, Spring 2018
5. Pack Your Bags
Many of the questions we receive before students arrive for our program revolve around what to pack and what not to pack. Don’t stress about this one! Remember, most consumer goods in our home countries are “Made in China” and can be found for a reasonable price here. A basic understanding of the climate will inform your clothing packing. More clothes will be needed for Xi’an cold winters than its famously hot summers. See our post, “What Do I Pack?” for more info on this topic.
“Don’t wait until the night before!”Ashley, Spring 2018 SRS Student
Following this advice will help you be prepared for an amazing time in China! Many students who come on a short-term trip fall in love with the city and begin making plans to come back for a longer stay. As you continue your journey, you may find yourself wondering what it would look like to come back for semester studies or to teach English. Feel free to contact us with any questions!
Have any other tips or tricks you’d like to suggest? Leave us a comment!
加油！ Jia you!