Hello Readers! My name is Caroline and this fall I will be studying abroad in Beijing, China with ACC Hamilton. I currently have 15 days until my September 1st departure. This pre-departure blog serves two purposes: to introduce myself and my program, and to prepare future study abroad students for the pre-departure process.
I am a junior in the College majoring in Government & Chinese, and minoring in Korean. I’m originally from Orlando, FL and this will be my first time going to China! In addition to my fall semester in Beijing, I will also be spending the spring in Seoul, South Korea. My program in China, ACC Hamilton, is a rigorous language program during which I will study only Mandarin and will take a language pledge to speak only Chinese all semester. Although somewhat intimidated, I’m excited for the challenge and the promise of solid improvement of my language ability.
This summer has been spent in The Waiting Place, unconsciously counting down the days until my departure on September 1. Everyone I’ve talked to about my upcoming plans asks “are you nervous/scared?” So far, I’ve only been excited. With all the excited energy building up, I just want to do something productive. I’ve made an endless amount of lists: to-do lists, packing lists, shopping lists, etc. However, you quickly find there are few (fun) things you can do to prepare to leave. Although OGE provides adequate information for pre-departure, I have a couple tips about my experience accomplishing a few couple essential to-dos in the months before leaving.
Before You Go:
- Visa: I had this idea that ordering a visa took forever and was a massive hassle. I was happy to find out that I was totally wrong! I ordered my visa through Travisa in late May. I received my passport with my visa just over a week after shipping Travisa my paperwork. Although getting my visa went by without a hitch, it did ultimately cost an impressive $277.20 which includes cost of the visa, the Travisa service fee, and overnight shipping to Travisa and back.
- Flights: I obsessively checked flights all summer in hopes of getting the cheapest tickets. Although we are advised to get tickets with flexible cancellation/change policies, I found these tickets are usually twice the price of the cheapest choices. I ended up booking my tickets on United on June 29, just about 2 months prior to my departure, for around $1250. The cheapest tickets fluctuated between $1000 and $1400, hitting their lowest price a couple weeks prior to when I booked my itinerary.
- Phone: I’ve heard the best method for having a smart phone in China is to use an unlocked phone from the US and then replace the US SIM card with a Chinese one once in China. I’ll be trying that so we’ll see how that goes.
In the past few days, we have started receiving a stream of emails with information about our arrival and what to expect the first week of the program. It’s finally dawning on me that I am actually leaving for China in 2 weeks. Quite honestly, I feel slightly underprepared to take on Beijing. I haven’t found many online resources that tell me what’s hip and cool in the city, unlike the multitude of resources for Seoul. Most things I’ve heard about Beijing haven’t been particularly positive- the terrifying traffic, the oppressive pollution, the government censorship- but I know once I get there I’ll find out the positive points for myself. What I do know is that I love the history, language, and culture of China, and these interests will help me embrace Beijing in all its successes and flaws. For now, Beijing is my mountain to move, and I only have 15 days until I am off to that Great Place.