This is my first post for the Beijing Language Intensive program, and I’m so thrilled to share my upcoming travels with you all!
Because this is my second time bound for 大中国 and I’ve got a bit of international travel under my belt, I thought I’d share some packing guidelines for my first post. I don’t believe in master packing lists, as everyone has different needs and preferences when they travel internationally, but I will share with you some of my personal tried-and-true packing tips as I prepare for these four months abroad.
ZipLock bags are useful for just about every aspect of packing. Most people tuck toiletries into sandwich-sized ZipLock bags to prevent spills, but the larger sizes are also helpful for compressing clothes. (Shoutout to my mom for this tip.) I managed to pack almost my entire wardrobe into 2-gallon bags and vacuum-able space-saving bags. Be sure to stock up before your next trip!
Most smart travelers will tell you to bring as few toiletries abroad as possible. When it comes to China, I’ll add this caveat: China is famously, terribly polluted, and you may encounter mild health problems as a result. In my opinion, if you need specific products to keep your skin, hair, or overall health in check, prioritize your packing so that you can bring them. You can find many Western beauty brands in China but you may not be able to find the exact product you like. (For example, you may discover that what appears to be your favorite face moisturizer is actually your favorite face moisturizer plus a skin lightener. Pale skin is a popular beauty ideal in China.) Western vitamin brands are also difficult to find, so if you take vitamins regularly, I recommend bringing enough to last you for the entire duration of your trip.
This one is easy to forget when you’re packing for a semester abroad. Exchanging gifts when meeting a new friend, host family, business partner, or relative is custom, and it is important to bring a supply of small gifts to China. (You can expect them in return.) Gifts that I have brought and have seen given include t-shirts from one’s university or hometown, coffee table books, bottles of wine, homemade jam, and American candy. American ginseng root is also valued in China. And as I mentioned before, high-quality nutritional supplements like fish oil, ginkgo extract, and multivitamins are hard to find in China. Strange though it may seem, these make great gifts for elderly friends. It is most important to bring something that is hard to find in China—if you buy gifts after you arrive, your new friends will recognize that you are giving them something Chinese-made.
That’s it for my first post! I hope you all enjoyed. Included below is a short video of my time spent in the San Francisco airport before departing for Beijing! See you soon, 中国!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hi! My name is Alexa Penton and I'm an undergrad at the University of Mississippi pursuing degrees in Chinese Language and Culture and Art History. I started photography as a hobby in high school, and have since expanded my collection to 10 film cameras and one digital. Most of my photos and videos document my travels at home and abroad. I am particularly inspired by the qualities of light, memories, natural history, nontraditional developing practices, and nontraditional portraiture. I call Orlando, Florida home, but can't wait to spend a whole semester living and learning in Beijing!</span></p>