One of the awesome things about going abroad with IES is the (approximately) two-week long trip that you take with your classmates. Its a great way to get to know your classmates as well as your host country, beyond the city you study in. For someone who is inexperienced in this type of travel (essentially, backpacking), a few tips for this trip can be really helpful:
-Bring only what you can carry. This is REALLY REALLY important. One duffel bag or backpack is really all that you should have. You may have to walk long distances with your backpack and not everywhere you stay will have an elevator.
-On the same note, also only bring things that you absolutely need. Of these things, hand sanitizer is of the utmost importance. Laundry soap is a necessity as well. Remember, you can re-wear clothes more than you think and you definitely WILL have the opportunity to wash them, and clothes do take up a good deal of space. You’ll be kicking yourself when you arrive at your destination in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather with 3 extra shirts, but no coat.
-Take advantage of “hotel time.” Wash your clothes first thing so that they have time to dry. Don’t take a shower first because if you’re washing your clothes in hot water, you may get a little sweaty. Take a shower every time the opportunity presents itself. I can’t tell you the number of times I told myself I’d take a shower later only to learn at the time that I had decided to take a shower that there was no hot water, or in one particular instance, no water at all. You’re not always going to be in an industrialized modernized part of the country, so access to many of the luxuries you enjoy at your host family or at your dorm are always going to be available. Charge all your electronics as well. Also, wake up early enough for the free breakfast because sometimes you may not get to eat again for a while.
-准备好了！Be prepared! Check the weather forecast before you go. You may be surprised at the vast weather difference between your host city and the cities you travel to. Be sure to bring a rain coat as well!
-A lot of the time you’re traveling, you will be… well, traveling. Books, ipods and other things to entertain yourself will be indispensable for those 20-odd hour train rides or 5 hour long bus rides.
The trip is (hopefully!) one of the most fun experiences you will have in your program, so with these tips, hopefully you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on enjoying yourself rather than regretting how you packed or spent your time.
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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);">Alexis Cobau is a Junior at the University of Michigan, majoring in Chinese and International Studies with a concentration in International security, cooperation and norms. She is excited to be returning to China for the first time since her original foray into study abroad in Harbin, China on an NSLI-Y State Department scholarship as a rising senior in High School. This will be her sixth year studying Chinese and she can't wait to spend it exploring Beijing. When not practicing her Chinese characters and tones, Alexis enjoys reading, writing, drawing and cooking.</span></p>