When moving to any new city, one of the biggest adjustments is finding your "go-to" places for even the most basic things. Grocery stores, good restaurants, and peaceful study spaces are among the most important locations when it comes to making a new place feel (somewhat) like home. While it's fun to explore new places, during a busy week researching a new spot or riding the 地铁（subway) for an hour, just isn't practical. Here's a quick list of spots to find right away for the days where you're pressed for time:
1. Grocery Stores, otherwise known as 超市(Chaoshi)
Chaoshi's in China usually have two floors: one for fresh food such as vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy products, etc. and one for non-perishable items. They also will often have separate sections for things like stationary and school supplies, shampoo and soap, household items, etc. There are three chaoshi's within a five-minute walk of my dorm and each have their specialty. Some are better for snacks, some for personal care products and some for buying things in bulk. Most of the time they're pretty hidden and look smaller from the outside than they actually are. It took me over a month to find out there was a Chaoshi on campus in the basement of a dorm building. Keep an eye out!
2. The Usual Place, otherwise known as 成都小吃 (Chengduxiaoshi)
My friend, Andrew, found this place walking around during the first or second week. It's right around the corner from the back gate of campus and has quickly become our usual lunch spot. It looks a little run-down from the outside and the quarters are tight, especially during lunch and dinner rushes, but the food is delicious and cheap. Best of all is the couple that runs the place. The wife takes on the role of waitress and cashier and her husband works in back cooking up the food. She's always smiling and willing to help (even when our Chinese is bad or when our party has a bunch of dietary restrictions). I recommend the Mapo Tofu（麻婆豆腐）and Xiaochaoniurou （小炒牛肉）, but honestly, it's hard to go wrong here.
3. 7 Fruit
There are a couple dozen smoothie places near campus, but 7 fruit is by far the best. They have a wide selection of fruit smoothies as well as milkshakes, milk teas, and even some coffee-type drinks. Their portions are huge, so I recommend getting a standard as opposed to a large (unless you wanna share). My default flavor is mango for almost everything in China, but their chocolate whirlwind isn't bad either. It's a perfect spot if you want something sweet and filling in between classes.
4. Old Bike Cafe
If you're looking to get your fix of some American foods (think pizza, mac and cheese, milkshakes, etc.) or just want a place off campus to sit and study, this is where you want to go. The prices are a little high compared to other Chinese places, but for western food it's reasonable. Their playlist is also a hit--lots of songs that will bring you back to eighth grade (All-American Rejects anyone?), but won't make you cringe. So far it's the closest thing I've found to a real diner-style milkshake.
5. A Party Place- PBD's
Whenever we've had a special occasion to celebrate (birthdays, last day of midterms, Fridays, etc.) this has been our place. It's between the back gate of BFSU's East Campus and the subway stop. There's a good mix of both Chinese students and other foreigners that come here, so it's a good place to mingle. It has the dimly lit hole-in-the-wall vibe that makes it a cool place to dance or just chill with some friends. The staff is the friendly and okay with both large and small groups. They serve pizza, sandwiches and a wide variety of beverages, which makes it good when everyone is feeling like having something different.
6. Stationary Shop
Though the Chaoshi's do sell notebooks and pens, there are plenty of smaller places that specialize in stationary. Not only are they cheaper, but also they're usually much cuter and have a wider variety. There are two separate ones in the same basement one of the Chaoshi's is in and both have books for practicing character writing, birthday cards, planners, etc. Compared to prices in America, they're cheap and are really good quality. I'm definitely going to stock up before I head back home.
7. A bookstore that sells books in English, otherwise known as Bookworm 老书虫
Getting to this one is a bit of a hike, but if you're a big reader, it's a must-know place. It's near the Sanlitun Ditie stop and in addition to selling books in English, they also offer a book ordering service. I haven't used it, but several of my friend have had a lot of success ordering novels. They'll give you a notice when the books arrive and then all you have to do is pick them up. There's also a clearance table where they have a 5 books for 100-kuai deal. If you're in the area it's worth checking out and if you're looking for a place farther off campus to study, I definitely recommend it.
Needless to say, you'll find plenty of other places while you're studying abroad (and you should! It's a blast), but hopefully this list will give you an idea of a few places to start. Studying abroad is about doing someone out-of-the-ordinary, but you will get busy and having reliable fallbacks can make a hectic week a little less stressful.
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<p>My name is Kelly Cunningham and I am a Chinese Studies and English major at DePaul University. I love everything about languages-reading them, writing with them, speaking them, etc. I'm studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>