After MUCH struggle with the Chinese Visa office in D.C., I’m finally approved to go to Shanghai! I’ll be there for 2 months and will be working at the Oriental Danology Institute, which is a non-profit, independent think-tank based in Shanghai. Not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous about the whole process of arriving there. I’ve taken many plane trips within the U.S., but this will be my first international one and alone at that. I know it can be done since my roommate routinely travels internationally by herself, but it seems like a daunting task for someone who has less than 48 hours to prepare. I’m mostly concerned about phone coverage, as I will have limited to no access to my normal calling and texting functions while traveling abroad. You don’t realize how integral your cell has become until it is rendered somewhat useless (aside from wi-fi). I acquired a VPN through my school, but have never used one and am interested to see how it functions once I’m in Shanghai.
I went to the currency exchange place today to convert some USD into CNY. That way I’ll have some local cash and not have to pay the extra fees at the airport conversion stations (as I’ve been warned not to do by locals and friends who have traveled to China). I also filled a prescription at the pharmacy so I can have it just in case I need it while I’m abroad since filling prescriptions in China seems near impossible.
I reached out to Lily, the former Shanghai Summer blogger, since she had interned at ODI as well last year and got a helpful overview of what working there was like for her (shout out to her baller tips). I’m excited for home-cooked lunches and working with the directors in a low-key environment. Being recently hired to be a sustainability intern for my home university, I think this experience will be a good precursor to the work I’ll be doing on campus next fall.
In less than 48 hours, I’ll be boarding my flight to Toronto and then to Shanghai, which is a crazy reality. I’ll hopefully be able to provide more interesting photos for the blog at that point.
Catch y’all on the flipside.
P.S. Here is the knowledge I have gained through my less-than-ideal visa application process. I hope someone will benefit from this experience in the future.
Getting Your Chinese Visa Tips
- Best to be there as soon as it opens or get there as late as possible to reduce wait time. That being said, it’s very possible this will be a full-day trip, so don’t go on a day that you have any other time-specific obligations.
- Locate the nearest Starbucks/place with Wi-Fi and outlets (there weren’t any in the waiting room I was in).
- Talk to strangers! Sounds crazy, but hey, you’re all going to be there a while, might as well hear what they’re doing there. There’s really a wide variety of fascinating stories and reasons people are there and you may even be able to make a new friend/local connection for when you’re in the new and unfamiliar country.
- Make copies of EVERYTHING just in case (e.g. every passport you’ve ever been issued, even if expired). If you’re hesitating and don’t think you’ll need it, do it because it is far better to be overprepared than running back and forth between the printing office (that charges crazy high prices) and the embassy window.
- Courier service might be worth it if you’re short on time/live far away. I would strongly recommend looking into this option if you’re considering it before you go down yourself (save yourself time/headache).
- There will probably be extra service fees and random surprise costs, so be prepared to estimate at least $20 more than the listed fee when budgeting for the trip.
- Don’t take “no” for an answer. You can’t be a pushover with these folks, you gotta grow a tough skin and be willing to ask them questions until you get/figure out what you need. Besides, you waited like everyone else and deserve to take some of their time.
- Web information may be outdated, try to contact the embassy/consulate directly to get their specific requirements ASAP.
- Plan how you’re going to get to the embassy ahead of time (bus, subway, cab, Uber, etc.) so you don’t have to stress that part at least.