When someone talks about traveling abroad, you don’t consider China in your top 10 countries. However, this summer I spent two months in Beijing for an internship and there were so many things I didn’t expect or know how to prepare for. Some of these experiences were once in a lifetime opportunities while other things were a little more stressful.
Before you book your flight make sure you have applied for your visa and have your passport ready to go. Landing in Beijing can be one of those stressful experiences if you are on your own as I was. Make sure that you get in a marked yellow cab because there are many people that will take your luggage and bring you to an illegal cab.
This happened to me and I was charged almost triple the regular amount. Be aware of your surrounding and try to stay in a group if that is possible. Find someone to be friends with who can speak the language if you can’t speak it yourself. While you can get by without knowing Mandarin, it is best to try to learn the language as you go along.
As the minority in China, I had to be on the lookout for people who wanted to take advantage of me. This could be people on the street trying to sell things or going into stores where you have to haggle the price of an item.
Although not everyone is out to get you. I was often asked to take pictures with people because of my fair skin. In one instance, two little girls told me I looked beautiful and wanted to take selfies with me.
One thing I didn’t expect once I settled in was all of the expats that live and work in the city alongside their Chinese coworkers. During my internship at China Daily, the largest English speaking publication in the country, I became close with three employees from the UK as well as another from Scotland. It is easy to find people that you can explore with by going on sites such as Reddit or even Bumble.
Not everything is stressful when traveling in China though. There are so many new foods to try in Beijing. While I was there I tried peking duck, a donkey burger and jianbing, which is one of China’s most popular street foods. Some things that can come along with the dining culture are drinking water hot, not tipping your server and eating with chopsticks.
The hardest adjustment was the 12-hour time difference. Changing my schedule took time, patience and a lot of sleepless nights, but in the end, it is worth it for the cultural knowledge that comes with traveling to China.
Along with the unexpected comes the wonderfully planned trips to the Great Wall, Forbidden City and, depending on your location, the Terracotta Warriors. There are so many great things to learn about and explore in this country, I strongly encourage visiting after you’ve done your research.
I got to travel from Beijing to the Great Wall with a group of coworkers that in the end became very close friends. Once you reach the wall it is an awe-inspiring sight. Looking out over the terrain you can imagine all the hard work that went into building this wonder of the world.
While you might not consider China as your first travel option, it certainly shouldn’t be your last because there are so many experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.