I Went to China for 10 Days and Here’s What I Learned

After traveling around the world and back, with very little sleep and minimal communication to the rest of the world, I can definitely say I have been on a life-changing trip. Going to Beijing, China with my interiors/architecture classmates for a 10-day immersive study course definitely had its pros, but also had its cons. Here are a few of the things I learned while abroad, from common sense tips to larger life lessons.

 

  • Seek Out Advice

Before you travel to a foreign country, talk to someone who has been there before. I got great advice on what to bring, how to act, and what to do for my trip from people who have been to China themselves. Even something as simple as knowing to bring toilet paper or something more serious like writing a translated allergy note becomes a lot handier than anticipated. If you don’t know anyone going to the country in which you are traveling, look up blogs online. I found great first-hand advice that helped in preparation for my trip.

 

  • Learn the Language

This can sound daunting at first, but it is definitely a mistake I made and something from which I hope you can all learn. You don’t have to become fluent in a new language, but learning some basic words, phrases, and sentences can help immensely when communicating with the native people. The only phrase I knew in Chinese was “thank you,” which I used about 50 times a day, but I really wish I had learned a little bit more. It would have made the trip a lot smoother and local traveling a lot faster had I known how to say “Where is the bathroom?” or “Is this the subway line to _____?”

 

  • Do Your Research

I cannot stress this one enough. DO YOUR RESEARCH. And by this, I mean research all of the places you plan on going in advance. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was walking around the Forbidden City and having absolutely no clue what I was looking at. Don’t get me wrong, obviously it was amazing to see and experience in person, but I could have appreciated it SO much more if I knew more about its history or purpose. So, make a list of the places you want to see with bullet points of the basic facts for each spot. Then, when visiting in person, it will become more real and you can genuinely cherish what you are seeing.  

 

  • Go Out of Your Comfort Zone

Studying abroad without your family members is scary as is, especially when it is a country so dissimilar from the one in which you reside. That being said, pushing yourself to new limits doesn’t stop there. The first few days in China, I was so out of my comfort zone that I didn’t even eat anything except for the granola bars I packed and white rice. I know, disappointing. But, once I started immersing myself in the environment, including the culinary experience, I began to really appreciate learning about such a diverse culture from my own. I know it can be uncomfortable. The customs, mannerisms, and personalities are so different from what we are used to. But, don’t look at it in a negative way. Think of it as a unique way of living that you never had the opportunity to explore previously. Now you do. In addition to trying new foods, I visited local residences of people my age. Understanding of how one truly lives in their native environment is so much more eye-opening than just observing it from an outside perspective. So, I encourage you to seek unconventionality over luxury next time you travel, because your curiosity and character will grow so much more as an individual.

 

There is so much more I can talk about from being in China for less than two weeks, so please let me know if there is any related topic I should write about next. As for now, I thought these were the most important things I learned, so I wanted to share them with you all. Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere new, keep these tips in the back of your mind. They can be applicable to everyday life. There is so much culture where you are, even in Lexington, Kentucky. Explore your surroundings. Learn about the people who live in your town. Learn about their families, their heritage, and their way of living. You will be surprised how fulfilling it can be. We are so small in this world, yet can absorb so much knowledge and culture. Take advantage of any opportunity to soak up the world outside of your bubble—it will create lasting memories that you can share with your children and grandchildren, and it will give you an appreciation of the world and all its beauty.

 

 

Body photo provided by Jillian Deneroff