Tips you need to know before going to China

Some tips to consider before going to China:

  1. Bring your own toilet paper everywhere you go. There is no toilet paper in public restroom like in restaurants, at Beiwai, or at some touristic places.
  2. Don’t drink the water directly from the faucet. Boil it or buy mineral water.
  3. For Chinese people is uncommon to drink cold water or water with ice. If you want some cold water some restaurant offer cold bottle of water.
  4. Bring hand sanitizer with you because some restaurant don’t provide customer soap.
  5. If you are planning to go to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, or other touristic places that you need to buy a ticket, bring your student ID, some places give discount for students.
  6. When buying stuff from street vendors, if they see that you are foreign some try to charge you more than the normal price so be aware of that.
  7. No need to pay tips in restaurant so don’t expect the same customer service from the waitress like in the USA.

Well for now these are the tips I remember. I will continue to update if I recall something else. ^^

Beijing, China

Going to China was a dream I had since I was a little girl. I wanted so bad to go to my parent’s country, to get to know that place they talk so much about in their childhood stories.  With the U of L China study abroad program we got to go Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, and Shangdong. We studied Mandarin at the Beijing Foreign Studies University, also known as Beiwai. The Mandarin program was very intensive compare to what we studied at U of L.  The program consist of 18 hours per week and two parts: oral and written Chinese. Not all the lessons was in the classroom, we got to do projects outside in the park interviewing Chinese people or going to a Book Fair so we can practice speaking and listening our Mandarin. At the back side of the building where we were having our classes, students also called it the street through the small east gate, there was a lot restaurant you can choose and during the night the street is transform to a vivid night life. There are many street vendors selling kebab (vegetable, meat or bread in stick that they fried it), clothes (some of them come with their cars and they park on the sidewalk and start selling the clothes available in their trunk), accessories, and many other things.  Beside studying we went to many touristic places like: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Lama Temple, the Silk Market in Beijing, the Bund and the Wanfujing street in Shanghai, the Silk Factory and the Gardens in Suzhou, the Confucius Temple and his graveyard in Shangdong. We stayed in Shanghai for one week and in Beijing for four weeks. In Beijing the public transportation is very convenient you can take the bus or the subway to go anywhere you want. Just be very careful when crossing the street because people there drive like crazy. Pedestrian doesn’t come first instead cars go first and then you second. Another thing is that you are going to walk a lot, my dorm was located in the west campus and in the six floor, my classes was in the east campus in the fourth floor and from my dorm to my classroom was about 15 min if you walk in a fast pace, but because I am a slow walker it took me about 20 to 25 min to walk to my classes if I walk alone. Now that I am in Louisville at least I feel healthier ^^. About the sport section on campus there are plenty of places to workout, there is a gym, a swimming pool, ping pong tables, a track field, basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, and badminton court. Every time I passed by I saw   young people playing sports, older people working out, people doing tai-chi, and the sound of people cheering for their favorite volleyball team. I had the opportunity to play ping pong with my friends and run on the track field. Definitely this was a great experience.

In love with Barcelona!

So I have been in Barcelona for about a month, mas o menos! Barcelona is absolutely amazing.  The people, the culture, the art, the beach, the sights are all beautiful.Amy definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to study abroad.  There is so much to do here.  You will never be bored! I amtraveling through ISA.  They have been super organized and helpful.  A lot of students including myself have used secondary agencies for weekend travel.  Stoke Travel and Bus2alps are both highly recommend.  Sometimes if your organize the trip for a certain number of people, then you can travel for free!






Days Away

With the trip being less than three days away, I can hardly contain my excitement!  The trip to Spain is something I have been dreaming about for a really long time. And now it’s finally here!  Today I received my information about my host family. My host mom’s name is Pura and she has a husband and an 18-year-old son. They apparently live in a spacious apartment and have an Internet connection, which is rare and lucky to have. I can’t believe it’s already time to pack up and leave!  I’m a little nervous about being over there alone and leaving SOS, but I know it will all work out.

Hasta luego,


Espana es Diferente…

I’m finally started to get comfortable in Spain after being here for 2.5 weeks now. It’s definitely different than the U.S. There is so much we take for granted. Just simple things like A/C & water are luxuries here. It’s near impossible to get a cold drink around here because ice is rarely used. Public bathrooms also are nonexistant. If you need to go to the bathroom, you will usually only find them in restaurants, in which case you are going to have to buy something to use it.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a 3rd world country, it’s just different than the U.S. It’s not impossible to get used to, just difficult. Slowly but surely I’m adapting to the culture.

This weekend, I went to Costa Brava with ISA, which is the stretch of coast line that starts north of barcelona and continues all the way to France. It’s absolutely gorgeous. We took a boat up and down the coast line and saw some of the most beautiful houses built into the hills like you typically think of being in Greece or someplace like Cinque Terre. The water was absolutely gorgeous. Torquiose blue.

One of the biggest things I have noticed here is that you walk everywhere. & don’t think taking the metro helps you to avoid the extravagant amounts of walking, it doesn’t. I found that out the hard way. First of all, you have to walk to and from the metro, and you also have to walk several flights of stairs and down many long hallways to even get to the metro…. then you have to walk more when you switch metro lines. Needless to say, it’s impossible to avoid walking when in Barcelona, it’s just an unavoidable part of their life here. On the plus side, I’m getting tons of exercise!

The eating schedule has been one of the hardest things for me to adjust to. They eat a light breakfast as soon as they get up and then don’t eat anything, not even a snack, until lunch around 2 or 3 o clock. Then, one again, they don’t typically snack, and don’t eat dinner until around 10 o clock at night. Sometimes even later!

I’m taking 2 business classes over here (International Business & Cross-Cultural Management). They have been extremely interesting and insightful into the cultural differences between the different countries of the world, and of course the different norms of business and the way it is conducted. The classes have been extremely helpful for gaining insight into the way one should do business with a person of another country. Overall, very valuable to my business education.

I still have 3.5 weeks to go, and I’ve already learned so much about not only the country of Spain, but the people, the culture, and even about myself. It has been an extreme challenge to adapt, but such an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience.

China, here I come

Getting to China is a very long and exhausting process. We arrived at the airport at 5:15am since our flight was at 7:15 and they recommend arriving two hours before international flights. I say we because I am participating in an A&S International diversity program and there are nine students and one U of L professor. The trip is called the summer study abroad in China program. This is the 10th year for this program and we are the largest group thus far. Every student on this trip has studied Chinese for at least two semesters with the exception of one girl who has actually never studied Chinese before. Back to the trip; we flew from Louisville to Chicago and then to Shanghai. The flight from Chicago to Shanghai was around 14 hours nonstop. Thankfully we were flying Delta Airlines, because they have individual entertainment centers for each passenger on certain planes, I’m thinking mostly on the planes reserved for long flights. If you’re not sure what this is, I will explain it to you. So, there are individual T.V. screens mounted in the back of the head rests and each passenger can control their own screen. Through this touch screen you can pick movies, T.V. shows, listen to music, play games, and I’m sure something else that I’m forgetting. I would definitely recommend flying Delta Airlines for long trips. It is so nice to have something to occupy your time on a 14 hour flight, but be sure to get up to stretch and get your blood circulating through your legs often. Upon arriving in Shanghai we had to clear customs, which was rather simple and easy. We only had to wait in line for maybe 5 to 10 minutes before seeing a customs agent. Once we made it to the agent, he just checked our visa and then took a picture of us, and that was pretty much it.
We came to China to study at Beijing Foreign Studies University, but we flew into Shanghai to visit for around five days before going to Beijing. One day we took a trip to nearby SuZhou to visit the silk market and see its canals. The silk market was interesting and educational in a non-boring way. We got to go through the factory and watch the workers in action. We saw every stage of production, from the silk worms themselves all the way to them spreading the silk to make a comforter. At the end of the tour there are a couple of shops where you can buy anything silk at wholesale prices. We also went to the Yuyuan Garden which is an old part of Shanghai where all of the buildings look like what you see in movies that are set in traditional old times. There are many shops and places to eat in this area. We also went the harbor and took a one hour boat cruise. On one side of the harbor is all the modern buildings some of which you might have seen on a postcard or some other picture that represents Shanghai, and on the other side is all the buildings that were built in the early part of 20th century between the last emperor and the current Chinese government. All of these buildings are interesting because they were built by various European countries and you can see the difference in style from one building to the next, e.g. one building built with German architecture and the next with French architecture. After five days of exploring Shanghai we took an 11 hour overnight train ride to Beijing to begin our studies. Each room on the train had two sets of bunk beds. While the beds were not the most comfortable, they are better than the alternative of sleeping in a chair. That’s all of this post, more to follow soon.

Viva La Barca!

So far I have been in Spain for only 10 days, but each day has been amazing.  We (ISA) started out in Madrid, and stayed at the beautiful hotel  NH Nacional.  The hotel is in a great location surrounded by parks, shops and restaurants. That night, we went to a little taberna nearby where we sampled the local paella.  The next day we visited El Museo Prado that houses one of my favorite Velasquez painting.  The day after we headed to the beautiful historic town of Toledo.

After Toledo, we took the nine hour bus ride to Barcelona (I recommend Dramamine for sure).  I am now settled in my fantastic Barcelona apartment.  I definitely recommend staying in apartment or dorm.  Barcelona is a huge city!  There is so much to do and you will never be bored.  You have to check out the beaches.  The further you go from the Barceloneta stop the better.  Gaudi’s masterpiece La Sagrada Familia is a must. Park Guell is also a must do while in Barcelona.  Las Ramblas is one of the main shopping districts filled with great gelato and shops.   I’ll post more spots soon.

Classes are great.  The Econ course is super interesting, but a little fast paced.  International Marketing is great as well.   We are going through a bunch of case studies on local companies.  Overall barcelona is amazing.  Everyone should go at least once, but may never want to leave!