Things I Wish I Knew Before I Studied in China…part 2

fast foodComing to China can be a little bit daunting but also exciting as you travel in to the unknown. Most people do a bit of research before they take their flight to prepare themselves for what to expect. We have learned that China is nothing like what people expect! Read about what I learned after my arrrival and a few things I wish I knew before I studied abroad in China!. Be sure to read part one of my two-part reflection!





9. Shopping can be embarrassing

Are you anything bigger than a size extra small in your home country? Then get ready for the most awkward shopping experience of your life. #BrightsideAlert Non-Chinese speakers will be THANKFUL at the market for their lack of linguistic prowess- you won’t understand when the shopkeepers are shouting back and forth about not carrying anything “that big” or laughing when you ask for your size. Talk about a slap in the (apparently since I am larger than a toothpick) fat face!

10. Don't pack anything white

Be it soupy noodles, brushing up against…anything, or simply washing your clothes in China’s water, your precious, pearly white clothes will soon be replaced by a pack of dingy, grey has-been’s. Save yourself the cost of bleach and don’t pack anything you’d like to keep nice.

11. Get used to oily food 

Don’t be surprised if your stomach takes a day or two or ten to adjust to the unusual amounts of oil present in most Chinese food dishes. They are delicious indeed but can do a little number on your tummy…

12. Taking classes in Chinese requires more concentration than I knew I had

What a mental work out Chinese classes can be! After 4 hours of truly active listening (no zoning out allowed!), your brain will feel like it just ran a knowledge-marathon. After spending so many long mornings in lessons, I ALWAYS needed an afternoon nap, simply to give my mind a daily recharge. Don’t be put off if classes are difficult to adapt to in the beginning – you’ll get there before you know it.

chinese tourists13. You think Chinese tourists are bad abroad?

Chinese tourists are everrrrywhere. If you find droves of Chinese people to be difficult to manoeuvre around back in your home country, you’re in for a real treat when you visit local attractions around China. They’re even more animated here in China than abroad as they generally know how things work (and speak the language). Which leads me to my next point… 

14. Sometimes you become the attraction

The Chinese living in the city you are studying in will probably not hardly blink an eye at you. However, when you go to anywhere of cultural or historical significance (Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, etc) you are bound to run into a number of people who have not seen many foreign people in their lifetime. So bust out that smile, hold that baby and get ready to have innumerable photos taken of you by strangers.

15. Avoid western food cravings

I would’ve saved a whole lot of money should I have avoided most of my western food cravings. The more you model your lifestyle after the local Chinese, certainly the more your wallet will thank you (though I’m not as sure about your waistline). The reality is that you can find western food in China, but if you’re really craving something, caving in and ordering it at a restaurant will probably only lead to disappointment. And more cravings. If you’re not willing to shell out a good chunk of change at a fancy restaurant in the expat part of town, you’re going to regret buying that pizza (with no cheese) or that hamburger (with corn on it?) etc.

16. Coming with a program is worth the extra $$

I definitely underestimated the upfront challenges to overcome when I chose to study in China without a study abroad program provider. The difficulties started AT THE AIRPORT, when I couldn’t find a cabbie who would charge me a fair fare. Finding housing was an absolute nightmare (foreigner’s taxes, sketchy landlords, everything done in cash and signing contracts in Mandarin?), opening a bank account felt like defeating the Trojans (I guess that lesson on going to the yinhang 银行 didn’t set me up for success), figuring out where to take my placement exam, register, and get sorted for classes were all things I had to coordinate independently. Yowza! With the help of a few angels (and many strokes of luck) I survived the entire adjustment process, but in hindsight, I wish I would have allowed a provider to coordinate all these shenanigans so I could’ve spent less time being stressed and more time soaking up the culture and having fun.

So there you have it. A round-out of all the little nooks and crannies I would’ve appreciated being prepped for prior to my experience abroad. Some of these may resonate with you, while others may make you think “Duh, what did you expect?!” No matter what, studying China is a great adventure full of the unexpected. So sit back, grab your jianbing, and enjoy the ride!



 In-Depth-China      CSA-blog



  • Beijing

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    3610 Capital Mansions,
    6 Xinyuan Nan Road, Chaoyang
    Beijing, 100027
    Phone: (+86) 10 8468 3799 
  • London

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    154 Bishopsgate
    London EC2M 4LN
    United Kingdom
    Phone: (+44) 0207 377 84 
  • Hong Kong

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    Rm 604-7 Dominion Centre
    43-59 Queen’s Road East
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (+852) 800 968 924 


f-grey t-grey

Our Newsletter