So as I just looked through a bunch of my photos from my trip thus far, it hit me that I have traveled to five different cities throughout China these past 8 weeks. When I initially began the trip I had no intentions of leaving Beijing and diverging from the campus and districts I knew as I feared not knowing the language, the bus system, how to buy tickets,.. as you can see many different things that are necessary to traveling throughout a foreign country. However, throughout my first four weeks here, I was amazed with how much Chinese I had learned to be able to read signs, hold conversations (not too in depth, I’m talking very basic), and buy things! This new knowledge gave me the confidence to see what more this incredible country has to offer. And trust me…….. boy, does it have amazing things to offer. At the half way point, we get an oppurtunity to travel with friends for our long weekend break: IF YOU CAN, I RECOMMEND TRAVELING TO A DIFFERENT CITY!! The program does an amazing job of offering pre-planned trips but you can also find a crew and make your own itinerary. I had went with a pre-organized group to Hangzhou and Huangshan, two beautiful and different cities. This trip was something that allowed to create new friendships, hear people’s story’s, try out a different city’s famous food, and see more of the country. Warning: This trip included a lot of hiking, but trust me the view is worth it. The tour guides map out your 5 days to the max and really make sure you get your time and money’s worth. It was so nice to not have to stress about planning, meals, or transportation. (Top of Yellow Mountain)
After this weekend and long discussion with my family about how much I loved seeing a different city, I was fortunate enough to have my family come to Shanghai for a weekend visit. For those of you who are missing a metropolis full of shops, amazing food, and skyscrapers- Shanghai is the move. I am from NY (and will forever argue it is one of the best places ever) and didn’t think I would think I could love a city as much as NYC, but… Shanghai, is definitely hai up there (see, what I did there? ;)) Here, I highly recommend going to the Shanghai Tower (2nd tallest building in the world), the Yu Garden (STUNNING), the French Concession (amazing pastries and COFFEEEEEEEE :D), walking the Bund, and shopping on Nanjing Road!
(Top of Shanghai Tower & the Yu Garden)
One Friday, we had off from afternoon class and friends and I decided to go to Xi’an. This is another MUST SEE in China. Beautiful, historical, and one of the only cities that still has their city wall in tact. Those of you who do this, I recommend biking the City Wall at sunset, absolutely beautiful. Terra-cotta Warriors is a classic as well as the Hot Springs that is en route to the Warriors. There are famous Biang Biang noodles and dumplings that Xi’an is famous for, alongside other street food that all tastes incredibly tasty. For Xi’an, we did without tour guides and just asked local people for suggestions for places to go, and I do not regret this decision at all. I felt that this was truly an authentic experience of being immersed in the local culture. Muslim Street, near the Drum and Bell Towers (two other cool sites), is packed with street food and people which is a little overwhelming but a lot of fun to experience!! (Jumping rocks at the Hot Springs & Terracotta Warriors)
Overall, my suggestion to those studying in China: focus on your studies and remember to take advantage of what the country has to offer. Do not let the free weekends go by watching Netflix in bed. Explore.