kidding… Since it’s snowing (more like slushing) in Seattle and I’m all cooped up inside reading about other people’s amazing study abroad adventures that have already begun, I decided that I should share my master plan to explore as much of China as humanly possible. I thought I’d write out a detailed itinerary complete with pictures and videos to keep myself…. I mean… all of you entertained.
My program doesn’t begin until February 1st because the Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is on January 23rd- It’s the year of the dragon!
I was born in the year of the sheep (1991)
So instead of being a bored little sheep in Seattle I decided to visit my friend Monica (her English name) in Seoul! Monica studied abroad at GWU for a full year last year and has agreed to host me in Korea! So my trip begins January 26th.
I will arrive in Seoul January 27th and stay with Monica in her apartment in Seongdonggu Hangdangdong, Seoul (quite a mouthful right?) for two nights. For the remaining three nights I will stay at Seoul Myeongdong House. Myeongdong is one of the main shopping districts in Seoul and I’m excited to test out my English bargaining before I have to do it in Chinese! In Seoul I hope to see the sights as well as experience many different aspects of Korean culture.
Here is a list of some of the things I hope to see and do in Seoul:
- Visit a palace
- See the traditional wooden Bukchon Village
- Go to a bustling Korean market and try my hand at bargaining
- Have a Korean FEAST.
- Dance the Korean way at one of Seoul’s many night clubs
- Go to a night market!
- Karaoke!! (maybe.)
On February 1st I will depart Seoul and head to Beijing! I looked into taking a train but I forgot about the whole traveling through North Korea thing…. Fun fact, there actually IS a new train that connects South Korea to China, but it does not have running trains due to the increased tensions between North and South Korea. Even if the trains WERE working, I wouldn’t be able to take one anyway because Americans are not allowed to enter North Korea by train (only by plane).
No train for you!
I’ve known I wanted to study abroad in Beijing for a while. Beijing is the political and cultural capital of China. Not only does it contain many important historical sights such as the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall; Beijing is also the current political capital and the standard for the Mandarin Chinese language. It is the second largest city (behind Shanghai) with almost 20 million people JEEEZ! To compare the city of Seattle AND the District of Columbia have a little over 600,000 people. I think I’m in for a big surprise.
Now for a little information about my program. Coming from GWU I had many options to choose from. After much deliberation I finally decided on Alliance for Global Education. On my program I will study at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). I will take 9 credits of Chinese as well as a sociology class titled: Issues in Contemporary Chinese Society and Culture, which I am very excited for. For my elective class I opted to apply for an internship (fingers crossed that I’ll get one!). The reason I decided on Alliance is because I liked that Alliance puts a strong emphasis on learning Chinese language as well as exploring Chinese culture. By studying abroad in the Spring and Summer I will have the equivalent of three semesters of Chinese back at home, which, combined with the three semesters I already have, will make me “proficient” as they say at GWU. In my sociology class we are required to write a capstone project on an area of Chinese culture that interests us. A few examples of these projects are: The Increase of Cosmetic Surgery in China, Street Vendors: Another Side of Chinese Culture, and Attitudes Towards Gay and Lesbian Life in China. Hopefully I’ll come up with something very interesting I can share with you all!
Aside from classes, the Alliance program has many other interesting activities and excursions. All students receive a language partner that is a graduate student majoring in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. This language partner will not only serve as an academic tutor, but also a guide to life in China. At BLCU all 15 of us on the Alliance Beijing program will live together in the International Student Dorm (except for a select few that may choose to do a homestay). The Alliance program has many planned excursions nearby such as a tours of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, as well as hiking the Great Wall and visiting the Ming Dynasty Tombs.
During my semester in Beijing, not only will we have a week off to travel around China, we will also go on a 10 day trip to Yunnan providence, which is home to China’s most diverse population of ethnic minorities. We will experience urban life in Kunming, visit small Yi and Miao minority villiages and hike the Snow Mountains. We may also visit Dali, the Stone Forest or the rainforest of Xishuangbanna!
After my stay in Beijing, I will have 2.5 weeks between programs to travel wherever I want! Some of the places I’m dying to visit are:
- Shanghai- China’s urban metropolis
- Hangzhou- a beautiful lake city near Shanghai
- Hong Kong and Macau, the Las Vegas of China
- North Korea (kidding!…. maybe.)
- Tibet- if China gives me a permit
- Chengdu- I WANT TO PET PANDAS!!!!!!!!
- Guilin- an area known for amazing rock formations!
- Zhangjiajie, Hunnan
- Yangtze River
Wow. Such a great experience. Love all the picutures and the video of Xi’an – makes me want to go! Can’t wait to read about your experiences.
Great adventure. Just on your list of places to visit in China, I think you could skip Hangzhou. Although I lived in Xiaoshan (a district of Hangzhou) and it feels bad saying don’t go there as I enjoyed my experience, the city and lake aren’t that beautiful. It is touted as “heaven on earth” by the Chinese but with the pollution etc you can count the number of days, when you can see across the lake, on one hand. So a very popular destination for Chinese tourism but for my money not that spectacular.
If you make it to Guilin I would really recommend taking a bamboo cruise down to Yangshuo, a small village down the Li River that has lots to do and more rural and scenic.
Wow! Thank you so much for the advice
It’s a pleasure and if you have any other queries just give me a shout.
Hey Richelle!!! Ur blogging is AMAZING! I am suprised that u already finished what you wanna do in Seoul 🙂 We can do everything, I think, except no.3, cuz as far as I know there are not many places you can bargain a price 😦 And frankly I dunno where the traditional market is. (I will ask my friends if they know it) Anyway sooo excited to see you in a week 🙂
Hahaha that’s fine! I’ll do plenty of bargaining in China. We should also head up towards the DMZ! I’ve heard that’s really cool
Richelle!!! This is so exciting! Shanghai is absolutely amazing! I bet it’s changed so much since i’ve been there! I would love to go back, make sure to take lots of pictures! You absolutely have to go to Guilin, I went there for a school trip and there are TONS of fun outdoorsy activities. You should check out all the like “explore outdoors” agencies around the area so you can do some stuff like kayak the river, explore some caves, go rock climbing, ziplining, and all that awesome stuff. I loved that trip! Definitely do some research into that 🙂 I’m pretty sad I didn’t get to go to Hong Kong but you must tell me how it goes!
Thanks for the advice! I’m just kind going off what everyone else is telling me so any advice of places to go or things to do is greatly appreciated! I would LOVE to go ziplinging/ kayaking/ rock climb and kayak inside a cave I’ve ziplined into…. you get the picture. I’ll definitely look into it and I promise to take lots of pictures!
Going to be in Seattle area for a wk at end of month for MVP summit, actually going sightseeing this time. Where to go and what to see?
I would definitely suggest the space needle, pike place market and a ride the duck tour! You can also take a ferry to Whidbey Island and walk around there. If you like music the EMP (experience music project) is a great museum! Also, the woodland park zoo won a bunch of exhibit awards if you like animals. Downtown Seattle is a great place to walk around and has a lot of different restaurants and bars. If you go to the pike place market make sure you stop by the famous fish market where they throw fish to each other. The original Starbucks is also at the Pike place market as well as this amazing doughnut stand! You can also go to the mountains and go Skiing, snowboarding or inter-tubing! Hope that’s enough to keep you busy!
hi Richelle, I came across your blog while googling the GuiLin Mts for a painting. I’ve always wanted to travel to China – since I was a little girl growing up in Ohio. ( I even took Chinese in my early 20’s – i’m now 58) I now live 1 hr south of you in Olympia. As I am living with stage4 cancer (now to the brain-yikes!) I won’t be going to China. So I take refuge in your going and exploring this amazing culture. As a long time student of Buddhism, going to Tibet would be a highlight for me. May I make a bold request?(for healing) if it feels right to you, could you leave my name at some shrine you visit along your journey? “beth fischer”
May your journey be full of delightful, tantalizing and heart-opening adventures!! wishing you safety and fun!
Thank you so much for your heartwarming message on my blog. I’m not sure if you have read any of my recent posts, but I’m heading back to China in a few weeks and I am in the process of planning a trip to Tibet. I can’t express in words how honored I would be to leave your name on a shrine in Tibet and take a photo for you. It really means a lot to me that you would ask me to do this for you, and your message has really inspired me to make the most of the short time we all have here.
I’ll be thinking of you when I visit Tibet.
oops, I just noticed the dates on your blog….hope you had a grand time and that your studies are going well.
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