My Master Plan


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:

  1. Visit a palace
  2. See the traditional wooden Bukchon Village
  3. Go to a bustling Korean market and try my hand at bargaining
  4. Have a Korean FEAST.
  5. Dance the Korean way at one of Seoul’s many night clubs
  6. Go to a night market!
  7. 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:

  1. Shanghai- China’s urban metropolis
  2. Hangzhou- a beautiful lake city near Shanghai
  3. Hong Kong and Macau, the Las Vegas of China
  4. North Korea (kidding!…. maybe.)
  5. Tibet- if China gives me a permit
  6. Chengdu- I WANT TO PET PANDAS!!!!!!!!
  7. Guilin- an area known for amazing rock formations!
  8. Zhangjiajie, Hunnan
  9. Yangtze River


Macau at night


Jackie Chan at Chengdu Panda Reserve




reminds me of the floating mountains in Avatar

Zhangjiajie: Reminds me of the floating mountains in Avatar

Yangtze River

Hopefully I’ll get to see some of these amazing sights in China!

Next stop: Xi’an!

The third and final segment of my trip is Xi’an. Over the summer I will be continuing my studies in Xi’an, one of the ancient capitals of China and home to the Terracotta Wariors! I will be studying at Shaanxi Normal University, taking 5 credits of Chinese and Anthropology of the Silk Road. In Xi’an I will have a Chinese roommate, which should be interesting. I think studying in Xi’an will be a great experience because not many people speak English and it is much less cosmopolitan than other cities such as Shanghai and Beijing! Xi’an is also much smaller than Beijing, about 8 million people- the size of NYC. During my stay in Xi’an we will embark on a twelve day Silk Road excursion. On this trip we will travel from Xi’an to Xinjiang and back along the silk road. We will ride camels, hike sand dunes, explore bazaars, see the famous Caucasian mummies and interact with the local Uighur population.

If you want to know a little more about my summer program, the Alliance website has an amazing video about the trip! This video alone convinced me to go to Xi’an over the summer!

After all of this I will FINALLY head home August 12th, giving me about one week at home before I have to go back to school. Crazy! I am SO excited for this trip of a lifetime and I hope you’ll all follow along as a document every step of my adventure!

Countdown to Asia: 12 days


About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I currently live in China where I'm studying for my master's degree!
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