Signing up for the Summer China seminar happened practically on a whim for me. In the midst of a crazy semester, I managed to apply, sign up, arrange everything with my school, and find the funding to pay for everything. But because I was (or at least felt like I was) constantly busy, I did not plan as much as I could have for the trip. It didn’t help that I left the day after my last final in my Spring semester.
What I Wish I Knew
1) Subway systems are not as frightening as I thought. Being from Colorado, I had never ridden a subway. Maybe it was just because the Beijing MTR system was so well laid out, but the first day there I was able to figure it out relatively easy.
2) History is important. China is an ancient culture. In the last hundred years alone there has been a multitude of events that changed the nature of business and tourism in the country. Some good, some bad. Either way, having a basic knowledge of where you’re traveling helps.
3) Bartering can be tricky. This is a skill that’s hard to come by any other way than just experiencing it. The main thing I wish I knew though is that if you go on for too long, and then try to back out, the salesperson will likely get very, very upset. Be prepared for that.
What I’m Doing Differently This Time
1) Research. This time, I am planning what locations I want to visit, finding possible restaurants I want to eat at, and keeping an eye on the news in each country. This way, I can maximize how much I can do in each city.
2) Making a Packing List. For China, I quickly made a list and changed everything last minute. For SE Asia, I am writing down everything I could possibly need, and then taking away any non-necessities. I came back from China with packed luggage and didn’t need many of the things I took; I’m not doing that this time.
3) Watching Shows and Documentaries. There are a wide variety of travel shows and documentaries that visit many of the cities that IBS seminars visit. My personal favorite is anything Anthony Bourdain. But there are many other Travel Channel shows that will provide great information as well.
When it comes down to it, any research you do beforehand will give you something to do and leave you better prepare in the end.