The Top 10 Habits of Highly Effective CET Students
Written by Christine Swanson (Elon University)
CET Chinese Studies and Internship in Shanghai, Spring 2012
1) Start off right:
Hit the ground running when you get off the plane. While you may experience jet lag at the start, there is nothing better than starting your routine when you start your semester. Begin your sleep schedule the first few nights. It likely will not change drastically after that.
2) Wake up early:
To continue on my last point, sleep is important and so is routine. While you may not be a morning person back home, jet lag will have you waking up early in China for at least a week. All you have to do is keep it going! Go for a walk in the morning and see the city wake up. In almost every park and large open area you will discover groups of retirees doing morning exercises, dancing, or just sitting around chatting.
3) Spend time with your roommate early on
Having a roommate at CET is one of the most fulfilling parts of the program. I believe it is important to establish a bond of friendship right at the start. While you may be eager to meet your fellow foreigners, do not miss the opportunity to depend on your roommate to help you navigate around the city for the first few days and take care of some housekeeping activities like getting a Chinese phone number or finding the local supermarket.
4) Find things that remind you of home
While you want to immerse yourself in Chinese culture as much as possible, you should not cut yourself off from the things you know cold turkey. My indulgence is a good cup of cappuccino.
5) Eat comfort snacks
Most of my meals are Chinese, A) because Chinese food is delicious and B) because I want to fully experience it while I am here. That is not to say that I do not miss a plate of mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. Western foods are neither easily accessible nor cheap in China, so I recommend Western snacks not meals. Western staples like Oreo’s and Coke are everywhere, of course. I love dried fruit and nuts myself because the selection is good, the prices are cheap, and both are available in most convenience stores.
6) Take walks
This one thing has been crucial for getting my bearings in Shanghai. Taking walks around the city has allowed me see more of the city and to feel comfortable with where I live. I can get around with ease and I know where I can find stuff like deodorant, which can be surprisingly elusive.
7) Stay busy
Stressful as it is, staying busy keeps me sane when I’m thousands of miles away from home. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my schedule—I have a busy internship and three classes—but at least I don’t have time to over think things!
8 ) Plan your outings
I do recommend getting lost in the city once or twice and using your Chinese to get you home. However, if you have a destination in mind, it is best to plan ahead. China can be a bit complex to navigate and directions that are provided are often inaccurate. When in doubt, take a taxi or make sure you know how to get there before you leave. Apps are very useful. I recommend ESH for the metro and City Maps 2go for walking around.
9) Eat fresh fruit
Do not neglect your nutrition while in China. While there are many unhealthy temptations, a healthy body is also a healthy mind. You definitely want to enjoy Chinese cuisine, but do not forget the basic food groups. Fruit in China is safe to eat and fresh. There are usually stands selling local fruit on every corner. It is stuff everyone is used to (oranges, grapes, cherries, etc.) plus a few things you may not have seen before.
10) Keep a journal
I am a long-time journal addict and I would recommend it to anyone that travels. If you will want to cherish this once in a lifetime opportunity for years to come, I recommend writing it down. You do not have to record every day and every event. It can be however you want: pictures with subtitles, blog posts, whatever. If you do not like the act of writing in a journal, there are several applications you can use on your computer to type your memories out. This is a quick way of recording things, plus you have the option to add your most recent pictures.