Written by Emma Tilley, (Brown University) Student Correspondent CET Beijing, Fall 2018
It’s hard to believe we’ve been at CET for almost three weeks now! Since it feels like we’re just starting to settle in, I’d like to first reflect on my packing decisions, since these have the potential to affect your experience greatly and in possibly unexpected ways. Note that being based on my experiences, this will also reflect my preferences for traveling light and lack of material-intensive hobbies. If that’s not you, naturally you can adjust accordingly or look for advice from people who share your preferences.
Clothing: Over the fall semester, Beijing’s temperature will range from roughly 85 down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, so warm weather and layering options are both important. A swimsuit probably won’t be necessary unless you swim regularly for fitness. I brought enough clothes to last two weeks without doing laundry, but think in reality I could have comfortably lived with about half that. Washers are much smaller here than in the US, so I wish I hadn’t given myself the option to wait until I have three cycles’ worth to do…
Toiletries: I brought one of everything I use at home and feel that this was a solid decision. Of course you can find most of the same types of products here as elsewhere, but if you need something particular that you know works for your skin or hair I’d strongly recommend bringing enough for the semester. Alternatively, if you have no requirements or just want to try the local version of everything, travel sized products should last you just long enough to get familiar with nearby stores before you run out.
Electronics: I’m going to go against much of the advice that’s out there and recommend buying an outlet adapter (or several as needed) before you go. They’re potentially less expensive in China, but having reliable access to a charged phone/computer from day one will make everything else smoother. Also, even if your phone is carrier unlocked, make sure it will accept a non-US SIM card – a few friends with iPhones found out their hardware wouldn’t allow it and had to buy new phones. If you plan to take an intermediate or advanced course, a laptop will be necessary for papers and presentations.
Stationery: I admit I misjudged this one: I brought a few small dotted notebooks from home when my course demands a lot of scratch paper. School supplies in China are on the whole inexpensive and aesthetically pleasing, including items with charming or mistranslated English phrases if that’s your style (the current favorite with my classmates is a line of notebooks called “I have a face” which, as advertised, have cute doodled faces). Bring a planner if you use one and/or something to take non-academic notes in, but the rest can wait until you have your syllabus. Don’t forget to bring a pen with you on the plane to fill out the entry form!
-A smaller backpack or bag, preferably one that zips closed, is essential as CET offers a lot of day trips which I highly recommend going on.
-The dorm is much closer to a hotel than a student dorm, so there’s very little freedom to decorate. Small sentimental items or photos (I have a desk calendar with pictures of my cat) can help you feel at home.
-No need to bring clothes hangers: every term most students bring or buy a set and then leave them with CET, so there’s already more than enough to go around.
I hope these notes can be helpful to anyone planning to study in China with CET – happy packing and safe travels!