By Tiffany Chang
Greetings from the air as I am currently writing from my flight to Shanghai! While I am headed to China a few days earlier than the rest of the AdVENTURE Challenge: China group to do some exploring, once the Smith MBA team lands, that’s when the real fun (and work!) begins.
Our journey starts in Shanghai where we will stay for three days experiencing tours, Chinese acrobatics, and visiting accelerators; then we take a train down to Bengbu to visit an incubator and Enelco Environmental Technology. Finally we culminate the rest of our trip with a China Business Model Competition in Beijing.
This trip sounds like a TON of fun but it’s also very much about good, hard work. Each one of us has prepared up until this point to work on a variety of new innovative ideas and business models that will be pitched in a business model competition with participating universities in China. With all the amazing pit stops to incubators, accelerators and historic landmarks that the Dingman Center has arranged for us, there’s only one major thing left to do to prepare for the trip!
Here’s a look at what I’ve had to do pre-travel to get ready:
- Get your visa early! – There are two ways to do this – either opt to take the time and energy to go to the Chinese Consulate yourself or send it out for processing. We were given the option of using a processing vendor but I actually used one of my own contacts. Whatever you choose, leave room for at least two weeks just in case. I left it down to the wire and was still fine, but what I would have given for that peace of mind of more time!
- Get money! – Contact your bank to let them know you’re traveling abroad if you need to use banking services there. Also take out cash that you can exchange later.
- Figure out your phone service – I opted to not be connected and go off the grid, but if you don’t want to lose your lifeline, look into international plans or international texting apps such as WhatsApp
- Register with the State Department – I never go anywhere without registering a trip…just in case!
- Make copies of your documents – Always make copies of your important identification documents and make sure someone you trust (ideally your emergency contact) has a copy.
- Secure your electronics – China is known to potentially bug foreign computers or phones, so we’ve been advised to download VPN for a more secure network. But I also took to backing up my files and then wiping the hard drive clean for extra security, and looking into either not using my phone or using a burner phone.
- Have Chinese translations of your destination – In the very high likelihood that you are lost or that your cab driver does not speak English, always have the name of your hotel or destination in Chinese so you can show them directly.
- Get Traveler’s Insurance – The university covered ours, but if not there are plenty of affordable insurance plans out there to cover you.
- Bring medicine – While China has a lot of amenities and medicine can be easily purchased, sometimes it’s just worth the peace of mind to bring your own meds. Some staples include aspirin, allergy medicine, Pepto Bismol, and Immodium. I like to also bring antibiotics, z-packs, or emergency inhalers if I know I’m prone to illness or emergencies.
- Pack toilet paper, tissues and hand sanitizer – In my previous travels, these items are all upon the individual to carry and most bathrooms or restaurants don’t always carry them.
- Pack an extra tote bag – It helps in case you have some extra things you need to carry in a pinch, or at the very least, you can shove your dirty clothes in there.
- Bring a good camera – It’s worth the extra weight. I’m bringing my Ti5 Cannon and two different lenses and plan on taking a TON of selfies with the Dean.
- Pack your money in different places – Never keep your money in one spot just in case you lose your wallet. Always split your money up in 2-3 different locations in your bag so that you are never without if the worst happens.
- Business cards, business cards, business cards
- Name tag if necessary
- Flash drives to transfer presentation files
- Pack walking shoes – Shoes are always a tough one, especially for girls like me who want options; but a good pair of walking shoes will never fail you. Since our group will be climbing the Great Wall, walking shoes are a must!
- Pack extras – We might be only going for eight days, but knowing how hot Beijing is and how many t-shirts I will probably sweat through, I packed a couple of extra outfits.
- Err on the side of conservative – China can be fashion forward, but a good portion of the population is still relatively conservative. Don’t bring anything too revealing or inappropriate.
So as I sit here thinking back to what I packed and what I might have missed, I think I prepared pretty well! The only thing I forgot is a neck pillow. But oh well, too late – Shanghai here we come!
Tiffany is a first year MBA at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Tiffany obtained her undergraduate degree in Media, Culture and Communications at New York University and has five years work experience in advertising on a variety of accounts such as Clinique, Origins, Verizon FiOS, and Capital One. She has a diverse background in mass-awareness advertising, direct mail/CMR, branding, multicultural marketing and differentiation, 360 strategy and integration. Before coming to Smith, Tiffany left New York City to volunteer as a program developer and field reporter with a non-profit organization in the Himalayas. Outside of class, Tiffany serves as an Admissions Graduate Assistant working on women’s initiatives, is the President of the Smith Association of Women MBAs (SAWMBA), and is a Forte Fellow.