On September 17, the Weekly Teacher Update included a little blurb about a Field Trip to China scheduled for November 13-21. At first, I didn’t really give it much thought because traveling to China seemed impossible. I’m not sure exactly why I looked at the information further, but it sounded like fun (and was a very good price). I debated most of the day and decided that I’d put my name in and see if I was chosen (they had a certain number of people that could go on this particular trip). I talked to my son (who is 20 years old) and asked if he would be interested in going with me, but I told him that I really didn’t think we’d be chosen. He agreed to accompany me if I was selected to participate.
Please note: VIPKid actually offers a few different kinds of field trips. There is one field trip that is expenses paid that you may win a spot for meeting certain criteria. This particular field trip that I participated in was self-paid, although the tour was offered at a very discounted rate and included some special VIPKid activities.
A few days later, I was actually visiting a friend in Las Vegas when I got the news. I was going to China! I had to pay a part of the tour within 48 hours (this was the difficult part of the trip, the preparation timeline was very short). I figured out how to make the payment for my son and me and soon we were completely signed up to go to China. I even added on a couple of extra days in Shanghai to visit Disneyland and a short visit to Hong Kong Disneyland.
One thing that is important is that China requires a visa for American travelers. It takes a bit of paperwork (some back and forth with the travel agency) and either two trips to Houston (in my case) or paying a service to handle your visa application. When it came time to get the visa, I asked my son if his passport had at least 3 months left. His reply was, “sure, it expires in January 2019”. My heart dropped! Not only did he not have the required 3 months left in his passport, but his passport was also EXPIRED! This meant we had to send off an expedited passport application, and I had to wait to send off our visa paperwork together, so that had to be expedited as well. (You can read more about that here.) Thankfully, it all went very smoothly and we were able to get our paperwork in order with time to spare. The Chinese visa is good for 10 years, so we won’t have to go through this again if we decide to visit China again within the next decade.
I had never really thought I’d travel to China, so there were many things I felt like I needed to research. I’m pretty much a minimalist in packing, but since this was a totally foreign country where I do not speak the language, I felt I should be a bit more prepared in case of an emergency. Looking back, I overpacked, but I was prepared for any kind of illness with medicine for all kinds of situations. Thankfully, we didn’t need hardly any of the medicine, but I’m glad I had it on hand just in case. I also have had serious issues with plantar fasciitis. I packed four different pairs of shoes so that I could switch them out. (This trip includes some serious walking. We walked several miles every day. Every night, I was exhausted when I got to the room, but thankfully, the plantar fasciitis did not cause any additional issues!)
We had really a short time frame to get our tour paid for, the airfare booked, and all the arrangements for the visa. It was a bit of a rush and more than a bit stressful. I believe the field trips are being planned out with more advance notice, so that will be a great thing for those traveling. I would have liked to have more time to get my WeChat working (I kept getting locked out) and connected with more of my students. This is my biggest regret of the trip. I was not able to connect with very many of my students and only was able to meet one of my precious bao baos.
I will be writing a series of posts about the trip. First to show the beautiful places we saw, and tips for you if you decide to make this trip. I hope this is helpful and please make sure to comment with any questions you might have.
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