To many students, the idea of a semester without access to Facebook, Twitter or Youtube can seem daunting. However, there are a few tips on how to stay connected while studying abroad in China.
1. Check out renren.com, the Chinese version of Facebook. Nearly every Chinese college student has a renren account, and you can keep in touch with local Chinese students this way.
2. Register on weibo.com (weibo in Chinese literally means “microblog”) and see what the Chinese public is buzzing about. If you read the WSJ China Real Time Report, you will notice that stories on Weibo are translated into English making it easy for students to understand Chinese public sentiment. It definitely serves as a great way to stay in tune to what’s going on in local and central government, to claim a voice and to reach out to others, and of course to mock and entertain as well.
3. Surf youku.com and tudou.com, China’s biggest video sites, which have practically everything that is available on Youtube as well as Chinese videos and more. Whether to improve your Chinese or simply for entertainment, these video sharing sites are a great way for US students to begin using the same types of media as their Chinese student colleagues.
4. Chinese Yelp! It’s unlikely you’ll find the ratings for a small restaurant right next to the gates of East China Normal University on Yelp, but you can find it on dianping.com.
5. Skype with family, friends, ISA staff, and new Chinese friends!
6. Contribute as an ISA featured or guest blogger and share your story through the ISA Student Blog! This way you will not only be connected to your friends and family, but every ISA student worldwide!
7. A simple solution to steering clear of government censorship: VPN (Virtual Private Network)! Using your school’s available VPN is always the simplest way to circumvent the “Great Firewall.” While it can be difficult not to have access to Facebook, Twitter or Youtube, it will allow you to become truly immersed in Chinese culture!