China survival guide

Now that I’m settled back home, I thought I’d share a few tips if you ever get the chance to visit China, or thinking of doing a fieldwork apprenticeship.  

– Decide if it’s right for you.

Doing a fieldwork apprenticeship is that it is a big commitment and may not be for everyone, mine was a month long and we had many long, full days. Be prepared for hard work but that it is certainly worth it, and that I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience that I will always remember.

Embracing the opportunity will help you to get the best out of it- fieldwork is something that requires full immersion every day, which is hard to sustain for very long periods. 




– Get some local expertise.

I was able to see so many sights that would never be seen by tourists without the help and knowledge of Chinese collaborators in the project. When travelling in the remote parts, we really relied on our Chinese students to help us get by; we wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. When I went on to Beijing, I was surprised at how much was only in Chinese, even after hearing that Beijing was a little more westernised.


– Home comforts.

What to pack depends greatly on where you visit; on the whole we had brilliant accommodation, with internet and power, hot water and clean towels, meaning we could take laptops and other technology bits and pieces.



– Leave your preconceptions at home.

My view of China has changed considerably from being a country which I had never really considered visiting to one which I would definitely visit again, and from thinking that the country is repressed, to learning otherwise through talking to Chinese students and experiencing the culture first hand.



-Nearly any fieldwork can be done here.

China is an incredible and vast country and the landscape is just so varied and contrasting. Not many places have deserts, forests, mountains and grasslands, as well as high rise cities and rural villages, often in relatively close proximity. If you’re interested in tectonics, rivers, drylands- it’s all there.


– Get a good guidebook.

I used the National Geographic travel guide, and it was brilliant with extra tips and suggestions, perfect for in-between days.


– Beware of the toilets.

I won’t expose you to the photographs I took (message me if you DO want to see them!), but have low expectations. Also watch out for raw meat begin sold in the streets, hanging up in shops, outdoors (picture above) and of course, my favourite; yaks being skinned by the road… 



Tom’s tip: “Prepare to be bewildered… but remember they will be equally bewildered by your behaviour!”

…And he’s absolutely right; things you see may be out of the ordinary for you, but they are part of many people’s daily life. Many people we met were curious about us- many in the rural areas had never seen anyone with light hair.


Anna’s tip: The food is spicy- the rice helps!


I’d also like to thank Tom and Anna and our Chinese collaborators for everything they did in preparation for and on the trip, every member of the team were crucial to our group dynamics!


Again I’d like to thank the Royal Geographical Society (With the Institute of British Geographers) and their fantastic Learning and Leading Fieldwork Apprentice scheme, without it I would have had a much duller summer in our very lovely Great Britain and would have never made the relationships I have.


And a thank you to my readers, those who have popped in once or twice, and those who have been following me the whole way.  


4 thoughts on “China survival guide

  1. Abi, this blog has been very interesting and given us a completely new view of the parts of China you visited. We loved the photos and also the comments. Your “survival guide” is just the info we need, should we ever intend visiting China!!

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