Pick the right courses and don’t overload on credits. Coming to the Chengdu American Center for Study Abroad offers a special opportunity for students with all sorts of majors to study in China while staying on track for graduation. Yet, while you can take courses like “Comparative Legal Systems” and “Principles of International Business” in order to stay on track, you might also maximize on the opportunity of being here by taking Chinese courses. I, for example, am taking “Chinese Mandarin,” “Religion in Chinese Society,” and “Modern Chinese Culture and Society” so that I can learn as much as possible about Chinese life and culture. I might not have the same contextual opportunity again. If you feel the same way, you might choose to save your free electives for your trip to China. Also, don’t go crazy with the amount of credits you take unless you really have to. Take an average of 12-15 credits so you can give yourself time to travel and explore.
Travel. Come here with plans to visit as many places as time, money, and safety permits. Sichuan is full of extraordinary places and Chengdu holds amazing locations that are easily accessible. Like I’ve said previously, the subway system is a piece of cake. Also, if you take “Religion in Chinese Society” you’ll have a class trip to historical sites every other week for free!
Eat like locals do. Eating with chopsticks isn’t the easiest thing for some of us but you can learn! Go to different restaurants and try the various dishes that are typical to this region and of the ones you visit on your own. If you ask me, food is one of the ways in which people can come together and learn from each other. P.S. If you’re interested in wine like I am, try the local wine. It’s cheaper and it’s Chinese.
Make local friends. It is only expected that you’ll want to come to China and leave having left many friends here. I've made local friends that help me with my Chinese, shopping, traveling, and learning in general. You’d be surprise how awesome Chinese friends can be…they can even tell the future!
Learn Chinese martial arts. Sichuan University martial arts professors are more than willing to teach American students. Most importantly for some, this they do for free. If you don’t think this is fascinating, I have nothing more to say to you.
A final semi-tip: someone suggested that finding a Chinese girlfriend/ boyfriend might very well accelerate the process of cross-cultural integration. Whether this is true or not, someone else will have to confirm.