1. How to Mail Care Packages to China
Mail for the teachers is delivered to the teacher's individual mailbox in Peter Hall. Regular airmail to China and from China can take several weeks and packages can take two months. The best rate for small packages from the States to China is the Priority Mail International Flat Rate box which holds up to 20 lbs and costs about $45-58 depending on the size of the box. This takes about nine days to arrive and is pretty reliable. Include the mailing address in Chinese characters to expedite the shipping process (see below). One can also use DHL or Federal Express service but these will be delivered to Zhengzhou so you will have to find a way to get them to Xinzheng.
Be aware that any mail may be opened. All letters sent from the University should be mailed in specific envelopes sold at the post office or at the Sias campus store. The postage rate varies in accordance with the weight of the letter. There is a small post office on campus (check on site for the opening hours) and a large one in Xinzheng, a short distance from the bus stop.
Zhengzhou City College Mailing address with Chinese Characters, coming soon.
[China is Group 3] See: http://www.usps.com/prices/first-class-mail-international-prices.htm#cz
2. Will my Verizon Phone work in China? Which iPhone should I buy?
Verizon phones will not work in China.
Only T-Mobile or AT&T b/c they have GSM and Verizon is CDMA.
You may want to find someone with an extra unused Verizon phone to hold you over until you finish your contract. If you find a friendly Verizon rep sometimes they can provide you with a loaner phone.
We suggest getting an iPhone or newer Palm. Why? The best app is Pleco Chinese/English dictionary. It works on iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS, but NOT Android (for now).
I would suggest buying a GSM iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 that is "unlocked" in the US on craigslist. If you don't you can always buy a used iPhone 3GS (2500RMB) or iPhone 4 (4500RMB) in China. The advantage of getting one in America is that they will sell for closer to 1200RMB or $200 for a 3GS. If the 3GS has an old battery you can get a new battery put in at a tech market in Zhengzhou for about 60RMB ($9) which includes labor.
If you buy a locked iPhone make sure it is from AT&T and then follow instructions on www.redmondpie.com to unlock it.
Also, you can recycle your old phone at Gazelle to get some cash back.
3. Is there a recommended communication gadget?
Yes. Another great tool is an Apple iPod Touch. On the iPod Touch you can load Skype, email, calendar, email, and Chinese dictionaries applications for convenient communication when you have WiFi. Also, many teachers buy a wireless router for 110-200 RMB when they arrive.
Look at this new app for the iPhone and iPod Touch:
4. Is there TV?
Yes, a TV is included in your apartment along with a few American cable stations. The programming is pretty limited; however, so most teachers buy cheap Chinese DVDs to watch. Many teachers stream sports games live on their laptops or download TV shows and then watch them with friends.
5. Is there internet? Is it blocked?
There is a computer lab in the dorm building, and teachers have an ethernet internet access port in their apartment if you bring a laptop or buy a desktop computer. Many teachers will spend about 110-200 RMB to get a WiFi Router at the downtown ZhengZhou Tech Market.
There are many web sites that are blocked. You may want to budget to get a VPN for $5.99 a month from www.GoTrusted.com or Strong VPN to use Facebook or other social media sites.
Here's feedback from one of our teachers, Sandy:
I'll just add my experience. Bill and I have Macs and iPhones. I tried GoTrusted first, but only one of us could use it at a time. It also didn't seem very stable. It would quit unexpectedly. We were told about StrongVPN, so I tried it. There is an option to add another account for $2 per month, so we're both able to use the service without having to pay for two account. It's been fast and stable. I like it MUCH better. It costs about the same, too.
6. Can I have my cell phone while I'm there?
Yes! If you have an "unlocked" GSM, Tri-band, or Quad band mobile phone, you will likely be able to use it in China. All phones must use a SIM card slot in order for them to work in China (Check to verify your phone has a SIM card slot before bringing it to China). You can also purchase a mobile phone locally for as little as 40-50USD. Most teachers and students text message rather that speak on the phone. It is much cheaper. Many teachers have telephones with QWERTY keyboards for text message input. The TREO 600, 650, 680 are popular phones because they also have calendars and can load quality Chinese language dictionaries. Also teachers are unlocking their iPhones and buying Android phones with language programs on them as well.
7. Can I bring my computer?
Yes. Many teachers bring their personal laptops. There is also a computer lab available for your use in the Foreign Faculty building.
8. How do I communicate with friends and family back home?
There is a computer lab in the dorm building, and teachers all have internet access in their rooms. Most teachers keep in touch via e-mail. Instant messaging programs like AOL IM or GoogleTalk do work, but they are a bit slower. You can also use VOIP through skype or Googletalk to call other computer users for free. Snail mail takes 1-3 weeks. Packages can be sent by air mail (2-6 weeks) or by surface mail (2-3 months). You get free local calling in your room, and for long distance you will need to purchase a phone card, internet calling card, or an internet phone service. Read this article on tips for calling home. Calling the United States can range from 2-5 cents per minute, depending on which service you select.