FAQs about Peace Corps in China

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FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks


How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to China?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limits and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limits. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag. Accompanied baggage in excess of 80 pounds in two bags shall be carried at personal expense.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution. Regulations with regards to prohibited items are constantly changing and you will need to check with the airlin(s) for changes right up to the day you depart for staging. Please check the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for a detailed list of permitted and prohibited items at http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/ prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm.

What is the electric current in China?

China’s residential electric system is 220 volts, 50 hertz. Appliances and electronic equipment manufactured for the U.S. market are usually rated for 100 to 120 volts and 60 Hz. To use this equipment in China, you must have a step-down transformer (a device that lowers the incoming voltage of 220 to 240 volts to 110 to 120 volts). Most computers will run on both 110 and 220. Plug adapters are available in China.

How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live modestly by the standards of the people they serve. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries or to purchase items they were unable to bring with them. The easiest way to access funds from the U.S. while in China is through an ATM card tied to a checking or savings account. Although credit cards and traveler’s checks can be used easily in some countries where you may travel for vacation, they are not widely accepted in China other than major hotels in larger cities. It is also good idea to maintain your checking account in the United States and to bring your checkbook.

When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Once you are sworn in as a Volunteer, after pre-service training, you will earn two days per month of annual leave. Annual leave may not be taken during the first three months or the last three months of service. Additionally, China Volunteers may not take annual leave while school is in session. Volunteers do not get American holidays off, only Chinese holidays. Volunteers will also be conducting summer training for teachers or offering summer courses for three to four weeks. You may also take weekend and day trips that will not count against vacation days, as long as you follow Peace Corps travel guidelines.

It is best to make plans for travel and visits from family and friends after you finish pre-service training and have been at your site for several weeks. The university breaks (there are several) vary from year to year, and knowing these dates, as well as those for in-service training, summer projects, and other events, will ease a lot of frustration for you and those who plan to visit you. Changing airline tickets can be costly. Extended stays by visitors at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from the country director. The Peace Corps cannot provide your visitors with travel or medical assistance.

Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. Volunteers are ultimately responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. However, you can purchase personal property insurance before you leave. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

What should I bring as gifts for China friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites prior to their arrival in-country. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee's technical, language, and cross-cultural skills prior to assigning sites. Many factors influence the process and Peace Corps staff make the final decision on all site placements. Some Volunteers will have a site mate serving at the same school or along but with other Volunteers at nearby institutions. Some Volunteers serve alone in smaller cities far away from other Volunteers.

What is the typical dress code for PCVs in China? What about facial hair and hairstyles?

As far as dress code, you do not need to stock pile your suits. During training, Peace Corps expects you to dress in dress business casual (So for men, slacks and a button down or collared shirt, and the women, something along the same lines. Also, no open back sandals - but to be honest, you probably won't want to wear flip flops out too much because your feet will get dirty). No tie or jacket is necessary on a daily basis. However, bringing a suit or more formal wear two for special occasions (like swear-in, host family dinner, school functions, etc.) would be a good idea. Each school's expectation of dress code is different. Staying with the business casual attire is always safe, but this may be different from one site to the next.

Facial hair really doesn't seem to be so much of a problem as long as you keep it clean. Most Chinese men do not wear facial hair, but as long as PCVs keep the facial hair cleaned up, it doesn't seem to be a problem. Hair-wise, you can have whatever style you want, as long as you keep it professional. A bit shaggy is ok, but keep in mind, being here, people will judge you on appearance (or at least talk about it), and most people are traditional and conservative. So, all in all, keep your style as long as you feel like you can wear it professionally.

How do current PCVs handle isolation and loneliness?

Isolation and loneliness are things that many of volunteers in China find are the most difficult to deal with. As a teacher, your schedule will fluctuate a lot, so if you have hobbies you like to stick with, then make sure you bring whatever necessary to keep your hobbies alive. Some volunteers keep themselves busy with language study, or other projects they pick up along the way in China. Some volunteers spend extra time outdoors or with students, pick up Tai Chi, travel, etc. From what I hear, downtime and alone time are 2 things PCVs all over the world have to get used to, but always have a back up plan to keep you occupied when you need. However, China is not a place where you will run out of options as far as new hobbies goes, it just depends on your drive. Even if you want to pick up a new instrument, there are instrument stores all over the place. If you enjoy reading, it may be difficult to find a lot of books in English here that are at a reasonable price in regards to our PC allowance. I have seen some volunteers utilize the Kindle program and purchase books online and read them off their computers. (Apparently with Kindle, as long as you "return" the book within a month, you get your money back.

Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Although many Chinese have cellphones, it is not practical to bring a cellphone from the United States. Many Volunteers choose to purchase one locally. Peace Corps/China does not provide funds for the purchase or maintenance of personal cellphones so those interested in a cellphone should plan on covering those costs.

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