When you’re studying abroad, your phone is your best buddy. Loading it up with the right apps is essential to making your adventures fun and worry-free.
During my study in China I used Pleco multiple times a day, every day. This is a Chinese-English dictionary app and it’s fully functional offline. By typing in English or Pinyin you can find multiple translations for practically any word you’re looking for. There’s also an option for bookmarking words you want to remember to learn them. If you’re adventurous you can enable the iPhone’s Chinese handwriting keyboard to search for characters you can’t identify.
WeChat is the most popular messaging app among locals and international students in China. The minute you meet a new friend, the first thing you’ll hear is “What’s your WeChat?!”, so it’s best to come prepared. It’s a fun app with private messaging, group messaging, and a huge variety of fun stickers to share. It also has a micro-blogging capability for sharing text, music, and photos with all of your contacts.
This app is a lifesaver. Every major city in the world has a downloadable interactive map. When you reach unfamiliar territory and need to find your hotel, the nearest metro stop, or a Starbucks, the app uses GPS technology (no wifi or data needed) to pinpoint where you’re located and where you need to go. It’s not flawless, but it can help in a pinch.
Some popular websites are blocked in China, like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. However, not all hope is lost! You’ll need a VPN, or “Virtual Private Network”. Although there are some free VPN’s available, they tend to be faulty. Your best bet is to buy a subscription and guarantee yourself access. You can also download the desktop version of this app on the same subscription.
I can’t count the number of times I was thinking of buying something and realized I had no idea if I was getting a bargain or getting totally ripped off. Keeping a converter handy is essential to tracking how much you’re really spending when you buy that RMB35 latte ($5.75??) or that RMB2.5 baozi ($0.40!!). There are a lot of conversion apps out there but I found that this one was the easiest to use.