Skip to main content

Pro Tips for Global Destinations

Professors share their favorite activities and sights to see in select international countries.

Three Days in Beijing

Northwestern students pose on the great wall of China, waving a Northwestern flag.
Students climb the Great Wall of China. Photo Credit: Licheng Gu

Born and raised in Beijing, professor Licheng Gu says autumn is the ideal time to visit China’s capital city. A professor of instruction in Asian languages and cultures, Gu directs Northwestern’s Summer in Beijing Program. To avoid the crowds, he says, visit the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China on your first day. It’s a two-hour drive from Beijing “but beautiful and worth it. Make plans to stay there overnight. In the evening, you can enjoy all kinds of Chinese shows for free.” On day two, visit the Forbidden City in the morning and then the Summer Palace, where visitors can take a boat tour of Kunming Lake. For dinner, Gu suggests trying a Peking duck restaurant, followed by an opera at Liyuan Theatre. Finally, on day three, start off at the Temple of Heaven and then shop for souvenirs at Pearl Market. “Get ready to bargain,” Gu says. “You might get a Rolex watch for $30.” In the evening, go to see an acrobatic show. “You will love it,” says Gu.  

Saving the Queen of Sheba’s Legacy

Brent Huffman films a section of old Sana’a in Yemen that was destroyed by bombing.
Brent Huffman films a section of old Sana’a in Yemen that was destroyed by bombing.

It’s not easy to get to Yemen. Just ask journalism professor Brent E. Huffman, who waited more than eight months to get a visa. But while you might not be able to visit right now due to the country’s ongoing civil war, Huffman is working to preserve and share the cultural heritage of this ancient land so that it may be enjoyed in the future. His documentary work focuses on Yemeni archeologists’ efforts to save UNESCO World Heritage sites threatened by the war, including landmarks of the Kingdom of Saba in Marib, “where the Queen of Sheba had her kingdom 3,000 years ago,” he says. Just this year UNESCO added Marib to its list of world heritage in danger, meaning the ancient sites are under immediate risk of destruction. Huffman captured video of ancient mummies during a month-long visit to Yemen late last winter, and he plans to return in 2024 and 2025 to focus on women doing preservation work. “That breaks the stereotype,” Huffman says. “Western audiences don’t think of Yemenis as specialists who are risking their lives to save this incredible world heritage.” 

Rotating Cafes, Techno Clubs and the Berlin Wall

The Bradenburg Gate in the early morning with no people.
Brandenburg Gate. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Germany’s capital and largest city, Berlin showcases the country’s history and culture, says professor Ingrid Zeller. “You can still see the remnants of the Berlin Wall, while also admiring some of the exquisite and monumental buildings inspired by the Prussians in the 19th century,” says Zeller, one of the directors of the German department’s Berlin: Global City in the Center of Europe summer program. She recommends a visit to the Brandenburg Gate and a walk Unter den Linden (under the linden trees), where you will see Humboldt University, the Staatsoper Berlin, Museum Island and the newly renovated Humboldt Forum. Next, stop at the Berlin TV tower’s rotating cafe for a piece of strawberry cake and a magnificent view. Then visit the glass-domed Reichstag Building (parliament), the legendary Potsdamer Platz and the architecturally stunning Jewish Museum. Discover what is left of the Berlin Wall at the Bernauer Straße and the East Side Gallery. Do some window-shopping in the “vibrant and dynamic” city center, aptly called Mitte (middle), and discover the many dimensions of multiethnic Kreuzberg. From there, Zeller says, you can “explore the Turkish market in Neukölln, have a Döner kebab in Kreuzberg, visit a techno club or chill in a hip Strandcafé (beach cafe).” 

Musk Oxen, Northern Lights and Inuit History

Mountains and the ocean sit below a large display of northern lights.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“Greenland is a spectacular and welcoming place for adventurous tourists,” says Yarrow Axford, an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences who studies climate change in Arctic environments. Famous for its raw nature, Greenland has more ice than anywhere on Earth except Antarctica. “Share the tundra with musk oxen at Kangerlussuaq, boat to medieval Viking ruins from Narsarsuaq or photograph icebergs the size of skyscrapers in Ilulissat’s Icefjord,” suggests Axford. “Visit in winter to see the northern lights. Above the Arctic Circle, you might need to look south to see them!” While roughly 80% of the country is covered in ice, Greenland is no empty wilderness. It is home to more than 55,000 people, most of whom are Greenlandic Inuit. Learn about Inuit history and culture at the Greenlandic National Museum in Nuuk, Axford says, “and check out every small-town museum you find, too. Museums are often the best places to both view and buy unique artwork and crafts made by skilled local artisans.” 

Beyond Machu Picchu

Coricancha temple.
Coricancha temple. Photo Credit: Getty Images

While most visitors to Peru head for the hills of Machu Picchu, assistant professor Diego Arispe-Bazán says there’s plenty to see in his hometown, Lima, and Cusco as well. His Lima highlights include the Church of La Merced, a colonial church built in the 1500s, and the Lima Art Museum (MALI), which showcases the full spectrum of Peruvian art, from pre-Hispanic and Indigenous through contemporary. A walk along El Malecón, a clifftop walkway overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is also a must. Aspiring surfers can take a lesson and ride Peru’s famous waves on the beaches below. Arispe-Bazán, an anthropologist who studies the shared cultural and ethnic heritage of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, also recommends Coricancha temple in Cusco, where the Spaniards built a church on top of an Incan temple. “About 4 feet of Inca stone holds up the church. It’s like a visual metaphor for colonization,” he says.   

Share this Northwestern story with your friends via...

Reader Responses

No one has commented on this page yet.

Submit a Response