Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article on my blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!
So I am going on living abroad for over 10 months now. 10 months, I cannot believe it! At times it has gone by so quickly and other times it felt as though it was dragging on (it was a long winter). But I truly feel that living abroad has made me a better person in so many ways.
- INDEPENDENCE: I thought I was independent back in the states… Well throw in being alone, not speaking the language, and in a population of over 20 million it brings on more challenges than you can think up! Don’t get me wrong my translators/friends have helped out, but a lot of the time it was me vs. Beijing and sometimes I didn’t always win. Getting to know a subway system (not used to that in small town Wisconsin), not having any transportation and even ordering dinner at times could prove challenging. Going to the grocery store seeing new fruits, vegetables and trying to order meat at the deli was always an interesting and fun challenge. Everyday possessed new things to overcome, but by overcoming those obstacles I became even more independent and proud of myself!
- PATIENCE. Living abroad, not knowing the language and learning new things EVERY day will make you a more patient person. Don’t believe me?! Well picture yourself coming back from another city, its 11pm you are exhausted you have to work the next morning at 8am you got off the railway in hopes of finding a taxi but guess what… every taxi passes you by. No one stops to pick you up. There is no bus system running anymore and you are at least an hour away from home. What do you do!?… Well after that happened, unfortunately more than once, you learn patience. You learn to take a DEEP DEEP breath and do some yoga meditation telling yourself, it’s going to be okay, you will eventually get home, this is all part of the adventure. HA! Then you realize the subway system is still running its LAST cars so you better GET ON and get moving back home! Honestly, taxi system in Beijing is not good most times.. its hard to find a taxi, or they won’t take you, OR they try to turn off their meter and charge you 2-5x as much! Back in the states.. patience was a hard thing for me to come by. Being in the corporate world I also found myself being very short and abrasive at times. Living here has really taught me to embrace all the chaos that a new country may bring and enjoy it for that moment. Enjoy that you are experiencing something new, exciting, and living in a moment you may never have again.
- COURAGE AND ADVENTURE: I knew coming into this living abroad that I would be facing new adventures every day! That was something that I was looking forward to, but I never knew how many adventures would come my way. I think that living here has made me a better person in that I am open to every new adventure the country has to offer. Sometimes those adventures are tiring, drawn out and long, but most of the time with optimism in my eyes I can turn it around to something fun, new and in all honesty EXCITING. Everyday can be something new. Whether you are trying new food, drinks, meeting new people, making someone smile, learning a new word or phrase, or seeing something new. It doesn’t have to be something big sometimes it’s in the small things that make the biggest impact. Traveling somewhere new and getting there yourself, even if you … took a wrong way (but hey you found a food vendor w/ a delicious pineapple rice) then you got to your hotel and had to wait for your room (but hey you met a couple that told you some exciting things about the town) and then you got in your room and your a/c wasn’t working (so you went outside and found a small family restaurant with the cutest family practicing English and gave you some free beer! You may think you have wanted to go left this whole time, but going the wrong way actually leads you down the RIGHT path. Taking the courage and saying YES to that… that’s what makes this whole experience worth while.
- PROBLEM SOLVING: I am the best problem solver now. I can negotiate, locate and understand things in different languages (even if I don’t fully understand what they are actually saying). If I can find something, somewhere without speaking the language… that’s AWESOME. So I know can hold the title of “best problem solver” in the world 😀
I am nearing the end of my contract and my time here in Beijing. I cannot believe it, because now looking back I have grown so much and have experienced more than most people do their whole lives! It’s something that is worth while, and in the end will truly make you grow as a person hopefully becoming more towards the best version of the person you are trying to be!