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. The host for this month is ‘Reach To Teach’, here you can find other similar articles. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article to this 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!
Teach Abroad Myths: Write about one of the biggest myths you discovered while teaching abroad?
This is a great topic, and I’m going to warn you.. what I have to say may initially not make you happy. I feel it’s necessary though and something you as a potential travel abroader, should be aware of.
My myth: “You’re a traveler. You love it, you love everything about it and you will NOT, I repeat, will NOT get homesick or have extended culture shock”. I’m here to tell you that you may actually get home sickness or have culture shock. And guess what, it doesn’t mean you don’t like to travel or that this isn’t for you,.. it’s just a part of the process.
My Experience: I love love LOVE to travel. I love new cultures, I love having new experiences and meeting new people. I have traveled to a number of different countries and always had great experiences. Now the key word was that I had traveled through, but I had never actually lived immersed in a new country. I thought to myself, how hard could this be? So I thought that while living in China, I will not get homesick or have major culture shock. But soon discovered after a few months living in my small city of Daxing, China I was suffering from major culture shock and homesickness. It was hard. My city was not what I expected at all. Having burst expectations was a part of the process of me personally processing my experience. This is what the year+ was going to be like and I was trying to come to terms with that idea.
The first few weeks were great, but then the first couple months things were really hard. Adjusting was hard and understanding my situation was hard. It didn’t help that it was extremely cold and snowy in Daxing that winter (I moved there in October and was heading into the cold season). It made my personal experiences challenging. It was always a hassle to travel, and it was so cold some days to be outside for too long. My expectations were very different from what I was presented with and I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do. For example, I was told I could pick my apartment (which I wanted to be close to work/subway)… but upon coming to my city they already had an apartment and told me I couldn’t switch. It was quite a walk away, and that presented a challenge every day having to get to work/civilization/entertainment etc. I also am an avid outdoor enthusiast and didn’t realize how not only landlocked I was but de–nature locked as well. I was surrounded by the concrete jungle of the city and at times felt like those walls were caving in around me.
Call it a case of winter blues (which I get back home too) it was intense. Luckily for me, China has Spring Festival in February. It is a three week holiday where I decided to get out of dodge and go somewhere warmer, cleaner, and with more environmental experiences. Click the link, to my blog/pics on that trip you’ll see why it was so revitalizing! SPRING FESTIVAL. After that three week hiatus I came back to Beijing refreshed. It also helped I made friendships on my trip and felt a sense of family in this massive new country.
As I pushed through the Spring just like things were blossoming and greening I felt myself doing the same thing. My heart started opening up more and melting along with the surrounding Daxing snow, whoopee! Which then led me to an amazing summer and fall experience, that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Here is a link to just one of the amazing things I saw on the outskirts during my summer in Beijing. Pushing through the culture shock or homesickness opened up my eyes and made me realize how strong and committed I was. I realized that I could conquer many things.
I did just a quick google search for some articles regarding culture shock. Here’s a link to one, just to check out for yourself- Culture Shock!
So I have three key words of advice to you:
1. Push through it. Sometimes it’s hard… but keep going and eventually you will realize why you signed up for this experience!
2. Make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for. If they say you can pick your apartment, then make sure they know you are planning on PICKING YOUR OWN APARTMENT. But you fill in the blank, if they say that you can____________, just make sure they follow through with that so your expectations are what you thought they would be, no big surprises. I also want to mention that it regards the town you will be working in. When I went there, I was supposed to work in a different city in China, but then was switched to work in Daxing. Again that altered my experience and expectations (I had researched the previous city I was supposed to be at, and then once gears were switched had to switch mentality).
3. Last word of advice, don’t go/start your adventure when it’s going into winter... I’m serious! Go during warmer months, you’ll feel much more alive, motivated and can explore so much easier when the weather is accommodating!
Good luck my travel friends, and if you have any questions, comments or need advice message me! Community and a sense of being able to reach out to someone is so important 🙂