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 Holly Beddome ofAdventuresWithHolly. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!
Everything can be so different/relieving/sad etc in hindsight, the following is a blog about what I would have told myself (knowing what I know now) before leaving for China…
Get ready. There are going to be some awesome things I’m going to tell you, and some downright awful things as well. You are preparing yourself for 13 months abroad, in a country you have only seen once (for three weeks in College with Geology Department) spending time with people you do not know, and people you think you are going to meet.. but I hate to break it to you, you aren’t going to.
When you first get to China you are going to be so excited for the first 1.5/2 months, but eventually when you are shipped off to your town you will face some harsh realities but I want to tell you to hold on, hold strong it will be worth it! Month 3-4 are going to be the hardest, you won’t meet any expats… I mean ANY. They are all 2 hours away, and unfortunately you won’t have time for that crap because you work full time (which your place of employment never said you would be doing, you think you’re working 23 but wrong its 43, sorry!). So that being said, you are going to be lonely and you are going to be sick of talking so slow because you decided not to learn Chinese before you went and if you want any of the locals/conversation you are going to have to suck it up and talk like a kindergartner for awhile. You will see some pretty cool things though within that time period, markets of food and clothes, and get to know Teresa your translator who is extremely lovely and you will find a great friendship with.
OK so you are rounding Chinese New Year now (4 months in).. which is AWESOME. You are going to meet some absolutely AMAZING people; one that will hold a huge place in your heart, and hopefully an amazing friendship for the rest of your life (her name is Alicia FYI, and quite honestly you should probably just try to reach out to her right away as soon as you get to China).
Chinese New Year is going to be unreal! Traveling all over China and enjoying every single unbelievable new exciting moment- (oh AND DON’T FORGET to buy your train ticket back to Beijing PRIOR to leaving for Chinese New Year.. otherwise you will be stuck in the standing room only area for 33 hours, I’m not kidding, that’s exists, and you do end up doing that!).
Mom is going to come and visit, which is AWESOME but just stay in Hostels in Beijing don’t travel back and forth to your apartment, that will get old. Make sure to take her to Yuan Yuan’s house (unfortunately I didn’t but wished that I did). Integrate her into the culture even more than you are going to, make sure to take her to KTV (Chinese Karaoke) as well, it’s ridiculous but I think she’ll enjoy that.
The last 6 months or so of China are going to be the best. You will be traveling, experiencing new things, and always bouncing around with Alicia. You are going to have an absolute blast, and yes you will contineu to miss your family but it will be worth it.
**HUGE NOTES TO SELF**
1.) Please, buy a moped RIGHT AWAY, it will make your life a million times easier and you will be able to see people more often. SO WORTH IT.
2.) Download a ton of podcasts (which you can find at http://www.npr) and download books weekly that will help subway time. Because Maggie, you will be spending a TON of time on the subway. Travel/transport will probably be 50% of what you are doing in China.
3.) Stay in hostels more often, meet people! Even on weekends, tell Alicia instead of staying at her place you guys just crash at a hostel for a night, that way you can meet even more people!
4.) Most of all just realize this is going to teach you so much. You are going to start becoming the person that you always wanted to be. You are going to learn patience. You are going to learn more about a new culture and become more understanding. It’s going to cause you to grow beyond what you thought was possible. You will come back and feel so changed like you have elevated to a new level, a new consciousness… others around you may not have and that will also be one of the hardest parts. Understanding that you have broken out of a mold you were so scared you were stuck in, and that you are on a new and different life path then them, and that that’s ok…