The move to China began on February 14, 2016. The day of love, for me, was more a day filled with anticipation, excitement and a bit of nervousness and about 25 hours of travel time. I had no idea what to expect of this big step I was taking to move to Chengdu, China to teach English. I soon realized, as well, that I could have never expected what it has turned out to be.
Looking back just a few years ago I would have never imagined myself moving to a foreign country, let a lone a different city than my hometown. Travel and culture is something that always played out in my dreams but I was too scared or didn’t think it was possible for me to make it a reality. I spent most of my twenties in relationships and looking to achieve what others or society may consider a “successful” person. However, something was always missing for me and I was not sure what. As I grew later into my twenties is when I began a path to greater self discovery and was able to control the fear that held me back. The first leap was a volunteer trip I took solo to Vietnam in March 2015 for a few weeks. As soon as I got back home to the U.S., I couldn’t wait to see where I could go next. It was then I started to research teaching english as a job. I took a 3 month TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language) course and then started applying for jobs from there. I applied all throughout Asia and had a variety of offers from different countries. I settled on China for a few reasons. I knew I wanted to really experience a culture and language so different from my own and I found a company I felt was reliable and a city that I was interested in and basically is what let me to where I am now.
The arrival in China was a whirlwind. I arrived and in less than 24 hours from getting off the plane I was in a hot little training room that only had smelly bathrooms and squatty toilets. Immediately immersed and quickly learning the differences of China. Thankfully I came on board with 11 other wonderful people from different western cultures, different ages and different areas of life. The one thing we all had in common was being thrown into this crazy experience and not really knowing what hit us. This created a bond and we were able to get through it together. The China TEFL training was a week but for about the next month was non-stop with more job training, getting apartments, figuring out groceries, getting a phone, just adjusting to our new city and life. Since then things have slowly been settling and now it even feels like a second home.
China is an amazing place with many things to love. There are so many positives but with that also come the negatives which really just give an exciting challenge of this overall experience. The food is awesome, though I feel there is so much I still have not even tried, but plenty of time left to do so! With the exception of KFC and Starbucks, you don’t find endless amounts of fast food chains but rather locally owned little restaurants that line the streets. Also carts of shao kao, the best night time snack, which is skewers of all different kinds of meat and veggies that you can choose that are roasted over a small grill with some delicious spices. Chengdu, known for pandas:), is a huge city that I don’t know that I have even seen a third of but it has many parks, temples and museums to explore as well. Plus endless amounts of natural beauty outside the city. The not so pleasant things are the driving, as a pedestrian you always need to keep your watch, even on sidewalks that cars and bikes like to take over as well. Bathrooms can be awful, yes squatty potties are everywhere and you have to get used to it, also always have some toilet paper just is in case. The stares are not my favorite either but surprisingly have gotten a bit more used to that. As a foreigner you really get a lot of looks and even pictures taken, both by those who ask and those who just do it but usually not discreetly, or make their children say “hello” to you. Despite that, the people really are friendly. It was surprising to learn how little people do speak english here, but luckily there are many apps and tools to help with communication. Also it creates room to really start to pick up the language, I hope to learn a lot more over this next year.
Teaching english language may be something that most anyone that speaks english could do. With that said, it is definitely not a walk in the park. This is a real job and hard work at that. There is hours of planning lessons, figuring out a management system, coming up with games to keep their interest, plus pressure of doing it all in front of parents for some lessons. It really has challenged me more than I imagined but the overall experience so worth it. There are days I want to cry but the days when you have great classes and get to see how much they love you and are learning makes it all worthwhile. I have a lot more to learn in regards to being a teacher but each time I step into the classroom I feel more confident and I see my students get better, thats what is rewarding.
My contract for this job commences on May of 2017. I can’t wait to see what is in store for this next year both at work and with the adventures and exploring I get to do while I am here in China. I miss my family, friends and my home but I do not at all regret this decision. Traveling to a foreign country and living in a foreign country are very different. Having to figure out how to do everything such as pay bills, find everyday items, get around, just makes everyday a new adventure.
To anyone who has thought about doing something like this, teaching english, moving abroad or even just taking a trip to another country my advise is do it!! As quick as you can! Do not let anything hold you back, the experience is priceless. Its easy to get lost in the moments or the negatives, but when you really have time to sit and reflect you realize how much it has made you grow. I am a big sucker for motivational quotes and I finally now feel as I am living up to some of my favorites. With that I will conclude “You are confined only by the walls that you build yourself.”