It’s been around three weeks since I last updated people on the Chinese year. I am now three months into an eleven month long work contract. My classes are going well, but I wanted to share some brief thoughts about working in a foreign nation. A lot of this is rambling, so skip it if you don’t want to read random trains of thought.There are people with more experience and different experiences than I have. My main goal here is to give practical ideas and wipe away some romantic ideas about working abroad.
There’s a difference between traveling abroad (one of ThoughtCatalog’s and EliteDaily’s favorite things) and living and working abroad. For me, working as an English teacher in China is my first experience inside of a foreign country; my first serious, career-relevant job; my first time living by myself; and the first time I have been under practical pressure to learn a new language and other skills.
I’m not jet-setting or hiking up mountains everyday or going to Hong Kong nightclubs. I’ll admit; I probably spend too much time in my apartment reading blogs, watching documentaries and nerdy videos, and getting stuff ready for class. I want to go out and explore some more stuff around Baoding. I plan on doing that, but I need to get back on topic before I digress anymore.
Traveling abroad carries some connotations of doing some pretty big stuff, like going to see historical sites and experiencing a new culture. I have done that; I went to see the Forbidden City and told one of my supervisors I wish I could just wander around it at night while no one was there. Going to visit the Forbidden City was a big deal, and I had a blast going there and learning about it.
On the other hand, traveling abroad also carries this sense of…well, shortness in time is about the best way I can put it. I’d conjecture most people who talk about traveling abroad would quickly tire of it after the novelty of new locations wear off.
Living and working abroad brings on certain challenges. After two weeks, the newness of everything started to wear off. I also dealt with and still deal with certain daunting feelings, such as whether or not I am a good, fair, and effective educator. Not being able to read the Chinese language is frustrating, so I have to memorize routes from point A to point B. Any deviation means I could get lost. Sometimes, when I go to the grocery store, I cannot tell what sometimes if because I’ve never seen it before and I cannot read the labels. Buying food is a bit of a crap-shoot at times. Sometimes I will like something; others time, I won’t. I am constantly getting over fears and dealing with them. I fear getting lost, so I always make sure to backtrack if I think I am lost. I fear getting sick because I am from the comforts of home and readable labels. I watch what I eat and how I act to keep myself as healthy as possible. Living abroad basically has the same challenges as living in your home country, but with a communication barrier. That barrier can shrink so long as an individual will make an active effort to learn the language.
I’m lucky to be working abroad in my chosen field. While I don’t go on many adventures (seriously, I don’t), I am getting a bit braver. I do plan on going to the Great Wall one day, and I have plans to learn about Baoding’s history.
Enough rambling. I have more work to do. And a sewing machine to miss. I really miss being able to sew and pursue other crafting activities. At least I have novel writing to keep me occupied.