I am approaching the one year mark of teaching abroad and it really seems like a dream. It feels like it was just yesterday that I came off the plane and looked for my name on a sign in Beijing. Things are becoming more beautiful because I am starting to experience many “lasts”. I decided that I need to return home to my family and try to figure out my next move. Unfortunately, in three short weeks I will be saying good-bye to Shijiazhuang and China. I will not be saying good-bye forever but for now. Now that I have come full circle, I really have started to appreciate things and see things in a different light.
Of all the things I have learned on this tremendous journey, I think teaching has provided me the most lessons in life. I feel as if I have learned so much about myself, my kids, parents, and Chinese culture from my times at EF. Teaching has proved to be very rewarding and frustrating at times. I started to really get to know the kids I spent two hours with every week; things they liked, movies and stories they are interested in, how they view themselves and their society, and how they view me as a foreigner in a foreign land. They provided me much insight into their culture and became some of my best friends. I will truly be sad to say good-bye to them. Though I have only known them for a year, they hold a big chunk of my heart. I do not know if they will ever know how much of an effect they have had on me. I can only hope that I reciprocated the feeling to them.
Along with the many lessons learned through teaching, traveling has also played a major role in my year in China. The first couple months I was here I thought about how I did not have as much free time to travel as I had hoped for. The job was very demanding and I did not have much of an opportunity to travel and explore, the main reason I came here. Now when I look back, I realize that there is no way that I would have traveled as much as I have if I were home in America. In the past year, I have visited four different countries and traveled through various cities in China. Though you work hard teaching abroad, you have the opportunity to really see the world. I think traveling is necessary in this line of work because it really reminds you of why you are doing this and gives you insight into other parts of the world. Living in another country does not necessarily mean you get to see that country. I could easily get by traveling on two main roads and eating at a handful of restaurants here in Shijiazhuang. The key is to really try and get out there and see things. I am very fortunate to have had such opportunities in my life.
Here are a few things that I have learned over the past year
– Think about the job carefully. Don’t overlook the working aspect of this venture as it plays a major role in everything that you do.
– Make foreign friends. They can show you things you would never find on your own. They can also help you practice the language.
– Don’t be unsure of yourself. Teaching is an acquired skill and anyone can become a good teacher so long as they put in the effort and have the passion.
– Read books. They can really help you accept and adapt to the new culture or they can be a good escape.
– Keep in touch, but not too much. My sister once told me “you can’t have roots and wings”.
– Understand that everything you know will change. Everything from your leisurely activities to the menu at fast food restaurants will be slightly different. That’s why we came here!
– Life is usually full of ups and downs but life abroad is much more intense. Ups and downs usually occur about five times a day.
– Life back home will go on. Unfortunately we are not that important to where the world will stop. It does not necessarily mean that people have forgotten you; it just means they have lives too.
– Look through different eyes. Different cultures can really be bothersome but try to see from their perspective and understand why things are the way they are.
– Its all on you. You determine your entire experience.
Goodbye for Now
The last year of my life has been a rollercoaster ride of experiences and I would not trade any of them back for the world. At times, this job and place really got me down and I missed home but I have never regretted coming. Teaching abroad has really taught me a plethora of things about myself and my capabilities. This experience has given me confidence to overcome any obstacle that I may have in the future. All in all, moving to China has been the best decision that I have ever made. My words can only describe this experience so much. To truly understand, you must take the great leap yourself!