My friend Michelle who writes over at Bod for Tea wrote a comment on my last blog post which reminded me of my time living in China some gazillion years ago, before baby and bills. Actually I had bills back then, but I also had parents who were willing to help cover them and good credit which allowed me to get a loan out to cover some expenses in my absence. Good times. Moving to China was nothing if not completely impulsive and unplanned. There was a month if not less between the idea being dangled in front of me by a tutor at my uni and me landing in a very hot, humid Harbin Airport.
During that month, I had to run back and forth organising jabs, health certificates, letters of invitation, flights, visa runs, clothes shopping and telling my often confused friends that I was flying to the other side of the world to teach English at a top military and ship building university a month after completing my bachelor’s degree in a subject that had nothing to do with either teaching, English or Chinese. Whilst others were getting excited about their upcoming graduate placements, I was getting excited about the chance to test out my new teaching skills, courtesy of a one month intensive CELTA course.
I think part of what made my time in China so exciting and memorable is the lack of pre-planning. The spontaneity of the move and lack of knowledge of the region meant that every day was packed with a new surprise, a new life lesson and in some cases, another shock to the system. Talk about a sharp cultural and career learning curve. I learned how to ski, went on my first hike, ate my first fried egg with a pair of chopsticks and made my first international friends, many of whom I still talk to nearly a decade later. I also graduated in Shanghai which was amazing! The University had a large Chinese alumni so they preformed a separate ceremony there so that the student’s family and friends could all be present. I was the only non-Chinese student graduating which was quite amusing. My parents flew to Shanghai to see me graduate and the whole experience was the stuff of dreams.
Teaching was a great addition to my skills set. I was responsible for people other than myself, it was sometimes quite unnerving, knowing that if I didn’t teach my students well enough, they stood the chance of failing their English proficiency tests (IELTS) and not being able to carry on with their chosen paths of study which would include a year in either Australia or the UK for their sandwich years. Luckily, I turned out to be quite a good, if not slightly unconventional teacher. My students did well in their tests and it filled me with pride to mark their papers. I think having a teaching job in China on my resume was a positive for employers too.
Do I regret moving to the other side of the world straight out of uni without a single word of Mandarin under my belt? Not at all. If any thing, I regret not staying there longer. My move back to the UK was just as impulsive as my move away from it had been. It probably would have been a good idea to get another year of teaching under my belt or to follow up on the job opportunity to interview and travel which had been serendipitously offered to me thanks to a recommendation from a fantastic friend I’d met in China.
Sometimes throwing caution to the wind and just going with your gut can be the making of you. I think my time living in China still ranks highly amongst my favourite life experiences. If I’d listened to any of the many naysayers telling me it was a rash choice, that people don’t just get up and go to other countries, I’d have missed out on some incredible experiences and many wonderful friends who still shape me and make me a better person till this day.
Do you travel on impulse? Where is the most impulsive place you jumped up and went to? I hope it all worked out well for you, and even if it didn’t, I hope it was memorable!
Linking to Share The Joy