It's tough to narrow down one awesome experience from my time working abroad. I can honestly say that each amazing memory and experience, even the ones that are not so fun to reminisce on, have all added up together to give me one unforgettable adventure in China. From the moment I first boarded the plane to begin my new life in Beijing a year ago, to sitting down writing this blog in Shanghai today, has all been filled with an awesome experience working abroad. I remember thinking to myself on my initial flight to China, since I had a long 13-hour lonely flight, how much my life was about to change. During that flight I think I went through every human emotion possible: fear, excitement, regret, worry, sadness, happiness, confusion, guilt, doubt etc. and hunger of course. Looking back now, even that was good experience. I saw it as a good problem to have since not a lot of people are fortunate enough to experience working abroad. From my personal experience, traveling was always something difficult to do because of school, having a full-time job, or being unable to save enough money. It took a lot of time and planning to book a solid trip. Working abroad however, was something I never imagined doing, yeah it sounded cool and interesting, but being able to actually do it, seemed like an unrealistic opportunity.
From the moment the possibility of working abroad became a reality, I tried to enjoy every moment leading up to my new journey. Although it may be a stressful time preparing for the big move, I recommend valuing all the little moments and have fun. Appreciate both the good and bad situations that will happen, because they are all a part of your overall experience. Let me be honest here, there were times where I absolutely had my annoyed “Why am I in China?” moments.
The first time it happened, I was out exploring Beijing one night. I had only been in China a couple weeks and was excited to get “lost” and get to know my new home, since everyone in Beijing had gone back to their towns to visit family during the Chinese New Year. When it was time for me to make my way home, I tried ordering a Didi (China's version of Uber or Lyft) back to my apartment. I waited an hour and because I was new to the app and had a zero rating, no driver wanted to pick me up. I was stuck in the middle of Beijing at 2am, four miles from home, with low battery on my phone. I decided to start walking back hoping I could find a taxi and catch a ride. It started snowing and I never found a taxi. I'm from Los Angeles; the coldest weather I experience is the cool breeze from the beach. I only go the snow when I am fully equipped and bundled up. So yeah, this situation was not ideal for me at all. I was freezing, irritated and immediately regretted coming to China. Almost two hours later I made it home covered in snow and unable to open my door. I was so cold and my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn't put my key into the lock.
This may not sound like a great example to use when talking about an awesome experience working abroad, but in the end it was unbelievable. As I was walking back to my apartment I looked up and it hit me: China was my new home. I was alone, and there was no one for me to call and come pick me up. I realized that I could either hate living here, or I could learn to adjust and enjoy the year I still had ahead of me. That adventure turned out to consist of the most beautiful night I have experienced while working abroad. The streets were empty, snow was falling, and I was able to explore sites that were usually crowded with tourist carefree because they were now completely empty. It was as if I had reserved the entire city for myself. The lake, temples, towers, hutongs and everything on my way home were all lit up, allowing me to experience Chinese culture unbothered.
Being able to take the time to simply look around every so often while working abroad will make your entire experience awesome. We get so caught up with work and our daily life that we forget that we are living and working in a different world. Coming to work abroad with an open mind, ready to accept change, and willing to adapt is a lot easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But life working in an unfamiliar setting will be amazing experience filled with great lessons, knowledge, and funny stories worth telling people, even the ones you want to forget. But that's just it, all those stories are part of the experience. They are situations you never imagined you would ever experience in your life.