I arrived in Guangzhou, China, at the end of June 2018. Before (and even after) arriving in China, people who I spoke to for advice about this new bold adventure in my life, told me that the first four months or so would be difficult. They told me that if I stuck it out, it would be worth it. Six months later, I am grateful to all those people who were honest with me because this is what kept me going as I climbed the mountain of this new experience. Now I find myself happily at the top of that mountain looking out at the vast expanse that screams out to me all the possibilities that lie ahead.
I love summer and prefer the heat rather than the cold, so arriving at the peak of Guangzhou's hot and humid summer was exciting. The day after arrival, we began orientation, training and finding apartments. Two weeks later, I had an apartment, completed training and started at my designated school. This coincided with the start of summer course. I was new to teaching and it was a huge help to be assisted and supported greatly by the staff at my school. Even though I felt overwhelmed at times, I put in all my time and energy to learn this new skill of teaching and lesson planning. Days were long, but I was happy that I had made that effort because I had learned so much in the first two months until summer course ended. During this time, I did find things difficult, but I am so grateful that I made that effort at the beginning because it helped me get familiar with everything in a really short space of time.
My apartment is in a place called Panyu, which is south of the city. It is not as crowded as the city. I have a lovely apartment that oversees a theme park with a wonderful view of trees and greenery. I also hear the happy sounds of people as they enjoy their time at the theme park. Home is a beautiful and peaceful twenty-minute walk from my school, along a road lined with palm trees. I love walking to school now that the weather has cooled down.
Besides the challenge of learning the new skill of teaching, it was also challenging for me to learn how to live in this new country with a language I did not understand. I remember that the first time I went to a supermarket, I was so overwhelmed that I walked around in a combined state of daze and panic. Everything seemed so unfamiliar to me. I walked out of there without buying anything. A week later, needing groceries, I decided to tackle the supermarket again. This time was better, less daze and panic, and I completed my purchases. It was then that I realised that living in China was so much more difficult than living in an English speaking foreign country and that it would take more time and a lot of experimenting for me to find all that I am comfortable with. This realisation helped me to stop disliking everything that was unfamiliar and to embrace experimenting. I realised that it will take longer for me to become comfortable, but that it will be an enjoyable ride if I am open to the experience. This is what I chose to do!
As soon as summer course finished and we entered September, I had to put my nose to the grindstone in another department that of completing my university work for my post graduate degree as final submission was due in October. Even though all I wanted to do was rest, I persevered. I focused and submitted all necessary work in October which brought me to the end of my first four months in China.
Since I now had more free time and the pressure was off me, I worked on finding a new comfortable rhythm at work and at home. I also started going out and exploring Guangzhou. This has been great fun.
The advice that I was given was true for me and I am glad that I stayed through the difficult first months because now I am enjoying being in China and I am looking forward to the adventures that await me!