One of the coolest things I’ve ever done is moving to China for a half a year. It represented a huge step toward independence and living the life I’ve always dreamt of. This is the story of how I got there.
A couple of years ago, when I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree I took a year off to write my thesis and work aboard. My dream was Berlin as it has been my go-to place ever since my first visit to the city in my second year of studies. I was young and inexperienced in a lot of ways but after a year living in Amsterdam all I wanted to do is to live and work in another amazing European metropolis.
I spend months applying to different jobs and opportunities, focusing especially in Berlin, but as you can imagine for someone with just a few short-term jobs and no degree, international jobs weren’t exactly lining up for me. So I broaden my search and after some weeks of applying to a variety of jobs I got an email from a Hong Kong agency looking for English teachers to work in China. The Skype interview went great and soon I was offered a position in the south of China, starting in just 2 weeks.
I’m a very passionate and driven person when it comes to the things I love and there was no way I could turn down the offer to travel to Asia, a continent that was nothing but stories to me back then. Buying the ticket was easy, but getting the visa turned out to be more difficult that expected. As this was all happening during the week of Chinese New Year’s, everything connected to China, including the Chinese embassy was closed for that time. There was only one shot for me to get my visa and with some luck and destiny being on my side, I succeeded. So within two weeks of being offered the job, I was saying goodbye to my friends and family and traveling to the other side of the world.
My first experience with the country was anything but easy. I couldn’t speak a world of Mandarin or Cantonese, my debit card wasn’t working, people were starring at me like an animal in a zoo, and on top of everything I got food poisoning on my very first day there. Therefore, my toilet, which was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, making me determined to not even acknowledge its existence, quickly became my very close friend.
The kindergarten I started working in was extremely disorganised and I was told that Yangjiang, this “small city” of only 2 million residents (a.k.a. the population of Slovenia) apparently only had one other foreign person in town. This meant that there was only one person that could potentially become friends with as we would be able to speak a common language. At this point I was still feeling sick, tired, and lonely and I was contemplating for the first time in my life if this decision to travel and live so far away from everything I know was the right one. Luckily because I went to China through an agency my supervisor quickly acknowledged my dissatisfaction and within 3 days of getting to Yangjiang, I was on the bus heading to Zhangjiang.
After a several hour bus drive enjoying Chinese Jackie Chan movies I got to my destination where I was picked up by my new mentor and I immediately felt a different vibe. I remember driving in a taxi and watching a procession of people dressed in red carrying a dragon, celebrating the last days of the Chinese New Year’s. We stopped by a big skyscraper next to the sea and took the elevator up to the 22nd floor. When we entered my apartment I was stunned. My bedroom was a big corner room with huge windows overlooking the ocean. In that moment I knew – I was home.
Read more about Why I Travel and How You Could Too.