I found an organisation that offered a 6-month program in which you’d be trained as a TEFL-teacher and would be placed in a Chinese school as an English teacher.
During training someone once said to me that people signed up for two main reasons: a) a leap year before starting university, or b) they were running away from something. I belonged to the latter. I was running away from the pain and troubles that had gotten a hold over me.
From the moment I signed up, I had already started to feel a little lighter. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. Arriving in Beijing in the middle of summer with 50 other people was a culture shock in many ways but we had each other to rely on. With 50 new friends by my side, I already started feeling like anything was possible. In a safe environment we had been allowed to start exploring this new country and culture, a new way of living and thinking, a new way of being. But we also found how friendly strangers on the street could be, always willing to start a conversation and not expecting anything in return apart from a chat. They asked us to join their dancing, to try different foods or, in many cases, for a picture with them. They asked us where we were from, what we did, how we liked China, etc.
It didn’t matter of there was a language barrier, people would a find to engage in conversation with us, show their interest and in return we replied in our best Chinese (which was horrible at its best).
After training we were placed in different cities across China and I found myself in Suzhou, with two roommates. In Suzhou things only got better. We were in the middle of a vibrant city, surrounded by locals. My colleagues at school were friendly and welcoming and my students were a dream. After a few weeks I’d even found my own local bar to hang out and join in with the dancing that happened on a weekly basis. I’d really started to form some roots. I made the best from every single moment, travelling around the country as much as possible during the weekends and exploring my own city during the week. I tried to talk to strangers as much as possible and was always pleasantly surprised.
I still fail in explaining how amazing this country has been to me. It is something that’s almost impossible to put into words. I really wish that I could have scooped up everyone in my arms and have placed them in my shoes for a while, so that I could have shown them what it was about this country. Because that’s really the only way anyone could really understand this versatile and unique place.
I don’t think I ever could’ve anticipated the impact that my 6-month adventure would have, or the people in it. It’s an experience I’ll never forget, an experience that changed my life. Because with every friendly face, every single moment of laughter and joy, every moment of exploring new cities/food/traditions, my heart didn’t only heal, it also grew. I will forever cherish my time in China and I am counting down the days until I get the chance of going back.