Nine months of planning, fit into two suitcases

Authored by:
Kate M.

Kate M.

It’s been nine months since I went on a walk with my mom and told her I wanted to teach English abroad. Five months since I began my TEFL certification course. Four months since I drove in the rain from Baltimore to D.C. and stood in line at the Chinese embassy to submit visa documents. One month since I quit my reporting job in Baltimore, ready to try a new adventure.  

After all those months of planning and preparation and excitement, it’s time to pack. I’ve got two giant suitcases, one with a broken handle from an infamous flight from Maine to D.C., one bought on sale last week at Macy’s. Both are ready to be filled with my favorite clothes and spare toiletries.

I’m packing slowly. Everything is laid out on my bedroom carpet, piles of sweaters and jeans and shampoo cover my floor. I’m checking everything off my categorized packing list before it goes into a suitcase. Much like applying for my visa, the process is slow and deliberate, done carefully so as not to miss anything.

Packing is the last step before I board my plane to China. After all of the plans and applications and errands, it’s time to do the thing I set out to do. In three days, teaching abroad is no longer the fun adventure I’ve been talking about, it’s the thing I’m actually doing.

For all my preparation, there’s a lot I don’t know about my upcoming life in China. Not small things, like where I’ll buy laundry detergent, but big things, like my classroom assignment and my apartment address. My carefully packed suitcases are the last things I can plan and control for a while.

For nine months, this new adventure has felt cool and exciting and like a grand opportunity I’ve carved out for myself. But right now, sitting in my parents living room, it feels overpowering and scary and possibly crazy. And that’s okay.  Moving across the world is big and scary, and yes possibly crazy, but ultimately, it’s those things in a really good way.

When I debated whether to apply to CIEE, I saw a YouTube video about a CIEE alum’s time in Shanghai. When asked to give advice, she told prospective teachers that if they wanted to go, they had to push their fears aside and take the leap.

So that’s what I’m doing- accepting that my move to a foreign country with a language I don’t speak for a job I’ve never done is huge and terrifying, but that I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to carefully pack two suitcases of my belongings and hopes and wishes for the year ahead and I’m going to see what’s on the other side of the world.  

Wish me luck. 

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