China

Moving to China: motivation for those who are “almost ready”

November 28, 2016
Statue at Beijing's Forbidden City

 I moved to China in 2010 booking a flight to Xiamen, an island city in the southern part of the country, when I was twenty-seven and lived there through the first half of 2016, six years. Looking back, I have no regrets about that life-changing decision, but I would certainly do it earlier.

Would you like to move to China and find a job there, or study the Chinese language, but something is holding you back? Is that money, family, or your partner? What about your pets? I was very sensitive to any pressure and  conditioning coming from my environment: my closest friends, my family and partners, my cats. I was afraid of acting in a “selfish” way for years, and that resulted in no action at all. In my early 20s I knew already what passions and purposes motivated me, but I was too much sensitive to the conditioning of my environment and that was holding me back. I’ve been passionate about Asia since middle school and I had the first chance to visit China when I was 20 and the Chinese Department at the Far Eastern Studies Faculty offered to most of the students scholarships for a language course in Beijing. I knew I wanted to go, I wanted to explore something totally different from what I was accustomed to, however, at the time I had a million excuses as to why I shouldn’t and lost my chance.

 

I was going to China to learn a new language (that would become two, in the end) and to have an experience that would broaden my horizon and reveal essential on my path towards independence! I was taking care of myself, that is way different from being selfish! While I was abroad, friends and beloved found their way to cope, and they did it quite naturally and quickly, to my surprise. Honestly, I also felt relieved because eventually, I managed to cut a few relationships which had been slowing me down for ages. However, let’s get back a few chapters.

My family wanted me to get a degree and the most significant people in my life, my friends, were going to get one as well. That wasn’t something I could take lightly, it was required of me. The correct way to conduct myself according to the norm was to go on to college following high school. I chose the faculty of Far-Eastern languages and cultures at a public university in y hometown. It didn’t take me much time to decide. I knew I wanted to travel.

Travel, not study.

 

Moving to China
Yu Garden in Shanghai

 

Looking back, I probably wouldn’t enroll in such a rush, I would instead save and move somewhere early, possibly in Asia. I decided to work and study. I continued in a sort of frenzy with no solid focus on anything. My studies took a short detour, I’d had enough of sitting and reading, but I promised myself I would complete. In haste, It seemed like hundreds of pages had to be read just to show to the professor I knew plenty about the subject. At the same time my spoken Chinese, my supposed main focus, was poor as I was surrounded by Italians, besides having many other subjects to study. Home wasn’t a place where I could improve either because the peace and quiet it required weren’t present there. Studying East-Asian cultures and languages from books in preparation for my trip to Asia was interesting, but it seemed the more I tried to prepare from home, the more it put off the real action-taking I needed to get there.

During my second year of studies, I was offered, along with other lucky students, a free Chinese language course for four months at a university in Beijing. I’d refused on the basis of feeling guilty for leaving my dearest friends and family in order to widen my horizons. It seemed I was reluctant to live my own life. What was holding me back? Whose life was I living?

Years went by, and I couldn’t be more detached from my dreams!

I had to wait another six years for a second chance to cross the sea to reach what would become my second beloved home. On an occasion that appeared to be a typical weekend night out, I met an old friend at the pub. I hadn’t seen her in ages and surprisingly was told she studied Chinese too. She still wasn’t able to communicate with the natives, so this called for studying in China for a while and I was “in” without a second thought. This time it was without remorse with loads to gain in all areas of my life.

Why should you move to China?

Because you want to learn how to communicate in Chinese and be within reach of all the opportunities the country and its cultures have to offer. At least, the opportunity to open your mind.

In my particular case, it was essential to embark on this type of endeavor with a friend, but later I’d learned students in China that left their countries alone were still doing great.

Meeting new people and making new friends on a regular basis was easy. Everything everywhere was a new source of surprise and feeling bored would render impossible.

As first, my friend and I took a 4 and a half months of Chinese course at Xiamen University. Chinese universities are huge. The government invests greatly in education and Chinese campuses are home to thousands and thousands of students, teachers, and workers from all parts of China. The number of international students is growing exponentially. Studying and living in a Chinese university allowed me to share life experiences with students from five continents while I improved my Chinese and English simultaneously. Incredibly, I learned about Chinese culture and had improved my Chinese more in 5 months time in China than in three years of studying Chinese at the university.

Just a couple of weeks after I’d arrived in Xiamen, I stopped missing home and eventually, when it was time to pack and return to Italy, I pouted. Such a wonderful experience, and it had to come to an end.

After finals, my friend and I returned to Italy, but in less than two months, I was ready to go back, and this time, I would do it on my own. I decided to find a job in China and lived there for a few years with all the due downsides, that anyway couldn’t outshine the fact that my spoken Chinese was improving day by day, and that I was experiencing life thousands of kilometres away from home.

Nevertheless, China is a big country with travel destinations of all kinds and just a few hours flight from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and so many other places worth visiting!

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