When you move to a new country and live and work there it inevitably changes you. In my case the experience has caused me to grow in multiple ways. I have grown personally, professionally, and socially. In a future blog I’ll talk about how I’ve grown socially but for now, I’ll concentrate on personal and professional growth. In a nutshell, living in a different country has given me new confidence in myself. I now know that I can grow and become successful in a new place where, initially, I don’t know anyone. I’ve learned to let go of some things. I’ve learned new ways of handling difficulties. I’ve learned some new things that have enriched my life.
All the foreign faculty live in Peter Hall. Despite the fact most of the foreign faculty are American, our Peter Hall community is very diverse. We are from California, Kansas, Idaho, Texas, and more. In addition to Americans, we are from England, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, India, and several other countries. We are from small towns, large cities and rural areas. We are from diverse social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Because of this we have learned that different doesn’t mean wrong. It simply means different. Despite the differences we are a close and inclusive community. Most of us, including myself, have learned to extend and receive grace more easily. In some ways giving grace is easier than receiving it. Receiving grace can be humbling. As I’ve learned, it can also be growth producing.
My Chinese students have been instrumental in helping me learn this lesson as well. Often the same kinds of teaching techniques that work for native English speakers in the United States also work here with non-native speakers. However, because of language differences and students’ differing English abilities, the same techniques don’t always work. This has caused me to grow professionally. I’ve learned to be more creative in building and presenting lessons. I’ve learned to think more on my feet. I’ve learned to reach across language barriers and teach meaningful concepts. These things have made me a better teacher.
Personally, I’ve learned to let go of some things. Some of these things are as simple letting go of the need to understand every word I hear on the street or understanding street signs. There have been some very hard situations back home that I have not been there to help with. I have had to let go and trust that family and friends will get through this. I’ve learned that I’m not irreplaceable.
I’ve learned patience when things take more time. The Chinese culture is slower in some ways and this means that things sometimes don’t happen as quickly. Instead of getting inpatient, I’ve learned to relax and enjoy the slower pace. Social harmony is a highly cherished value in Chinese culture, so I’ve learned to wait, and I’ve learned to ask a Chinese friend to advocate for me when there are issues that need some cultural understanding.
Most importantly the past year and a half has taught me that I’m able to keep growing and exploring. In this new phase of my life, I’ve made new friends. I’ve learned new skills both personally and professionally. I’ve had adventures. I’ve successfully survived culture shock and emerged at the end stronger and more resilient than I was before. Living and working in China has been a very positive and affirming experience for me.
What have you learned and how have you grown in the past year? Have there been situations, either positive or negative that have caused you to grow recently? Please share your “growth experiences” with me. I’d love to hear from you. Also, do you have questions about living and working in China? I’d love to answer them. Drop me a line even if it’s just to say hello.