January 9: The Realities of Living Abroad

(Before you begin reading, I have one small request: if you start reading this post, please read all the way to the end.)

Living abroad is amazing and crazy and magical and everything you want it to be, but it’s also hard. I know that all of my blog posts have been so positive, but it’s mostly because I haven’t wanted to nor know how to write about how difficult living abroad can be.

The honeymoon phase ended a few months ago, but even then, everyday was as much of a struggle as it was amazing. The past month has been especially difficult.

More days have ended with frustration than with anything else. I occasionally have to leave restaurants because I can’t speak enough Chinese. I can’t ask for help at a supermarket or a store, and if the food delivery man calls me because he’s lost, I can’t tell him how to find my apartment. My job, while fun and rewarding, is difficult. My kids are spoiled and often really naughty. (Chinese kids are very different than American kids.) The other teachers are difficult to get along with, and I’m much younger than all of them. I have affectionately (and sometimes not so affectionately) become known as ‘baby Corinn.’ Doing well at work means ticking all of the right boxes. It means following rules that everyone knows are ridiculous. It’s all about playing the game the right way so that you can eventually get a promotion. Am I playing the game? Definitely. Why? It’s the only way to survive.

After weeks of feeling like being here was the wrong choice, things began to turn around. My roommates and I got an oven, and that alone has made living here more bearable. One of my roommates is adopting a kitty soon. I started grad school classes. And tonight, after having the worst migraine, I decided to go for a short walk. This walk turned into a few hours walk to the middle of Shanghai. Sometimes I forget that I live in one of the biggest cities in the world. The lights, the people, and the building never fail to amaze me. Nights like this remind why I live here, and why I put up with my job everyday.

Am I happy here? On a macro level, I am, but doing even simple things here can be really difficult.

Does this mean I’m going to stay the full year in Shanghai? Not necessarily.

Does it also mean that I’ve decided that I won’t be renewing my contract after a year? Also no.

I still haven’t decided anything about what I will be doing next year (other than still taking classes), and I don’t plan to make any decisions until I absolutely have to.

Until next time,


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