update on China trip

Everyone keeps asking me LOADS of questions about China.  My pending trip to China has practically become my identity.  It’s like, “Hey Jessica, how are you? When do you leave for China?”  So I’m going to type everyone’s questions along with all of my answers just so they will be on file somewhere.

Q: When do you leave for China?
A: It depends on what the cheapest flight ends up being.  I am due in China on February 21st, so I will have to leave on the 20th at the very latest.  It’s likely that I will leave sometime between the 17th and the 19th and have a layover in Europe somewhere.

Q: How long will you be there?
A: From February 21st to July 31st. OR 5 full months. OR 23 weeks.

Q: What will you be doing?
A: Teaching English at the University of Beijing through this program.

Q: Do you speak Chinese?  Are you going to learn it?
A: No, I don’t speak Chinese; the only requirement for teaching English is speaking English, and the students are only allowed to speak English. (They are mostly adult students with varying levels of knowledge of the English language.)  I’m going to learn whatever I pick up while I’m there, but I’m not going to take classes or anything.  I want to learn whatever I learn by experience.

Q: Where will you stay?
A: I will live at the university with the other teachers and students in the city of Beijing.  The program will cover my housing and provide a monthly stipend.

Q: Do you plan to travel?
A: I doubt I’ll live in China for 5 months and not visit a single tourist spot…Okay that was a little sassy, but yes, I’m going to travel as much as possible.  Plus I believe the program will provide us with some travel experiences as well.  I have a huge travel bucket list, plus the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are in Beijing.  I can’t miss those.

Q: What are you doing after China?
A: I have currently applied to 4 graduate school programs for School Psychology.  They are all 3 year Ed. S. programs, and I hope to enroll in one in August, 2013.

Q: Do you get Facebook/Google/the internet over there?
A: From what I understand, there are ways around the firewalls.  I know people who have been in Beijing since July and they have uploaded photos to Facebook, updated blogs, and Skyped family and friends.  The letters VPN have been floating around, but I haven’t done my research.  Go here if you need to know more.

Q: Take lots of pictures!
A: Is that even a question? I can’t promise that I’ll be in a lot of them, but I will take thousands, probably within the first week.  Fret not, there will be photos.

Those are all the questions I can remember right now, but if you have more, ask them here.  I’ll update if I remember more.  Leaving in a month! Woo!

it’s my choice

pastlikeananchor

As my final semester comes to a close, I have been thinking over the inevitable question, “what’s next?”  Obviously I have pretty solid plans in place for China and graduate school, so I’m not spending a whole lot of time thinking about actual plans for the future.  Instead I’ve been pondering something much less concrete.  Lot’s of questions.  What’s next for me, personally? Who am I going to become? Will I change as much in the next four years as I have in the past four? Will they be changes for the better?

The only thing that is certain is that things will change; I will change.  I think that I’m becoming okay with that.  And as far as the quote above goes, I’m not so sure that I agree anymore.  I see the past more as a foundation for the future; right now, it’s the only thing solid underneath my feet.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m about to sit down right now and cling tight to the past.  But I do think that the past contributes to our future more than we want to give it credit for.  We can either let it hold us back (like an anchor) or propel us forward.  I think it’s easy to think that we have to completely let our past go or bury it in order to move forward, but that’s just not how it works.

For me, this process of moving forward has been about embracing the things I love about my past and tweaking the things that need a little work.  Sure, there are some things that we can let go of, but to completely let go of the past would mean letting go of who you were.  I guess that’s the point that the quote makes, but I don’t think it’s right.  Who you are now and who you will be is based off of who you were in the past, and I just can’t let that go.  I can change certain things I don’t like and build upon certain things that I do like, but I can’t just let go of or ignore any of who I was in the past.  The past itself is not an anchor–it’s all in how we handle it.  We can hold ourselves back by living in the past, or we can embrace it and move forward.  Ultimately, it’s my choice, and I like the sound of that.