This time last year I started writing a sort of diary on my phone in the notes section. I was writing about my feelings before going to China, leaving my friends and family, mixed emotions and the expectations I had. Re-reading it a year later, I realized how I wish someone would’ve told me that everything will be alright in the end. I was going through the lines just thinking „poor me!”. So for all my firsties and all firsties out there, or just for anyone leaving their home at an early age, here are some things I wish I had known myself before leaving home.
1. Yes, things won’t be the same.
Come on, I can’t lie. You have to realize there will be a huge change in your life. Be prepared to learn how to do your laundry with everyone else on your floor, how to cook for yourself when you can’t stand canteen food anymore and many other things. At the same time, remember the routine you have now will be completely different as soon as you arrive on campus. You will go through many confusing weeks when you will be overwhelmed. This is the truth. In plus, if you’re not organized now, IB and leaving independently will teach you how to cope with that. You will have your bed organized, your schedule, your homework and even your pieces of writing, duh! How can IB forget about that? Yes, you will face all these challenges filled with changes in your life but you will realize it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to you. This brings me to point number two.
Oh and don’t get me started on the fear of losing the connection with your friends and with your family. Firstly, you will talk to your parents or text them every day because you all will feel the need to. Also, your relatives will look for you if you are too caught up so they will know what you are up to as well. When it comes to the friends you have back at home, well that’s another story. Do not expect all friendships to remain the same because they most probably will not. I mean, when you see each other again things will be just like when you left! With all the inside jokes (and a few more added which you missed), same nicknames you have for each other and even more topics to talk about. On the other hand, if it happens for some friendships to deteriorate, let yourself feel. You will be disappointed but you will realize who your real friends are, the ones who stay by your side. Plus, don’t feel like a terrible person if you find yourself overwhelmed by your life in China and you don’t text or call people at home. They will love you the same and actually even more when you return for holidays.
When it comes to romantic relationships and how to maintain the fire burning while being in a long-distance relationship, I cannot talk from experience because I don’t believe in this. However, if you have a plan of what to do in 2-3 years when you will be together again and you love each other, keep it going. You have to think it through some time, though. There will be many temptations in China and there will also be a lot of tough times which your SO may not necessarily understand. Have a talk and balance the options you have.
Yes, you will face all these challenges filled with changes in your life but you will realize it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to you. This brings me to point number two.
2. There’s no need to panic, bro!
All this is the natural course of life. What I mean is, you have been through some changes already by now. You can already sort of foresee your future (or not, it was all very surreal to me), but don’t be so pessimistic about it. Honestly, you can ask anyone and they will tell you this: you have no idea what is waiting for you. There are so many beautiful souls and amazing places to see in your new home.
As your second years, we will welcome you open-hearted and with all the love in the world (bc you are our babies <3 ). Seriously talking, we cannot wait to get to meet you. Be excited to become part of the family because it’s a very special feeling that you have. You feel like you belong there.
I remember many nights before leaving in August last year when I simply felt so down. I was thinking that I am losing a part of me. In reality, I found another part of me thousands of miles away. I did not get rid of my old self. I made it stronger and I know it will be the same for you all!
3. Your heart being divided in two is not as bad as you think
Oh, my gosh. The drama that was in my head last year. A real telenovela. I had the right to act like a drama queen in a way, BUT (big but) I actually discovered I had no reason to. Before moving to China, I read other blogs of UWC alumni and they said that their heart was in their home country and also in the country of their college. Somehow, they were really affected by that.
I won’t lie. There are many times when I am homesick either for Romania or for China. I find myself hanging out with my friends in Bucharest and think about my nights in Changshu or Shanghai or even of the stuffed dog I left on campus. Similarly, when I am in bed on campus and I had a very bad day I just feel like hugging my parents. As time goes by, you will see that there are replacements for what or who you miss. For example, if you feel like hugging your parents you will hug your teddy bear and talk to them on the phone, or your closest friends will give you a pep talk on how amazing you are and reassure you that everything will be alright.
Although your heart will be in China and in your home country (or city if you are originally from China) as well, there will come a time when you will realize that having two homes is one of the best things that could ever happen to you. True, you can’t quickly switch between homes, but at one point you won’t even want that.
For me, there is nothing better than knowing that I found myself a family so far away from Romania and at the same time I can keep the people closest to my heart in my home country.
4. Prepare for your brand new self
You will grow incredibly much. You will mature immensely and you will think differently. All the global issues sessions (which btw are mandatory!), the IB values (respect yo)- some of which actually can be seen on campus sometimes (other times not, but hey! we learn and grow every day). Your parents will be amazed at the talks you will want to have with them on politics, cultural differences etc.
The greatest thing you will receive is the gift of being able to reach your potential and always aim higher because you will have the chance to do that. There is competition and it is tough, but you shouldn’t focus too much on that in the beginning of your first semester.
Personally, I never expected to change so much in this way by moving to China, but this only makes me excited for the growth to come for me and for everyone else that will go through this experience.
5. Be excited to embark on your adventure!
Remember: your life change is something to be excited about! Of course, you will be super anxious as well, but don’t forget to make the most of the time you have left at home with your family and friends. When you leave, don’t think that you are leaving anything behind.
Don’t be as dramatic as I was and make your car drive to the airport a sad music video by looking at the window at your city like it’s the last time you see it. Girl/Boy, everything in your city will still be there when you go back for Christmas/Summer break or whenever your flight back is. There may be one shop that closed down near your house, a new TV show which everyone is obsessed with or anything else small like that. Keep in mind that you are not going to the army or to war.
You are going to China to your new family! (and you will feel this family sense from the moment you will be welcomed at the airport or on campus).
These are some of the things which I have noticed in my notes from last year. I think an article like this would have really helped me to calm my tootsies (if ya know what I mean) down. Firsties, fellow young people, get excited! Leaving home is tough, but ask anyone and they will tell you it’s all worth it.