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Countdown to China: 2 days, 12 hours

June 8, 2010

I just graduated from Harvard, and I’m moving to China.

When I tell people this, I always get the same reaction: first, surprise; second, the comment, “you’re so brave!” I’d say, at least 7 out of 10 times, this is how it goes. Most people don’t really know what else to say.

Honestly, I don’t feel brave at all. I feel like I’m avoiding the real questions, the tough decisions,  by taking a detour for a year or two. I guess the brave thing about it is that so much of it is unplanned. I don’t know what will happen to me in China. There’s so much that’s is being left up to fate.

It’s pretty nice, actually. It will be tough to let myself down in this situation. I just want to see where things take me, like lying in an inner tube on a lazy river. Maybe it’s “brave” because there are rocks, but if you just keep your eyes open, you can just relax and let the water do the work, take in the world around you. After four years of college, I am ready to just drift for awhile.

Often, people ask, “why are you moving to China? What will you do there?” Reasonable questions, so I’ll answer them.

The main reason why I picked China, of all places, to spend first two years of my adult life is because of my boyfriend, Rick. He studied Chinese all four years of college, and he spent two summers in the PRC (one in Beijing, one in Shanghai). When the possibility of moving to China came up at the end of my junior year, I decided to fully commit to it, since I had already fully committed to Rick.

This isn’t the usual story of “I gave up my life to follow a boy,” I swear, it’s not. Namely because I didn’t give up anything. I spent my senior year expecting to move to China, and therefore, I did not do the usual senior year job search. No, Rick promised, everything happens on-the-spot in China. We’ll find jobs when we get there, he said. What a relief! I escaped the awful job search (made oh-so-much-worse by the economic crisis) and put all my eggs in the China basket. I spent senior year studying Mandarin Chinese.

What will I be doing in China? Well, I really enjoyed studying Mandarin, more than I expected to enjoy such a difficult undertaking. Perhaps because I was so motivated, with my “I’m moving to China” mantra solidly in place as early as last August. So, I applied for a few things, to continue my studies. First, an immersion summer school program in Beijing, through Harvard summer school, to garner a second year of college Chinese; second, a fellowship to continue language study at a university in Shanghai during the next academic year.

After that year is up? It’s anybody’s guess, but I hope to stay at least another year and work in Shanghai. I always say I’m moving to China “indefinitely.” That’s the truth. I don’t know when I’ll be moving back. That’s a scary thought, actually. That’s the abyss of the unknown, staring me in the face. When the cushy fellowship is over, and I have no excuses anymore, and I have to be a real person.

Thank god I’ll have Rick at my side, with his killer Mandarin skills, and his spontaneous way of living his life to the fullest. I’m sure that if nothing else, china will be an adventure.

But before Rick joins me, I have an entire summer of very intense learning ahead of me, in one of China’s most intense cities. I visited Shanghai in January with Rick, but Beijing will be totally new to me. Uh oh.

Two days, 12 hours until I say goodbye to home. Indefinitely.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Cbuck permalink
    July 21, 2010 11:46 am

    there arent rocks in a lazy river
    the thing you really have watch out for is pee
    people get stuck in those things and theyre moving kinda slowly and they are feeling all relaxed and so they think its ok to go on ahead and pee right into the water
    i suppose its a slightly less poetic interpretation of life’s challenges
    but you know me, keeping it real even if it kills me

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