It's almost time for me to pack up and head home, so with that in mind I've reflected on my packing from the beginning of the year and I have a few recommendations for future teachers! Next week I will write my final blog post about this year in China, but for now, consider these hints, tips, and suggestions about packing.
- TISSUES - of course you can buy these anywhere once you arrive, but it's smart to have at least one pack in your purse or bag because you'll use them everywhere you go... restrooms, restaurants, even to wipe your sweat in the summer heat.
- A solid pair of walking shoes - without a car you'll be walking a lot and it can be difficult to find the right size, especially if your size lies outside the average.
- An umbrella, especially in Nanchang... I cannot emphasize this enough! I have bought and broken three umbrellas during my time here: bring a strong one!
- Clothes that you like - don’t be worried about standing out (as a foreigner in China you will stand out no matter what you do)! Multiple pairs of pants, a balance of work and leisure clothes... A multi-seasonal jacket is also highly recommended. Always a good idea when you’re traveling - it’s quite cold in the winter and quite hot in the summer. Be prepared for all kinds of weather and a range of temperatures.
- Smartphone. It seems like everyone these days has a smartphone, but if you don't - invest! APPs like WeChat are your connection to everything in China - messaging, paying, and several other things are done using a smartphone. It's much more convenient to have one!
- Headphones - first of all, they're useful for the long-as-can-be plane ride... additionally they're good for walking around campus or the city, getting work done at a cafe, etc. (I'm using mine right now.)
- Medications. Obviously you should bring any prescription medication with you, but even basic products like ibuprofen, allergy medicine, and cold medicine are good to have with you. Brands here are different, and if you're not familiar with them or the Chinese characters it can be frustrating to find what you need. If there's something that you prefer a particular brand for (deodorant, contact solution, etc.) bring it!
- Solid backpack. Definitely. Even as a teacher you will use it every day. You can not only carry your class materials more easily, but you can also use it to carry things from the grocery store, to hold your umbrella, and to more conveniently go about your daily life.
- Something to make you feel at home - a stuffed animal, a book, whatever you prefer! It's a big adjustment, so you might need something that reminds you of home every once in awhile.
- A willingness to learn and adapt. Join in cultural activities, learn about Chinese festivals, make an attempt to learn the language if you haven’t already - China has so much to offer, especially to someone completely unfamiliar with this country! I came here with very limited knowledge about what I was getting myself into, and I’m coming out the other side with so much more than I ever could have imagined!
People here are so friendly and willing to help when you need something, but it's important to meet them halfway. Pack thoughtfully and consider that a move to China is a big change (especially coming from a western country). I highly recommend this experience and implore you to pack your best attitude if you plan to teach here in the future!