Moving to China: Was I afraid?

Today I’m bringing back an old post from Summer 2010.

As I’m already waiting for my trip to Finland in January 2014, I’ve been thinking a lot of those weeks surrounding my move to China. How scared I was that my dream was coming true!

For all of you dreaming of moving to China or already packing your bags, it’s totally ok to be afraid. Just take it one step at the time. I haven’t regretted a day.

19th June 2010:

It was two weeks before flying to China. I felt that I don’t want to go and wrote to my diary:

Yesterday I had the farewell party and it was lovely to meet all my friends. Again I have the feeling that I don’t have the courage to go. I hope this feeling will change to excitement.

Just before I reach my goal I feel scared. Is this really what I want? Will everything go well? What if I made the wrong decision?

But when I got on the plane I felt excited. My dream was happening right then! It felt incredibly amazing when I realized that it wasn’t a distant hope anymore but a life I was living. I also learned how important it is to have big dreams, work to make them happen and then remember to enjoy when it is happening.

But it wasn’t that easy. My first night in Beijing wasn’t quite what I had expected. I wrote to my diary:

I’m feeling afraid again. I’m in my safe hotel room and it feels like a huge task to go outside. But I just should go so I would get something to eat as well. I wish I would have a friend with me here to give me courage. It makes me really annoyed to be this scared.

Finally I decided what time I go and then I went. It wasn’t that scary or difficult. Sure I spend too much money on food because forget to bargain and felt bad afterwards. But I did it. I went out all by my self, to a city that was huge and strange. I overcame my first difficulty but of course it wasn’t the last one.

At that time I still believed that some parts of China were more real than others. So in order to see more I went to Pingyao, which is still a tourist town. I arrived there on an early morning when everything was dark. I paid way too much for taxi in order to get to my hostel as soon as possible. But my experience with “true China” wasn’t that sweet.

I’m feeling cold all the time. I want to leave this place. Tomorrow I will go to withdraw money and buy a train ticket. I could even take a standing ticket if I just can go. I feel sad and lonely. I hate traveling alone! I want to go somewhere warm. I’m almost crying. I could never live in a place that in the winter time you have to wear your jacket indoors as well. I should be happy to see this part of China but it’s not easy. I don’t know how I dare to take a shower.

That evening alone in my cold room I felt like crap. But after that it became easier day by day. I learned how to travel and use the small Chinese vocabulary I had at that time. I was brave and convinced my self that I can take care of my self. That was one of the goals for my five-week trip.

So oh yes I was afraid. But now when months have passed by I’m not afraid to tell everyone. It is ok to be afraid but don’t let that fear to change your plans or take over. I think coming to China have been the most important turn in my life so far.

  • jerry

    i have read many posts on your blog. I am so touched by your courage and persistent.. Although you have been though so many difficulties in China, you never gave up your dream. really hope that I can become your real friend in GZ someday. 

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Jerry for all of your comments, it’s really nice to have a local person here commenting and reading my posts.

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  • sirius

    I am always at o loss when I in somewhere not so fimiliar with.

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  • Cies

    Hello, Sara!
    I just found your blog and I’m really enjoying it, so here you have a new follower!
    I really liked this entry particularly, because I felt very related to it. Next month I’m moving to Finland and sometimes I also get scared and think that maybe I shouldn’t go. I have already lived there for a year as an exchange student and I loved it, so I know that once I’m there again everything will be fine and I will be happy to be there. But meanwhile, you entry helped me to feel less scared :)
    Terveisin ja kiitos!
    Cíes.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Cies, I know what you mean. It’s completely natural to feel afraid before a big step. It’s so great to hear you have livind in Finland and are going back. What things you find the hardest to get used to in Finland?

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    Cies Reply:

    Moikka! Well, I wouldn’t know what was “the hardest” to get used to, but the long and dark winter and the kaamos were terrible! People is also a bit more distant and serious than in Spain, but I like them. The worst thing was probably the big problem many of them have with alcoholism, that is very sad. But for the rest I love it! The language is very hard as well, but I really like it and enjoy studying it :) During my year as an exchange student many of my international friends found it hard to get used to Finland, but I got quite integrated and used to everything. I even had a Finnish boyfriend, but things didn’t work out. I hope that now that I’m going back there I will also be comfortable and integrated there :) *Fingers crossed*

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’ve had Chinese friends too that said the dark Autumn with rains and cold Winter was very hard for them. I’m so glad to hear that in general it was a good experience for you, so good that you are going back :)

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  • Feifei

    Hi Sara, I have been following your blog for some time now and I really admire your courage and determination. I went to China this summer to volunteer and before I left I was so scared, thinking about all the things that could go wrong. But when I got on the plane all of my fears disapeared, I just knew it would be fine. My time in China was really nice and it felt great because I realised I can travel on my own and there is no need to be afraid. My plan for next year is to study abroad in China, but now I have been home for a while and I’m getting scared again. Reading your blog helps putting my fears away and it gives me courage to pursue my dream. Thank you for keeping up such a nice blog :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Feifei, just remember how all the fears went away when you got on that plane. It’s hard to leave our comfortzones, but it’s often not as difficult as we think. Always keep on pursuying your dreams! :)

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  • Chris_Waugh

    Ah, yes, I remember on my way to Changsha back in ’99 thinking “But hang on a minute, I’ll soon be in a city with a population greater than my entire country”. It was a bit daunting. But Sara, you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with the fear – it’s natural and normal and when managed properly, a good thing, as it stops us doing really stupid things. But the key is “managed properly”, and you’re absolutely right, we can’t let the fear get in the way of living rich, adventurous lives.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Your comment reminded me of how I never wanted to move to Helsinki, I thought it’s too big of a city for me. And now I live in Guangzhou!

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  • hills learning

    Traveling definitely builds your confidence Sara to do a lot of things, least of all learn Mandarin Chinese. Great blog, keep up the good work and enjoy your travels in China while you still can!

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    That 5 week trip was to show myself that I can do it, and it felt so amazing to actually be able to do it!

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  • Simo

    Mä kirjoitan suomeksi :D

    Mulle kiinassa eniten stressiä aiheuttaa yleinen epävarmuus. Suomessa voi kuitenkin aina luottaa sihen että vuokra-, pankki- , poliisi-asiat kaikki järjestyy ja menee aina sääntöjen mukaan. Täällä Kiinassa taas ei :D
    jotenkin stressaa ajatus tälläisestä “epävirallisesta” elämisestä, varmaan 25 vuotta Suomessa on koulinut ihmisestä osan suomalaisen yhteiskunnan koneistoa.

    Tyhmää stressata, kuin varsikin näin “valkolaisena” kaikki asiat kyllä aina järjestyy todella helposti kunhan vaan muistaa vaan hymyillä ja olla superystävällinen.

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Ihan totta, Kiinassa pitää jotenkin aina olla varpaillaan kun ei voi luottaa siihen, että kaikki pelaa niin kuin pitäisi (näin suomalaisesta näkökulmasta).

    Toinen juttu mihin ihan viikon sisällä olen törmännyt on kopiointi ja sen pelko. Kukaan ei uskalla antaa ilmaiseksi mitään ihmisille kun pelätään, että se kopioidaan. Mutta samaan aikaa kopioidaan itse muiden juttuja! Omaan mieleen tuntuu hieman nurinkuriselta ajattelulta.

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  • Linná

    Hi Sara!

    I have to tell you that this is one of my favourite post on your blog. And the timing is perfect. I’ll go to Chongqing in September for a year, so I feel excited, and yes, I afraid. China is my dream, but I’m just thinking that ‘Is this what I want? Is it worth? What if, I will feel lonely?’ But this post gives me courage to take the first step to achieve my dream. Thank you so much! :)

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    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m so so happy to hear that :) Have an amazing time in Chongqing!

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