Incredible how one decision can change your life forever, who you are, and help unlock abilities you never knew you had. Deciding to work abroad is a terrifying change. Your life will never be the same, but that's a good thing. I still remember my final week back home in America. I did all the research possible, but even still, I had no idea what I was in for.

And so came the long drive to the airport. Was I delaying my career for a possible bust abroad? Would I lose my friends back home? Would I like my job? My heart was pounding. And then there was the slow walk through airport security.

My parents' figures gradually faded away as I headed toward my gate. That's when the change began.

Conquer your fears

I had graduated college, worked as a teacher for three years in America, and now I was going to teach abroad in China. It was 10 PM when I arrived at the Shenyang airport. I could not understand a word spoken around me. Fortunately for me, the signs were translated into English.

The fear continued to creep. I felt so uncomfortable. A new way of life. Was I prepared for this? During the next few weeks, I would point to pictures to order food, battle jet lag, and interact with a new group of people. I didn't know what to expect as a Foreign English Teacher here in China, but I also learned how to teach.

You do so many presentations, which I improved on as time passed. Everything that I feared before was revealed to be an illusion. I can travel to South Korea, Japan, or Vietnam and get around, as frightening as it was before to travel by myself. Fear, many times, is that evil voice in your head telling you not to do it. That's all it is.


Depending on how you feel about learning languages, this is the perfect opportunity. Even if you plan on returning home after a year contract, learning Mandarin or any new language for that matter unlocks the ability to think in other ways.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, "speaking more than one language increases the amount of neural pathways in the brain, allowing information to be processed through a greater variety of channels." Learning Mandarin in my experience has allowed me to speak to the locals and it is an enormous boost of confidence.

The Chinese characters were very intimidating at first, but after learning a few, you start to put things together, and it is not as difficult as it seems.

Establish a new lifestyle

Back home, I lived with my parents. Now I was on my own and I had to figure it out all by myself. I had to adjust. But with this new found independence came opportunities. I was always goal-oriented so I found a tutor to teach me Chinese, got a gym membership, and started to cook twice a week at home.

My first month was the roughest because I was still trying to figure it all out. I was homesick. My friends wanted me to come back home. I don't know what kept me from packing my bags, but I stuck it out. I downloaded a few motivational speeches on my iPod and put my headphones on to walk around.

My second year in China I found a group that played soccer once a week. I could do whatever the heck I wanted.

Make friends from all over the world

Shenyang contains a great deal of diversity. Not only do you make Chinese friends, but also foreigners from all around the world. From Russian to Irish to South African, everyone's story is incredible. Nothing like you would hear back home.

We play soccer together and hang out on the weekends. Everyone wants to hear your story too. "Why did you come to China?" And I tell them all the reasons written in this article. People come and go, but it's about the memories you make and the experiences you have that stick with you. Some people even come back.

Confidence boost

The thing that will change the most about yourself is your confidence. You develop a thick skin. You learn to cook. You have a lot of free time to work on yourself. If you like writing, working abroad is the thing to do. You become a better decision-maker. You get lost and discover new places.

When you've acquired enough of the language, you learn how to exchange money, give directions to a taxi driver, travel around, and become a better version of yourself. If you are all about self-development this is the move to make. By the time your contract is over, you won't recognize yourself. You'll be walking with your head high and chest out, speak louder, and live the life of purpose you've been searching for.