When I started telling people about this new job and how I was moving half way across the world for a year (or more) the conversations always went in pretty much the same way – ‘ah you’re so brave, I wish I could do something like that’, ‘it’ll change your life’ and of course ‘don’t smuggle drugs’!!
Friends that had spent some time away from home before were slightly more helpful, full of advice about classroom games and tips for dealing with homesickness, but there are a lot of things that nobody ever mentioned…
* The simplest of tasks can seem like a swim through treacle when you don’t speak the lingo.
* Related to the previous point, it’s not always easy to gauge who speaks English – and stereotypes are not helpful. Quite often I meet a young person who has no idea what I’m talking about, yet when I was doing my Christmas shopping I visited a material shop and spent an hour chatting to a 60year old Indian woman who spoke perfect English!
* Long distance friendships take some work too. I’m sure had I been seeing someone at the time everyone would have been warning me about how difficult long distance relationships are – but they are equally as tough with best friends, potentially even more so. With a significant other, it is a given that you will make time to speak to each other, but friends are much more accommodating of ties on time and alternative plans – before you know it, it’s been a month and although nobody is at fault you haven’t even spoken. People weren’t lying when they told me that this experience would show me who my real friends are.
* Just how important technology will become on a day-to-day basis – skype, whatsapp, google maps, a translator – you name it, I need it….
* And how potentially soul destroying it can be when said technology doesn’t work.
* Just because that Dairy Milk or Diet Coke that you bought has the same branding does not mean that it’s going to taste the same, or indeed taste good enough to cure the breakdown you’re now having because your technology isn’t working…..