This past semester has been one of my most exhausting semesters of my life. It’s definitely had its highs and lows. And unlike my first venture around the world where everything was exciting and new, my time living in China hasn’t been easy and always fun.
I’ll start off by saying that unlike a lot of people, I love change. I thrive on change. Transitioning from high school to a world traveler was the best time of my life. And then coming back home and taking on the role of college student was also super fun and rewarding. I had no reason to think that coming to Taiwan and China would be any different than before. I expected to see and do a lot of cool things, make a ton of new friends, and have some internal transformation that would help to develop me as a person.
These things have happened (well, who knows about the great transformation). Two months working with the Siraya people in Taiwan taught me a ton: about problems indigenous people face, implementation issues, globalization, and Taiwan itself. Similarly in China I’ve done some pretty cool things, including going to Tibet. And I’ve definitely met some great people. However, for the first time traveling, I’ve also suffered a lot more loneliness than usual.
A big part of this is cultural differences. I love traveling alone. However, traveling alone in China doesn’t always translate into new friends to travel with-especially as the Chinese have different travel styles. Making Chinese friends who share very different values and concerns also isn’t the same as making friends with people who can relate to you. I’ve found that I need other Westerners around, at least sometimes, who can understand my culture too.
Being an obvious foreigner has also taken its toll as standing out means I suffer from pointing and stares. Something that doesn’t bother me but does make me feel strikingly out of place.
Then there’s the fact that I miss Texas. The more I travel, the more I realize what a truly remarkable and special place the Lone Star State is. Texas is beautiful. Wide open spaces couldn’t describe it better (thanks Dixie Chicks). I miss good ole Tex-Mex. Whataburger. Shiner. I miss country music (something high school Phyllis would cringe at) and other people who actually like country music. Josh Abbott Band anyone? But most of all, I miss Texans. Everyone at home is so friendly and polite and laidback. Definitely not characteristics the Chinese are known for.
Then there’s my program. I absolutely love the Alliance program. And my teacher is awesome. However, Chinese class at 9am everyday for three hours is starting to take its toll. It’s not that the language is hard. It’s that I don’t feel like I’m learning anything new. And studying a language can be a bit boring as your routine is always the same (learn more vocab, study more grammar).
Needless to say, I’m going through a period of suffering from burnout. While I’m really sad that my current program is ending and that I have to say goodbye to a lot of fantastic people, I’m also really excited to get a break. Not just from Chinese classes, but from China itself. I think a bit of an adventure and a break from my routine in China is just what I need right about now.
On a totally unrelated note, probably totally late on the new Taylor Swift album 1989 but…so good!
What are your methods for dealing with burnout? Am I crazy for needing a break from China after only a few months?