This blog is brought to you from the depths of hell, manifested in the form of my half packed suitcase. There are clothes everywhere, a couple of pairs of shoes in the corner where they had been hiding so well that I forgot to pack them and photos, books and toiletries littering the floor. But packing is only the last thing on a long list of preparations for moving to China TOMORROW!

The first thing I obviously had to do was apply. That was done during the uni year but much later than all the other year abroad applications. It was fairly easy, after I actually decided where to go, just filling in a few forms and thankfully none in Chinese yet.

That was the first step but the last for a while because exams became much more important. Exams in themselves could actually be considered as part of the preparations. In order to go to China on a year abroad, all students have to achieve at least 50% in their degree courses and exams so that they can continue to honours. You’ll all be glad to hear (but probably not surprised considering this blog is happening) that I managed to do that so all was good!

First up during the summer was to book flights and get myself a Chinese visa. Flights were not complicated to find, I’m flying from Edinburgh to Manchester and then direct to Beijing. I decided that I wanted to have a few nights in Beijing before flying to Dalian to give myself some time to acclimatise a little, rest up and explore seeing as this will not just be my first time in China but also Asia!

The visa process was a little more complicated though not as much of a nightmare as I’ve heard it was for others. Fortunately for me there is a Chinese visa application centre in Edinburgh so I didn’t have to go far to get it all sorted. The only bump on the road was that I was told I had to get my university in Dalian to send my JW202 form to the Chinese consulate before the visa process could be started . A little annoying and meant a few extra trips in but not a big deal in the end.

Other than that there’s been little bits and pieces like buying insurance, contacting my host family and more. While I was dealing with all these things though, I was still wrapping my head around the idea of actually leaving and the mental preparation proved to be the hardest part.

Even though I have done this before, leaving for a year to the other side of the world, the mental preparation has felt a little different this time (I’m planning a blog post talking about some comparisons between leaving for Honduras and leaving for China soon so there will be more on that there). I found the idea of leaving a lot harder this time and it also felt like leaving crept up on me a lot faster. I was focusing on exams and then I was working and then it was August and suddenly I was leaving at the end of the month! This meant that my excitement about going also crept up on me but was very quickly joined by nerves and even terror.

Part of this was just due to not feeling prepared or organised so that was easily remedied but the rest was just at the magnitude of what I was about to do. Everything about China seems a lot more daunting – the fact that I’m studying not teaching, a harder language, a more distant culture. I know I can do it, because I already have once before, but it was something I, and everyone around me, had to remind me almost constantly over the summer. I know I can, I know I will and I know I’ll love it. I think I’ve said it enough times now that I actually believe it.

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