27 March 2017

2014-2017: The Road To China...

After graduating with honours I was not prepared for the journey ahead of me, taking a road less travelled before wasn't easy but what really is in this life? In honour of this 300th blog post that marks five years of blogging, I want to see how life since graduation to this moment has panned out. Now in 2017 I survey my journey, but has everything really been worth it? Okay?!

Going further back before my graduation ceremony in September 2014, I believe the final semester of my degree course shaped me for certain. By March 2014 I had my dissertation in a favourable state, returning from Manchester in the January of that year I had a new fire for my final stint of university life. Assignments were second nature to me by that point, referencing was something I could do in my sleep and that third person writing style was on lock. I was taking in every last moment of student life, going down the Village Inn only at the weekends, I was past that Broad Street weeknight routine. After completing my placement with a well know British airline in Newark, NJ, I was set on becoming a flight attendant after graduation, or even missing that ceremony if a certain Middle Eastern airline liked the look of me! I was blinded by what was going on at that point, it was a hectic time! Birmingham helped me out! 

All of my actual assignments had been submitted, my dissertation had been finalised and the proud moment came for that to be bound. Getting down to Salisbury for the day I used my then Birmingham location to enjoy a day taking in the sights of Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral to celebrate the last weeks of my course, it had been a mental year for a few reasons but at that point I wanted to enjoy the moment. Arriving back into Birmingham after that day hit me as it was the final time I returned to Birmingham as a student. Before packing up my room and saying goodbye to the Maltings I enjoyed an incredible weekend at Birmingham Pride, the last two years had seen me out of the country so I took my one chance before leaving Brum for good. Crashing down to reality with an almighty bang, I left the Maltings for the final time never to return in the same capacity again. I was about to find out what life would be like after finishing university, honestly no I was not ready!

Achieving a degree with honours I made it back to Birmingham a few months later after a summer spent between Bilston and London, those airline dreams never materialised so it was back to my hometown to get my life. Held up by the business of my university certificate I was impatient to graduate. It was an amazing day but I had a fire to fly high in a different way, my year in America had given me something I wanted to recapture. I interviewed for jobs over Skype to teach English in China. I was offered job positions but there would always be a problem that would be thrown up, I kindly declined those offers because they didn't feel genuine. Bilston didn't give me life, I felt let down by life, harbouring a resentment towards not being briefed about the transition from university life to real life. Claiming through a means that showed me how a cross-section of people lived like in Bilo' made me want more!

2015 showed its face and I was getting closer to my China reality, obtaining both my degree and TEFL certificates I found my savings to be seriously dwindling. Taking my first job since finishing university at a Walsall hotel as a receptionist cemented the first stage of me feeling better about the way things had turned out. I worked when I had to and got by and with each passing pay day I was able to put money aside. I had been blessed in one major way as I was living with my grandparents, it was a means of saving whatever money I could without the constraints of rent and the rest of that negativity. I stuck to my guns and never gave up on the hope of finding a trustworthy company to sign a contract with, stumbling across an English Training company who's name I have mentioned before I was going to China for real! With June 16th 2015 as my departure date I was on my way to a brighter day! As I sat on that London bound train, I felt relieved because I was going to China! Yes!

Touching down into Shanghai was a surreal feeling, I had finally made the leap from life in Bilston to be standing in one of China's most famous cities! Facing the epic neon Shanghai skyline I was truly living. The stresses of the previous year or so melted during those first gob-smacking moments! The first two months moved at lighting pace with a weeks training in Suzhou, Jiangsu before taking my first high speed train in China to Wuhan, Hubei. Training centre life wasn't easy, I was doing my utmost to deliver what was expected of me, but I had this niggling feeling that style of teaching wasn't going to be in my life much longer as mid-August approached. As fate would have it I was pushed into another direction, moving from that goldfish bowl to a whole new teaching experience that would change everything! The easy option is so boring, going down a road less travelled sounds better to me! China gave me life!

Bewildered by the change I stuck with my apartment, that new arrangement questioned the reason why I had thrown so many jobs back during my first months since finishing university in 2014. Keeping my cards close my chest I negotiated the best deal I could, China was showing me that getting what you deserve takes a lot of straight talking, I was satisfied with the outcome. Kindergarten life gave me a sense of fulfillment, the children were adorable and still are but I felt comfortable and it felt like the job I was meant to have first time around. Not regretting a single thing I kept a tight rein of that shady business, I had a future unraveling before my very eyes and I knew that drain wouldn't be part of my long term. Breaking out of Wuhan for National Day 2015 to Chongqing and Chengdu I found a whole new side of China at my feet, my blog was set free and back on an international platform. 2016 kept me on my toes, it was a challenging two semesters but I worked bloody well hard! Shade!

Signing a second year contract pushed my negotiating skills to the limit but I had a new ally that helped me secure what I needed. My students were a dream to teach if not crazy from time to time, going into my first semester of my second year teaching at this private Montessori kindergarten gave me a new perspective. I had an after-school class on each Monday to manage and I was pushing myself to produce more challenging lessons for my older students who would be progressing onto primary school in the following Autumn. Wuhan had become familiar to me, I almost had it ripped away from me! Staying savvy and embracing my new no-nonsense way of dealing with China life I still feel secure here to this day. Moving back to my life away from school I had encountered sweet moments that went sour, I was better than those unfortunate happenings! 2016 had been a blast, but I was ready for 2017! I was living!

Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou had turned my 2016 Spring Festival holiday upside down but 2017's festivities was a much colder time, Harbin and Shenyang served two different personalities that brought the house down! Choosing cities that were 'off the radar' impresses me more than the world renowned Chinese destinations, I can't get enough of those 'wildcard' cities! Wuhan may be working for now but I have a new plan in motion, let's just say that I'll be sticking with my current Kindergarten, trading Hubei for a Beijing state of mind for the final throws of 2017, I'm not counting my stars yet because a lot more hard work has to be put in to sustain that progression. Things haven't been easy, I may have been dramatic at stages but when I secured my fate I slayed the competition, I'm still working! I haven't sat pretty waiting for a miracle, I got back up and dusted myself off to keep on this road to China. There are no mistakes, its honestly all about being centred and focused. 

The Road Continues...

Joseph Harrison 

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