I write this blog post from my bed. I can’t sleep, I have butterflies in my tummy and I can’t stop thinking and stressing about my next adventures. Even though the furthest I have been away from home was my year in Chile, with 7573 miles between Temuco and Coventry, I feel like my next set of travels will be my biggest challenge yet.
First I am going travelling in India, to see some good friends of mine that I met last year in Nottingham. I have no doubt that they will look after me very well (there are even talks about one of their cousins’ weddings being in February!) but I am still very nervous about going to a country that I have very little knowledge about. I don’t know any Indian languages and my knowledge of the big Eastern religions (Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddism) is a bit rusty. I don’t know what clothes I’ll have to wear and I am very nervous about the risk of malaria and Dengue fever. Then there’s the overcrowded cities, the public transport, the mosquitoes and the idea of being so far away from home (ie time difference) is daunting.
After just over two weeks in India I will travel to China…from New Delhi, India. I found two flights to get me to Qingdao that were cheaper (and much better for my carbon footprint) than returning to the UK between visits. This also means I have to step up my act and get all my Chinese paperwork done before I leave for India…and I have to pack for two very different countries with a 20kg weight limit.
Overall I feel a little let down by my university in regards to my year abroad. I am still a member of the student community but I am unsure who to actually write an email to when I have a question that needs answering…and I am a person who has a lot of questions. My academic tutor is usually in Guatemala or somewhere like that, researching to write more scholarly articles and the year abroad team are split into the international office and then somebody is on maternity leave and it’s all very confusing. Maybe they organised it that way on purpose so that they wouldn’t receive emails from worried and stressed students. I understand that at any one given point there are hundreds of students abroad and we cannot each be assigned a mentor, but I think that an “are you ok?” email once every couple of months from somebody (anybody) would show that the university still has some kind of responsibility or interest in my welfare.
There have been many obstacles in organising my time abroad, especially on the Chinese side due to the language barrier, strict immigration/visa procedures and with the university offering a new exchange scheme, starting with my year group. I tend to skim read emails now that concern China as many contain, not bad news, but just not the type of news I want to hear. For example one told us how we had been offered brand new student accommodation on campus in the international building, something like that…however, the building work hadn’t begun on this building yet and it is likely to be finished well after we arrive in China.
There was a time when I really didn’t want to go to China. I was more than happy staying in Spain and the thought of moving to a city with a population of millions was looking more and more like a nightmare each day. Now I have come around to the idea more and now that my flights are booked, everything is seeming pretty real. It will be an opportunity to speak and learn a lot of Chinese, live in a huge city (that has a metro, that’s a first) and also to experience the Chinese university life – 11pm curfew and all.
Even so, I still have a huge to do list before I go. Normally if I split my to do list into sub categories they are: things you have to do, things to do if you get time and things you should do but let’s be honest you won’t. Now my to do list is separated into many categories all of which I simply have to do in the next month: packing, paperwork, health and “questions”. One of the questions on my to do list is quite simply “Do I have enough pairs of shoes?”.