Taking the plunge, by Jack Carter

Taking the plunge is an expression that can mean different things to people throughout their lives.

When I was young, it meant jumping 5 feet into a cold lake with my friends. When I got a bit older, it meant driving 70 miles from my quiet English home to a busy student campus in Cardiff. After graduating from university, however, it meant flying over 5,000 miles to one of the largest cities in the world, Beijing.

But taking the plunge doesn’t just mean moving further and further away from home. It also means doing something you’re actively afraid of. I was afraid of getting cold in that lake, I was afraid of having to make new friends in Cardiff and I was afraid of starting a new life in China’s massive capital.

Yet settling in Beijing didn’t scare me because I’d have to make new friends, learn a foreign language or get used to a vastly different culture. Don’t get me wrong, these are sizable challenges. But rather because it meant signing over a whole year of my life. I’d never even committed to a free loyalty card at Subway.

Not to mention I’d always felt as though this wasn’t what I was ‘meant to do’ after university. As recent graduates, we’re often expected to take advantage of our degree to get a relevant job in ‘the city’. My family certainly wanted me to secure a finance related position in London.

But as university came to an end, a small voice inside me quietly whispered this isn’t enough. I needed something more than just a dreary office job for the next 50 years. I needed a chance to meet interesting new people from all over the world. To learn a challenging new language. To experience a vastly different culture. To have an adventure.

The problem was signing away a whole year of my life. How could I be sure I’d enjoy teaching? What if I didn’t like China? Shouldn’t I start my long-term career right away if I didn’t want to fall behind?

In the end, after much deliberation, I took the plunge. I moved over 5,000 miles to Beijing, and I can honestly say I’m so glad I did. Like jumping into that cold lake and moving to Cardiff for university, I had a lot of fun.

Teaching children is amazing. The sense of satisfaction you get from seeing kids enjoy themselves while learning is genuinely unbeatable.

Living in Beijing is also a great bonus. The problem here is not getting bored, but rather having enough time to see the countless cultural and historical things that the capital and the rest of the country has to offer. In just 3 months, I’ve already tried everything from street dancing to exploring ancient water towns.

Not starting your long-term career straight away also has its advantages. I’m now meeting a wider range of people, learning a globally important language and gaining new world perspectives. This life experience is vital in creating the kind of flexible, open-minded global citizen that’s more likely to achieve meaningful career advancement long-term, whatever the industry.

So yes, moving to China for a year is a big decision. And like jumping into a cold lake, it’s one that you’ll understandably be a bit nervous about. You’ll need to adjust to a new friendship group, a different language and a distinct culture.

But these are also the things that make it so great. You’ll meet interesting new people from all over the world. You’ll go places and do things you never thought you would. You’ll learn about a country that’s only going to become more important in the future. You’ll enhance your long-term personal development. You’ll create lasting friendships and memories you couldn’t possibly have made in a dreary office back home. And you’ll have a lot of fun while doing it.

So hold your breath and take the plunge into that cold lake, you might just have a great time. If that’s not a good enough reason to move to China for a year, then I don’t know what is.

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