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As I walked up to security, my eyes filled with tears. I was about to leave everything I had known and travel halfway across the world to China. I was leaving my comfort zone and everything that was familiar to me including my family, friends, food and so much more.

This would be the longest period of time I have been away from home. As I sat in the terminal waiting for my plane, I began to ask myself  “What in the world am I doing?” Fear started to settle in my heart. All the “what if” questions began to race across my mind. What if I get sick? What if I am unable to communicate with anyone? What if I become lonely and don’t have friendships for two months? As these questions flooded my mind, it seemed easier to walk right back through security and go home. Even though eighty percent of my body was telling me not to embark on this journey, there was still twenty percent that kept encouraging me to press into this adventure. With tears streaming down my face, I boarded the first plane of my long journey. Little did I know that I was about to leave my home and find another home 6,000 miles away.

During my two months in China, my fear slowly faded away. The ImmerQi staff did an amazing job  helping me integrate into the new culture. From a joyful greeting at the airport to helping me transition into my volunteer placement, the ImmerQi staff went above and beyond to assist me. As I started teaching English to my students, I began to see the deep joy that is so evident here at the foster home that cares for orphans with visual impairments. The joy was so evident through the way the children smiled from ear to ear, the way the staff carefully cared for each child, and the deep belly laughs that erupted for no reason.

During my time here, I have been able to witness and help prepare three children for adoption. It has truly been amazing to see these precious children be united with their families for the first time. Soon my tears began to change from sadness to happiness. Tears of joy streamed down my face each time I saw the parents embrace their child that they have waited so long to hug. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I am so grateful I have been able to witness.

My days in the classroom were some of the most rewarding days of my life. It is so rewarding to see a child, that struggled for several weeks because the language barrier caused him to be unable to communicate his needs, slowly count from one to ten in English. Instead of crying for the whole day, he started to really enjoy class time. He slowly began to greet me each morning with a huge “Hello.” The transformation did not occur over night and required daily patience and perseverance. It is moments like this that you cannot witness when you are in your comfort zone. These moments shaped my character and my future.

So as I finish my volunteer placement, tears again begin to fill my eyes. But this time not because of fear. China has become home to me. My students have stolen a piece of my heart and have truly changed who I am. They have made me become more grateful for the way I was raised. Their sweet faces have taught me how to have joy no matter the circumstances. The friendships I have made have become family to me. I am so thankful for this experience. I could have not made it through without the support of the ImmerQi staff. They have provided me with constant support from helping me deal with sickness and transportation, encouraging me to keep pressing in through discouragement, to becoming family while I am thousands of miles away from mine.

My time in China has provided me with practical experience to put what I am studying in college into action. It has helped me become a better teacher and learn how to teach all types of children no matter their needs. As my time here comes to a close and I have to return home, I leave part of my heart in China. It truly has become home for me and I cannot express how grateful I am for this opportunity. So instead of goodbye China, I will say “See you later China”!

By Mimi Sanders, Volunteer Program China participant 2014

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