Why I Decided To Live In China For A Year

Photo by 301+ Kim on Unsplash

“Anyone who stops learning is old.”

— Henry Ford

When I was in college, I ran errands on TaskRabbit to make some extra money. One day, a client of mine I was helping with housekeeping asked me to throw away all the books in his study, little did I know how pivotal that moment would be. While I was cleaning his apartment, I stumbled upon a bookmark.

On this bookmark would be the first word I would learn in Chinese: 和平, which means Peace. I carry it with me every day, ’til this day, although it took me some time to figure out where the ideogram originated.

In hindsight, that moment set my life on a bold, new, and adventurous path — which now takes me to China to live for a year!

How I decided to do this

Picture this. You’re a recent college graduate. The world is your oyster. You immediately get a job right out of college and begin to learn how to navigate the professional world around you. You’re no longer a kid. People rely on you and expect great things from you. I ended up getting my dream job sooner than expected. Everything seemed to be falling into place. However, after some time I began to wonder what else might be out there for me. During a process of deep self-reflection, something came to mind. It was a nagging feeling that plagued me constantly.

I began questioning daily life:

  • How does one lay the foundation for a prosperous life?
  • What’s more important: job security or happiness?
  • What does it mean to have a job in the 21st Century?
  • How do I make sure my work is meaningful and has an impact?

The most important question was, “What more can I learn about the world?”

Looking back, there is a whole medley of reasons as to why I chose this for myself. The chief reason among them was that I don’t know what I want to do yet. I want to continue tasting new careers, gaining new skills, and learning more about different cultures.

I’m also, in a way, proving something to myself.

I’d like to know if my ability to dissect ideas and my ability to teach can be improved. What better way to test that than in a new country — teaching kids. I have a strong feeling that if I can learn how to teach children, I’ll have a new set of skills for teaching other people in the future. Although, I am keeping myself open to the subjects I will teach.

I would also like to discover which aspects of my identity come from myself versus what comes from being American. My hope is that through this experience, I can discover more about myself as an individual.

I had two crucial conversations with both my mother and my mentor that helped to solidify my commitment to this decision. They are very supportive of my decision to travel the world and with their support, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to at least apply to several English instructor positions in various countries. Fortunately for me, I was hired by a Chinese company to teach 3 to 5 year olds English in Beijing.

Connecting more to my roots

Another reason why I feel so inclined to do this is that my parents have a skill that I don’t have. They know how to live in another country. It’s something I admire about them, the ability to chart a new path in a place entirely foreign to them. I believe that if I take it upon myself to go through a similar experience, I’ll not only become a better person — I’ll also understand them better too. Learning more about our family history first hand, in my own way is a big incentive for me to leave America. Seeking a more intimate relationship with my family’s past is another reason why I’m doing this.

Additionally, if I ever have the privilege to have children, I would like to be able to give them advice based on my experience. Recommending to them, the experience of traveling the world will have more of an impact if I’ve done it myself. Lastly, I know that through this experience I will learn more about myself. I don’t want to limit the experience of my life just solely to being a New Yorker; I want to acquire knowledge that can help me in any part of the world. For me to do that, I have to leave my comfort zone.

How my mentor was a big source of inspiration

Photo of Maurice Bretzfield, Canton (Guangzhou) China, October 1978

My mentor Maurice has influenced me greatly in committing to this decision. A man who has visited more than 50 countries, I feel indebted to him for all that he’s taught me these past three years. However, I feel that the lessons he’s provided me won’t truly resonate until I have a similar life experience that he’s had. Hearing his stories of being 24 and traveling to South Korea for the first time, and then setting up shop in China during eighties makes me somewhat envious. I’m deciding to act upon that envy and use it as a tool to create my own stories of adventure.

In addition to his inspirational stories, my mentor Maurice has a ton of friends who also traveled the world when they were young. Hearing their stories of what they discovered about the world and themselves also sparked my curiosity in doing this for myself. Considering all of them are successful business owners and entrepreneurs, there is definitely a connection between their success and traveling.

Lastly, I do want to beat my mentor’s “high score.” I mean, being able to say that I’ve visited more than 50 countries is something I’d like to brag about in the future.

What I plan on doing there

While I’m in China, I’ll be working as an English instructor. In my spare time, I plan on absorbing as much as I can about the culture, their technological advancements, and most importantly — the food. I find that this experience may not necessarily connect to some big vision, nor does it need to. But I know that it is necessary for my overall growth as a person. I’m currently in a place in my life of “not knowing what’s next.” I can take risks. And understanding that I will never be 100% ready, I just have to try and see what happens.

Besides, if I don’t do this now, when will I?

With all this being said, if you have any recommendations for sights to see, food to eat, experiences to have while I’m in China — please send them my way!

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