Why Am I Teaching English in China?

When I decided that I was going to teach English in Beijing, China for a year, the biggest question that I received was why? A reasonable question to be sure. After all, I was an Economics major with a minor in International Studies and had been working as a government subcontractor on a DoD Systems Integration project the last two years. Why did I make such a decision to pursue an activity in a foreign land that is completely unrelated to my career? The answer is simple: Because I felt like it.

Just kidding, it’s A LOT more complicated than that.

Truth is that I don’t know or never knew what my career is supposed to be. Sure I was an Economics major, but I HATED every minute of it. My grades were poor and as my Organizational Economics professor best put it, my attendance was “paltry at best”. My disdain for my major was so strong that it caused me to go into depression for the better part of my college career and had it not been for my wonderful friends who kept me going, I honestly don’t know what would’ve happened. You’re probably wondering why I chose a major I had no interest in? Well, I had no choice. I’m an only child of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked damn hard to create a good life in this country and as their ONLY child, there were heavy expectations for me to take advantage of the opportunity I had here and I didn’t really have a say in the matter. It forced me to live a life that I didn’t want to live and the truth is that it made me miserable because it deepened my lack of self-purpose and frustration with myself.

Even though I got a job with a reputable company after college with THE GREATEST COWORKERS OF ALL-TIME, I realized that the traditional 9–5 office environment was just not for me. I wasn’t motivated to grow and to learn. I blame myself because I’m extremely lazy and if laziness was a job, I’d be Employee of the Month EVERY MONTH. As my tenure neared two years, I made a decision to finally take ownership of my life and make a change. That’s when I decided to teach English abroad. I’ve always had a deep sense of wanderlust and can only imagine where this came from. Maybe it was the stories that my grandmother told me as a little boy of her perspective as a woman from the villages of rural Bangladesh living all over the world due to my grandfather’s job? Or my love of reading maps and memorizing the world’s capitals as a kid? Either way, I always knew that I wanted to travel and experience different cultures and people. This was strengthened by a three week study abroad program in college where I studied the rise and growth of the EU by traveling to Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, and Scotland. I’d never felt more alive and in my element whether it was the raw atmosphere of Riga, the tree lined streets of Brussels, or the breathtaking wonderland that is the entire nation of Iceland. I knew then that I needed to see the world once again and that’s why I’m sitting in a restaurant at Dulles Airport writing this while waiting to board my flight.

There’s obviously a lot of uncertainties going in. I’ve never taught before and that in itself will be a challenge. I also know very little Mandarin and still lack confidence in using chopsticks to eat my food. There’s a possibility that this teaching gig is a scam or that I get extremely sick because I accidentally drank the water without boiling it first. Of course there’s risks and challenges ahead, but is life worth living when you’re playing things safe? I’m pursuing an opportunity to see the world on my terms and for now, that’ll do.

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