By Linda Dunsmore – lindagoeseast.com
I’ve always been extremely interested in foreign languages. I grew up in Germany to a German mother and an American father and was raised bilingually. In school, I soon started learning French and Spanish. Speaking a couple of languages also led me to travel to places where these languages were spoken. However, when I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to try something different. That’s when I majored in Mandarin Chinese in university.
Initially, I was torn between learning Chinese and Japanese. In the end, I decided to learn Mandarin. There were many reasons why I chose this Chinese over Japanese. At the time, the role of China became more and more important in the international business world and almost every single day you’d hear something about “China’s business power” on the news.
On top of that, there are over 1 billion native Mandarin speakers worldwide. This means one out of six people in the world speak Mandarin. I was also extremely fascinated by Chinese culture and history and enjoyed soaking up everything about the different dynasties, especially those that were extremely prosperous and far more advanced than the West at the time.
In short, it was simply a fascinating language and culture to learn about.
Excursion to Beijing
About a year and a half after I started learning Mandarin, our university offered Chinese learners the opportunity to travel to Beijing for a week. I immediately signed up without thinking twice. I had no idea at the time that this trip would change my life forever.
It was the first time in China for most of the language students and we were all super excited to see the Great Wall, wander through the Forbidden City and eat like the locals. I remember walking through the city with my classmates and teacher and seeing something interesting at every corner. This is when I knew that I wanted to come back and actually live in China.
Moving to China
Only a couple of months after my first trip to China, I found an internship in online marketing at a German start-up company. I signed a 6-month contract and started packing my bags. My adventure first led me to Hong Kong, where I obtained a business visa. Next, I took the express train just across the border into Guangzhou, China’s largest metropolitan area with more than 44 million people.
I quickly made friends with other Germans working at the same company and the adventure began. It was extremely exciting to explore a mega city like Guangzhou. During my 6 months in China, I traveled to some fascinating places. I saw the terracotta warriors in Xi’an, the pandas in Chengdu, and the karst mountains in Guilin, just to name a few. I made local friends, thanks to whom I was able to improve my Chinese to a pretty fluent level.
My experience in China has completely changed me. So much so that I returned to a different city, Changsha in Hunan, after completing my degree in California in 2014.
I quickly realized the demand for English language teachers in the country and obtained my TEFL certificate, a requirement for all English teachers in China. I started teaching children on weekends but soon turned it into my full-time job. After teaching in China for a year, I moved to South Korea, where I also started working as a teacher. Thanks to my teaching experience in China and my TEFL certificate, I was able to find a job at a renowned school in South Korea.
Today, I live in South Korea, where I am happily married to a local. I truly believe that only because of my experience in China, was I able to establish my life here in Korea – and I am extremely thankful for it. I still visit China about once a year and call it “my first Asian love”.
- Studying Mandarin gave me the opportunity to live in two major cities in China and learn about the country’s culture from the inside
- More than 6 years have passed since I first moved abroad and I’m still living overseas to this day.
- I’m not in China anymore but I’m living in South Korea, after meeting my now-husband at university in California.
- I am many experiences, friends and exciting stories richer – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
- That is the power of living abroad!
About The Author
Linda is the founder of lindagoeseast.com. For the past 6 years, she has been living abroad and exploring different places, mainly in Asia. She is the Marketing and Affiliate Manager of ITTT – International TEFL and TESOL Training and also writes about her own experiences abroad on her blog lindagoeseast.com. She lives in South Korea with her husband and cat Bingsu.