Allison S. taught in Hangzhou in 2011, then moved to Shanghai for two years to polish her language skills and help Chinese students study abroad in the United States. Read about her three years abroad here.
Authentic City Living
When I first moved to China in 2011, I was continuously asked, “Why China?” My immediate answer was, “Why not?” After living there for three years, I could go on and on listing reasons why China is now a second home to me. One is the incredible city life in China that most travelers don’t get to experience. From marathons and music festivals on the Great Wall in Beijing to lying by a pool on a hot summer day in Shanghai, there is something for everyone in China’s amazing cities.
Living in Shanghai for two years gave me the opportunity to really understand the city and experience the many social activities expats and locals alike take part in throughout the year. It’s such a thrill to walk down a little alley, pick up a bowl of noodles or dumplings from a street vendor for lunch, speak with locals, and watch them play an afternoon game of cards or mahjong. Around the corner, there’s an Italian restaurant, a Starbucks, and European parentsteaching their son how to ride a bike.
Access to Amazing Sites and Destinations
One of the greatest aspects of living in a foreign country is the convenience of traveling to a new destination every chance you get. When I lived in Shanghai, planning a weekend trip to Beijing, Nanjing, or Hangzhou meant deciding to go on a Friday morning and hopping on a train that afternoon. Even after three years in China, I had barely begun to explore all of its amazing sights.
Beijing is an obvious destination for travelers around the world, and for good reason. The first time I went to the Great Wall, I couldn’t help but think how remarkable is was to walk on a piece of history like so many have done before me. Plus, it’s another Wonder of the World I can cross off my must-see list!
In addition to well-known destinations in Beijing, China offers many other can’t-miss sites. The Chinese say (loosely translated): “If there is a heaven on Earth, it is Hangzhou in China.” One of the most unique memories I have of China is spending a spring afternoon learning a traditional Chinese dance near West Lake in Hangzhou.
The Chinese also tell foreigners, “If you haven’t been to Xi’an, you haven’t been to China.” After hearing this, I traveled to Xi’an and realized the Terracotta warriors – a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of the first Emperor of China – were one of the most amazing sights I’ll ever see in my lifetime.
The more I traveled through China, the more I was astonished by what its society is capable of. I was continually impressed by the consistency of Chinese culture and history in each city, yet every place I visited was completely different from the last. My interest in China will never end because there will always be something more to learn – which is why I love to travel in the first place.
Relationships You’ll Never Forget
If you’ve traveled, you know the bonds you form when traveling are unlike any others. In a country like China, relationships, or guanxi (关系), are very important to all aspects of life. One of the best guanxi I had in China was with my ayi – the equivalent to an American aunt. These Chinese women typically take care of your home. My ayi became a part of my family in China. She helped me with learning Chinese, made me warm ginger tea crammed with sugar when I was sick, and invited me to her home for Chinese holidays. Without living in China, it’s unlikely that I would have formed a bond with a Chinese lady 20 years older than me, who didn’t speak a word of English! While she never owed me anything, she was like a mother to me when my own family was more than 7,000 miles away. That is a person not easily forgotten.
The friends I made while traveling and living in foreign places are unlike any others. Traveling can be a bit of a roller coaster. While my time in China had some bumps, those are not the memories I look back on (unless I am laughing at them!). I’ll always remember the people I met and their indelible influence on my life.
Now, if someone asks me, “Why China?” I tell them that it’s the unexpected city life, the opportunities for incredible travel, and the lifelong relationships that you’ll gain that should make you choose this amazing country.
中国欢迎你-Zhongguo Huanying Ni – China welcomes you!
Ready to start the journey of a lifetime? Apply now!