In case you missed it, read My China story: Part 1 now.
After 2 years of working full time, getting engaged and then getting married we decided that we would go to China together and start our own adventure. We were married in 2007 and planned on living in Shanghai after our wedding. We quit our jobs and left for China 4 days after we were married. My husband had never been to China before, but he was already in love with the idea of China because of the stories I had told him. We were ready to start the adventure of our lives.
Unfortunately, 2 days after arriving in Shanghai my husband’s parents where in a very serious car accident. We came back to Australia immediately and stayed in Australia for another 2 years. We went back to our jobs and helped look after his parents. We always spoke about going back to China, but the time was never right. I had a particularly bad day at work and we asked ourselves why were we doing this? We decided there and then to go back to China. Within a few months we had again packed our lives up and left for China. It was the best decision we ever made. China changed our lives forever.
We lived in China from 2009 – 2011. My husband studied at the same university I had previously attended in Shanghai, however he was really good at Mandarin and loved that particular learning environment. I started English tutoring and worked as an intern at a translation company. I got involved in some great projects. I started free English lessons within the community. I helped set up Skype based Mandarin lessons with teachers in Shanghai with students in the States. I also volunteered for two summers at a Korean summer camp. But the majority of my time was consumed being a private English tutor for local children.
My main students were in kindergarten and the parents would hire me to come to their house for an hour to teach their children English. I had the most amazing time. These families let me into their homes and treated me like a family member. It gave me the most incredible insight into the Chinese education system. There was such a high expectation put on Chinese children to achieve academically; it was so different to Australian culture.
It was there that I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be in education, I wanted to look at the differences between the Chinese education system and the Australian education system. I wanted to find connections between the two to improve relations between the two countries.
I enrolled as an undergraduate in Asian Studies at Griffith University via Open Universities Australia. OUA was great; it allowed me to study via correspondence and also allowed me to fast track my studies. OUA offers 4 semesters a year, this meant I could study; work and travel but still complete 8 subjects during the year. This was the best thing I could of ever done, I was learning about Asia while being in Asia. I could physically visit the places I was learning about in my textbooks. If I didn’t understand something I could ask people firsthand and gain a different perspective. When I undertook Mandarin subjects I hired a tutor to come to my house and she helped me with my assignments. I could actually go out my front door and practice what I was learning. I will hold this experience close to my heart forever. Looking back, it was definitely one of the happiest times in my life. We travelled, we learnt and we fell further in love with the country and it’s people.
After two years in Shanghai, we decided to move back to the Gold Coast. We could not gain formal employment in China without degrees and relevant working experience. We were very sad to leave China, but we needed to make the move so we could one day return. I returned to study full time at Nathan campus and my husband studied at another local university on the Gold Coast.
To be continued…
Alexis is a Griffith University Alumnus with a passion for cross cultural communication, Australia/China relationship building and desire to help improve Asian literacies in Australia.