In case you missed it, read My China story: Part 1 and Part 2 now.
After returning from China I really wanted to involve myself in the Chinese community as much as possible. I actually felt homesick from China and it made me feel at home being around Chinese people. I think this is called a ‘reverse culture shock’. The trouble was I didn’t actually know any Chinese people who lived on the Gold Coast.
Around that time they had announced that they were going to build a Chinatown on the Gold Coast. So I sent my CV to the Chinatown Committee and said that if they wanted any student Ambassadors/Volunteers that I would love to help them. I heard nothing back and decided to focus my energy on other causes. By chance, I found myself on the mayoral campaign committee of the local city council elections. This was a very eye opening experience for me, I had I had the best time. I loved going to events, putting forward ideas and speaking to the community directly about their concerns. I was in my element and I met some amazing people.
After the election was over, I wanted to involve myself in as much community work as possible. My husband and I were both full time students, so financially we didn’t have very much money. I volunteered my time to different groups and at events, not only for the experience but it was a cheap way to entertain myself. Volunteering doesn’t cost money and emotionally it makes you feel really good.
One day I got a telephone call from Sally Chung a lady from the Chinatown Committee and she asked if I would meet her. She apologised for not getting back to me sooner, but said that she would love me to get involved with the local Chinese community. From there I volunteered my time to several local Chinese groups and found that I was spending every spare moment I had working with the Chinese community. I helped organised delegation tours, community events, managed social media accounts, attended events and met many Chinese VIPs. I was appointed as the first non-Chinese committee member and Secretary on the Gold Coast Chinese Club (est 1984) and the Co-State Manager for the Engaging China Project. I was also in the committee that established the Australia-China Chamber of CEOs and an Ambassador for the Asia Education Foundation (Melbourne University). I also looked after the social media for the Griffith University Tourism Confucius Institute. I was extremely busy, but very happy.
After I graduated from Asian Studies, I enrolled in a Graduate Diploma in Primary Education. I thought if I was going to improve relations between China and Australia through education, I needed to gain an education qualification. When I started the course, no one was really talking about Asian Studies and it’s link to education. However, during my studies Asia had been made a cross curricular priority in the Australian Curriculum. This meant that all Australian students for the first time were going to learn about Asia and the term Asia literacy came into the spotlight. I knew then this was my calling and I knew that Asia literacy would be the way that I would improve Australia-China relations.
There was and still not is such a thing as an Asia literacy teacher in schools, so I decided that I wanted to assist schools to reaching federal government targets. This meant developing resources, student exchanges, training teachers and working with community groups to promote their cultures. So this is what I did whilst still studying. I set up professional development sessions, Skype Mandarin lessons, hosted workshops and events that promoted Chinese culture.
I graduated from my postgraduate studies mid-2013, my husband had graduated from his studies earlier that same year. We both needed to gain 2 years work experience in order for us to go back to China. However our age was starting to catch up with us, we needed to start thinking about when we would start a family of our own. We decided that this would be the best time to start a family and we were very fortunate that is happened very quickly. I was pregnant at my graduation. During my pregnancy I worked as a relief teaching and continued working within the Chinese community.
While I was pregnant I saw an advertisement by Playgroup QLD, saying they were looking for people to start playgroups. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to start my very own Asia literacy grassroots project, but it also meant that I could do this with my daughter. So I started working on the world’s very first Asian Culture Playgroup. I developed the concept around the 7 multiple intelligences and designed a program where each week I would teach the students about a different culture in Asia using 7 different activities. I put hours and hours of work into this program, sourced and made resources. There was a bit of buzz around the concept of the playgroup and it even got into the media. After my daughter was born, I started the playgroup. The playgroup ran for 6 months. I loved every moment of it, I loved seeing my daughter interact with other children and see children learn about Asian culture. Unfortunately, I had to stop the playgroup for financial reasons. It was costing me too much to run, as it was entirely self-funded.
My daughter just turned one, I am enjoying spending my days with her and I am working three days a week at Griffith University. Every spare moment I have I am working on Asia literacy resources and ways to improve Australia-China relations. I have recently accepted a position at Fudan International School in Shanghai and will be teaching grade one. We are moving back to Shanghai in August. We are packing up our house AGAIN, and getting ready for the next big chapter in our lives. But this time we will have a toddler and a dog, it will surely be a big adventure.
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.