My first abroad experience was Taiwan. I went there to study Mandarin through a partnership with my home school, Mississippi State University. While I was in the country I met a lot of very interesting expatriates. One of the veteran teachers there told me, “if you enjoy Taiwan, you should try China. Taipei is like a retirement city compared to Shanghai”.
Being a part of the international community in Taiwan was exciting. Most of the foreigners I met taught English as a second language to the local children. After seeing how much fun these people were having with theirs jobs I became very interested in doing similar work after I graduated college. Teaching abroad would allow me to do what I love most: traveling. The comment the veteran teacher made about Shanghai stuck with me. I wanted to experience it for myself and from that day on my sights were set on experiencing Shanghai. After doing some research I have discovered how exciting and vibrant Shanghai really is. The size of the city and the population are truly staggering. Everything from ancient temples to a modern neon skyline can be found in just one city.
It took me three years to finally reach Shanghai. Once I arrived at Pudong airport I was exhausted from my journey, but once I saw the commotion of the city I fed off of its energy. Every day I walk block after block exploring as much as I can. I absorb everything I see from, discover all sorts of styles architecture decorated with huge neon Chinese characters, to people dancing in community areas such as pedestrian streets and parks. I’ve seen construction workers working 24 hours straight; shop owners preparing meals on the street and barbers shaving customers’ beards on the sidewalk. I have also seen the newest and most impressive restaurants and bars; I’ve seen 20 year olds driving Maserati’s, women covered in Louis Vuitton from head to toe and alleys that look just like Paris in the 1920’s. I have dodged motorbikes, met interesting people and tasted unfamiliar foods. The experiences I have made will last a lifetime. The conclusion I can draw is that Shanghai is a lady of extreme contrasts and she’s incredibly alluring because of it. Replace all the buildings and people with trees and squirrels and you have a pretty good idea of what my home town is like. The people back home live like a close knit community compared to Shanghai where you never see the same face twice. I’m fully aware that I’m still in the “awe” phase – a small town body getting lost in the magic of the big city. And Shanghai is quite the city to get lost in.
During my stay in Shanghai, I work as an intern for Teaching Nomad. The company takes qualified applicants and places them at schools with jobs teaching English and many other subjects. I was fortunate to receive this position because it allows me to form a better understanding of the process involved in finding a teacher job in China. At work I also get to laugh and share stories with fellow expats about the exciting conundrum that is Shanghai and its people. I also really enjoy the area around the office. There are a lot of different restaurants that cover just about any dietary preference. This is very convenient for me because I am a fan of the American fast food restaurants. I was worried about the change in my diet from the one I am accustomed to, but Shanghai offers many options. While working for Teaching Nomad I will also be taking Mandarin classes at Hutong School, the school that helped me connect with Teaching Nomad. After I fulfill my internship I plan to get some experience with teaching children so that I can use the services Teaching Nomad provides to find a teacher job in China. As far as I can tell China will be the perfect place to live abroad while saving some extra income. And Shanghai is definitely high on my list of where in China I plan to start that adventure.