My name is Matthew, Chinese name 馬修文, and I have lived in Guangzhou for 4 years now. I have found my time here to be quite fascinating, and I have met many interesting people.
I came here first in February 2009, and at that time I felt very nervous. I had finished university and been working in the UK for two years, but moving country, living and working there etc is all quite daunting, especially when few people there speak your language (and you don’t speak theirs!). I knew a little bit of Chinese before I came, but really not very much.
My first job here in China was teaching English to adults, and that was also very scary at first. Naturally, I am an introverted person-not so outgoing or confident. I had to learn many skills in order to teach Chinese adults, as they had a very different idea of the world compared to me. I learnt so much from teaching them in the two years I spent there in EF. I think it took me about 6 months before I felt comfortable and confident in front of a class of people, and in the time since then I have done my best to hone my teaching skills and found ways to teach a wider variety of people.
I made some of my first friends in that job, some of my students who had finished their courses (actually they were older than me, as I was only 24 at the time!) took me to different places around the city and showed me a lot about the culture here. I loved (and still love!) eating Cantonese food, and trying all kinds of different things here that we don’t have in the UK. The culture sometimes surprised me, sometimes frustrated me, sometimes felt good and at others felt bad. I remember having highs and lows here in GZ, and both have been fantastic learning experiences in hindsight.
I have been to many cities around Guangdong, and some in other parts of China, and tried many fun things here like white water rafting, hot springs, mountain walks etc. I enjoy spending time with my friends in the great outdoors, fresh air and open spaces are such a treat when you spend most of your life in a crowded city like Guangzhou. I do love the convenience of living in a city though, everything is open late, transportation is regular and quick, all I need is just on my doorstop. In the UK, there are few places like that, maybe just central London, and the prices there are sky high!
Coming to China has given me a chance to live a life different from what I could have back home in Britain. While I would never give up my nationality, and of course I love my beautiful and unique country, it is fascinating to live somewhere like GZ and learn about a culture, people and language so far removed from mine. I feel going abroad really opens up your mind (if you let the new culture in and embrace it), and gives you the ability to think about things from different perspectives. Even learning a language is made easier by being surrounded by it-having a good attitude towards learning, taking an interest and being curious are all you need to start picking it up.
I hope more of you will choose to teach abroad and enjoy all that there is out there to enjoy. Life is full of opportunities – take a hold of them and see where they take you!