Expats Abroad

Making it Work In Mainland China – Jane’s Shanghai Experience

Only 2% of millennials are willing to work in mainland China, according to a recent PWC study.

But as Jane, a Taiwanese American living in China, can attest, it’s worth a double look.

Please introduce yourself! Who is Jane?

I’m a 33 year-old Taiwanese American female currently working as a university career counselor in Shanghai, China

But, I was born in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. I received my undergrad degree in Communications and grad degree in International Education Policy and lived in 5 different US cities before moving abroad.

Jane and Her Boyfriend Ventured to Mainland China

Jane and her husband found that China checked off most of their abroad requirements.

Tell us a bit about how your abroad story started.

I moved to Shanghai almost two years ago with my then boyfriend – now husband. When we first started dating, one of the things that we immediately discovered we had in common was a love for international travel and living abroad. We had good jobs in Washington DC at the time, but we’re ready for a change.

What better way to kick our relationship to the next level then move together to another country?

What inspired you to go abroad?

As individuals, we lived abroad in the past, and loved the adventure of learning a new language and culture.

I had always hoped that I would get a chance to move abroad again, but as you get older and enter your 30s, it seems more and more difficult to gain the energy to make the move. It really helps when you find a life partner that has the same excitement for living abroad.

How was the journey of actually getting abroad?

We started by making a shared Google document in which we would list potential locations and pros and cons to moving there.

Then we both started a general reach out to some contacts to see how realistic it would be to find and secure a job in that country. From there we’re able to narrow the list to specific locations.

How long did it take you from start to finish to move to China?

We started seriously discussing the possibility of moving abroad about a year before we left the US. For me, the actual job search probably took 6-9 months, including lots of informational interviews, networking, job applications, interviews, and then the work visa process.

How did you find work and secure a visa?

I followed a process. First, I used LinkedIn to reach out to my professional and university network. I also asked family and friends for connections and ideas of people I could speak with.

From there I set up lots of phone chats with people in my field and location of interest. And I ended up getting a great bite from my undergrad connections at NYU!

I had been keeping track of the university’s international growth for the past ten years as an alumni volunteer. It was on an email listerv for professionals working in the international education space, when I saw a post about NYU Shanghai’s new campus and potential opportunities to work there.

I emailed my connections about my interest, and this is where I ended up getting the job!

Tell us a bit about your international life.

Life in Shanghai is just like life in many other cosmopolitan cities. We live in a one-bedroom apartment downtown, and I take the subway to work every day.

I can walk, bike or take cabs around town to grab groceries, check out new restaurants or bars, meet up with friends, catch a movie, watch live shows, and play sports.

We take a lot of trips to take advantage of living in Asia. We’ve been to Korea twice, Japan for a wedding, Taiwan a few times since my relatives live there, and we are planning a trip to Philippines this summer.

What has surprised you most about living abroad?

You never know the group of local or expat friends you will end up finding when you move to a new country. This past year, my husband and I joined a Gaelic Football League to stay in shape and broaden our social circle.

I would probably never consider playing soccer/rugby/football back in the US, but out here in a new country, you take more risks and try new things. We really enjoy this new sport, and the social aspect of meeting all these Irish and international expats from South Africa, UK, New Zealand, Germany, and beyond.

What was the hardest part about life in China?

China’s air pollution is getting worse. In the past two years, there have been multiple days during the wintertime where the AQI (Air Quality Index) has reached very high levels so it is unsafe for you to walk outside without a facemask. It really impedes enjoying basic things like taking a bike ride or lying out at the park.

What have you learned from living abroad?  

Countless lessons. One thing is to be appreciative of the ease of life in the US, how everything is convenient, comfortable, in your native language and not so frustrating or hard to get done.

On the other hand, living abroad makes you feel like every day is a new discovery. Just a trip to a grocery store brings interactions with new people, learning about new foods and products, practicing new language skills, and a culturally immersive experience.

What advice would you have for someone considering moving to China?

Lots of people can get by without learning the local language because Shanghai has many English speakers, but if you can, spend some time learning Mandarin Chinese.

It will be so helpful in tapping into the local population, not being so frustrated by miscommunication, and appreciating the Chinese culture.

How should they start the process?

Reading blogs, articles, and books about moving abroad can be very inspiring, so keep that up!

Also, write down your goal. Start a Google doc with your friend, partner or just yourself. Just having that goal written down will make it more real.

It may seem like an overwhelming process but take it a step at a time. Remember, people move abroad all the time!

Would you move abroad again?

Sure! We love daydreaming about our next move…

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply