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From McNichols to China

Post-graduation yearning takes UDM psychology major on adventure overseas

By JONATHAN KRAUSE / VN GUEST COLUMNIST
On January 21, 2015

UDM graduate Jonathan Krause accepted a teaching position in China and will be sharing his adventure in the coming issues of The Varsity News.

 

BY Jonathan Krause

VN GUEST COLUMNIST

 

It was sitting rather innocuously in my in-box one cool, crisp spring morning.

“Teach English abroad. All expenses paid. No experience needed.”

The timing was altogether perfect.

I had found myself in a position not unfamiliar to many college students.

I was weeks away from graduating, and had no idea what I was going to do next.

Sure, I was about to graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy with a master’s degree in clinical psychology (as well as the mountain of student debt that is so lovingly included with it), but I could just not reconcile the cold hard reality of truly being an adult with the still simmering, not-wanting-to-be-extinguished embers of youth.

I decided to go to the meeting.

The presentation that followed captivated my imagination: a one-year contract with an elementary school in Foshan, China, a place of which I had not even heard.

The pay was not great by U.S. standards, but the school would cover all of costs of living and I would have ample travel opportunities.

I had an in-depth discussion with my long-time girlfriend, and we decided to go for it.

She was already an elementary school teacher, and I had plenty of experience working with children at group therapy during an internship with a psychology clinic.

We both got positions, and all my thoughts immediately turned to China.

I became addicted to everything Chinese.

I read books on culture and history, and also began to tackle the glowering behemoth of the Mandarin language.

This was probably ill-advised, since I still had all of my final exams coming up.

Nevertheless, I passed my tests and graduated as summer blurred like the scenery outside of Speed Racer’s car.

Before I could say 你好, I was on an airplane.

Let me just say that the flight to China is absolutely brutal.

There’s no easy way around it.

It didn’t help that our flight was scheduled the day after Malaysia Airlines 17 was shot out of the air over Ukraine.

After 14 nerve-wracking hours, we arrived in Beijing. There was another three-hour flight and a two-hour bus ride immediately thereafter before reaching the final destination.

Exhausted, dirty and weary, I got my first impression of China. It was covered in a dank fog that is not easy to wade through.

I will never forget how hot it was. As shocking as it may be to non-geography majors out there, south China is parallel with Cuba in terms of latitude, and that moist July jungle heat hit me like a soggy bagel.

Stepping out of the airport into a balmy, 100-degree night, I knew immediately that I was in a different country and a different culture.

The architecture. The fashion. The smells, especially.

I was a stranger in a strange land, and despite my bleary-eyed stupor I was ready to start my journey.

 

Next issue: Abandoned at the bus station in a scary part of town.

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