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Under the Microscope

Under the Microscope

I brimmed with enthusiasm at the thought of living in a country I always wanted to visit since childhood. China fascinated me in every way from the rigorous language structure to the diverse and tasty cuisine to the incredible fact that it constitutes the world’s biggest country (1.3 billion people and counting). Once I officially accepted the English instructor position, the intensive preparation began. However, no amount of preparation I did before arriving to Beijing could have equipped me for the real life experience of being a foreigner in a homogeneous place, this time in a megacity (my first time ever residing in a city of now 21 million people).

The culture and country shock seemed unbearable, at times, in the early stage of my time in China. A new workplace with new colleagues, a new apartment in a new neighborhood, and a whole new lifestyle all needed my adjustment. The language aspect did not daunt me too much in that I had previously studied Mandarin; but now I had the opportunity to be linguistically immersed in a language that boasts the largest amount of speakers. The sheer size of the learning curve at my new job was enough in itself to make me question my ability to maneuver the expectations of my role as a foreign expert. But I had primarily taken the job because I wanted a challenge in my work. And no doubt I received it.

While I worked alongside other foreigners [including Americans] at the private language school, part of a global education management company, within the same age range, I was the only African American teacher in the school. This situation presented unique challenges and opportunities for me as a young black man in the minority class of TESL professionals in China. I had met other black teachers who worked for the same company but at different schools throughout Beijing. We all could relate to each other’s sentiments in feeling the pressure that came with looking, talking, and behaving differently than our white counterparts. Some teachers had such a hard time with this pressure that they did not remain in China long enough to finish their teaching contracts.

Read the full article on The Black Expat website where it was recently published.

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