Summer Travel Plans

This is a collaborative post.

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you may know that I’ve been studying at the University of St Andrews since the year I started writing here on WordPress. It was in the first summer of my time here that I travelled to East Asia, beginning my journey in Beijing and ending it two months later in Bali.


My first time solo travelling to the region last summer, change in personal circumstance and the overwhelming feeling of not knowing exactly what it is I want to do with my life over the next few years led me to the decision last September that I would move to one of the region’s supercities this summer once I graduate, at least temporarily.

Naturally, one of my main concerns surrounding this move is the lack of linguistic knowledge I have for any country in the region. This issue began to become more and more apparent in my job search, where many roles I would have applied for required at the very least a basic level of spoken Mandarin. I’ve heard of tools like Rosetta Stone and apps like HelloTalk from television and online advertisements, but having looked more into different options of learning tools online, I came across Listen and Learn, I discovered you can take a Free Level Test where you can gauge your grasp of the language – which for me, obviously, is none.


Since I started back at university for my final semester, I’ve been lending my hand at learning the conversational and written basics so that hopefully come time for my move in late summer, I’ll be confident enough to apply for roles that I’m avoiding at the moment. Even if I land a role where the language isn’t applicable, learning such a widely spoken language will add a valuable feather to my bow in terms of my goals to see more of China and will open up possibilities of travelling to more remote areas where English is not as widely spoken.

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6 thoughts on “Summer Travel Plans

  1. I can add a lot to this, since we’ve already travelled your path years ago. First, I’d highly recommend you choose Shanghai over any other big Chinese city. It’s an interesting place from both the ancient and hyper modern perspectives.

    Second, Mandarin. You may get a working understanding of it from online study. but you best bet of really learning it is through immersion, which means being there. Reading, writing, and talking are two very different things. Normally, when you learn a new language you read and write well before you speak conversationally. Not with Mandarin. Since there are some 2,500 characters that are combined in various ways, the best you can hope for quickly is reading parts of a newspaper. It usually takes 4 or 5 years to learn to read semi-proficiently.

    As you look for and apply for jobs, there are a lot of issues to be mindful of. Who is paying for your air transfer and moving expenses? A good job pays that. How is your work visa arrainged? If you leave the company that brought you over, can you still stay? (At least until you find a new job) What are your holidays? Are they paid? When I lived in Hong Kong, I could double dip. Chinese and Western holidays were paid. Is your housing paid? Some companies do that as part of your financial package. Medical care and insurance. Who pays for that? Where can you find care that you trust… meaning English speaking staff?

    The list goes on. Ask away? 🙂

  2. Hey,

    I have been 2 months travelling around Taiwan, and like you, I have been studying Chinese for a few years.

    I haven’t been to China and I am probably biased, but I would recommend Taiwan instead of China to learn Chinese. People are really friendly and open and will talk to you randomly.

    And for learning Chinese, I would say immersion is the best. In preparation what I did was to take conversation classes and it did help me with at least some confidence in that people would understand me if I spoke Chinese.

    Best of luck and let me know if you need any more info about Taiwan 🙂

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