Love & China; Q and A with Robin and Jeff

By Emlyn Lee, Founder

February is full of love. Walk in to any shop or market, and you will see heart-shaped chocolates, pastries, flowers, and jewelry, prepared for Valentine’s Day. Ironically, Thursday is Chinese New Year, celebrating the year of the rabbit, and I owe my love for travel to my first international trip, teaching English in China. So it seems naturally fitting to dedicate this month’s theme and destination feature to LOVE and CHINA!

I am capable of giving travel-related advice, but will leave the love and relationship tips to Dr. Phil, in fact, may need to re-read his series of books. But this month, I’ve decided to take a different approach to my weekly blogs and have asked some alumnus, current and future participants that have either found love abroad, or are traveling or will be traveling with their loved ones on a Cultural Embrace program.

Meet Robin and Jeff. They are on our ten-month teach program in China, and arrived to Yantai in August, 2010. They were introduced to teach in China through a fellow Seattle Pacific University and Cultural Embrace alumnae, Luan (who I’ll introduce in my next LOVE and CHINA blog). And they recently got engaged, and have taken embracing the cultures to another level. Congratulations Robin and Jeff!

Q: How did you meet, and how long have you been together?
A: Jeff and I met at freshmen orientation right before college, but we didn’t start dating until sophomore year. We have been together now almost 3 years, and on my birthday, Dec 19th, Jeff proposed at our favorite American restaurant here in Yantai. He rented the whole top floor and surprised me. I thought I was meeting him for birthday dinner but instead there were rose petals on the floor, balloons everywhere, and Jeff waiting for me on one knee!

Q: Who initiated taking the plunge of going to China? And how did you decide where to go and what to do together, and why this Cultural Embrace program?
A: I (Robin) knew that I wanted to teach abroad after I graduated college, but I never would have picked China. Jeff however, had been there before on a study abroad trip, and was interested in learning Chinese to strengthen his resume. It was intimidating at first (for me because it was China, and for Jeff because it was teaching), but the idea of spending a year abroad together sounded a lot better than being apart for ten months. My college professor had mentioned in one of my classes that her son was teaching English in China, so Jeff and I met with her to learn more about his experience. She gave us Luan’s (her daughter-in-law) email address. Luan was the one who recommended us to Cultural Embrace, and we really liked the idea of using an outside organization to help us figure out all the small details of preparing for a year abroad.

Q: What are the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of traveling together?
A: Pros-I get to see the world with my best friend, and we can build a lot of memories together. We have learned a lot about each other by adjusting to life in different cultures together. Cons-if we get cranky from jet lag or dealing with differences in culture, we take it out on each other.

Q: Who takes what roles while planning and traveling abroad?
A: Jeff does a lot of the logistics like booking the flights and hostels (he is a bargain shopper and always seems to find stuff for way cheaper than I can). I usually sit around and come up with all the fun ways to spend Jeff’s money 🙂

Q: What is your favorite part of being in China together?
A: The best part about being in China together is that we always have someone to do something with, whether that means doing pull-ups in the snow, going out to dinner, or being there for each other when it is Christmas, since we didn’t go home for the first time ever.

Q: Do you have any advice for others that are thinking about traveling with their loved ones?
A: Moving to the other side of the world with your significant other is a pretty big step. Make sure that you and your significant other have a solid foundation in your relationship because quite possibly, you may be all each other have for a period of time. Jeff and I spend a ton of time together, so make sure you like the person and have common interests. You also have to be willing to grow together. We have learned so much about each other by seeing how we react to challenges and adjust to change. It has been really incredible seeing how our relationship has been shaped by our time in China. I never would have thought I would be planning my wedding from China!

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  1. >I love it! Congrats Jeff and Robin. We are so happy for you.

    Van and Luan Lierman

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