Alumni Spotlight: John Ma


John was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology and a minor in Business from California State University Los Angeles. While he has never lived outside of the United States, he decided that Shanghai, China would be a great first for his travels abroad. It provided the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone and do something completely different - to teach, eat, and explore Shanghai and nearby cities, villages, and countries.

Why did you pick this program?

I knew I wanted to travel and live abroad after graduation, but still needed a source of income. I did some research online and found out that teaching English abroad allows one to live pretty comfortably in Asia due to the low cost of living compared to Western countries. I looked into TEFL programs and decided on Shanghai because a friend of mine has lived there. While I briefly considered another program, I felt extremely confident after a staff member reached out to me to answer every question I had. A week after receiving my BA, I left for Shanghai.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

I tell them that traveling and going abroad is an experience of a lifetime, especially living abroad! There is so much out there to see and explore. The people you meet from all over the world and the experiences you gain will be life changing. It's really an eye-opener to get out of your comfort zone and explore the differences in cultures compared to your own.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would suggest that they have a clear idea of what they would like to do after the program - some may want to go home, others may want to travel, and maybe others would want a job waiting for them. Keep in mind that it's okay if those plans change. Originally, I wanted to stay for six months and thought I wanted a start a job as soon as I'd finished the course. Once I finished, I postponed my start date for a position until I came back from exploring other parts of China. Now I'm coming close to a year in China, and am aiming for year two. If you want a job, start searching while taking the course, that way you avoid the stress of doing so afterwards. Teaching Nomad will provide you with help and the resources you need, but it's always better to put in some work yourself to find other desirable positions.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

I teach in Shanghai where some of my closest friends are my colleagues. We drove four hours to go hiking at Mogan Mountain. The hike and view was amazing but the best part was staying in a nearby village with the locals. We had local home cooked meals with beer and baijia (rice liquor). We ate outside on a traditional Chinese table with an incredible view of the mountains and drank and talked until the night was over. The best part was waking up not knowing where I was to birds chirping and a nice local breakfast with a beer.

What you should do on holiday while living in China?

To be honest, instead of going clubbing or heading to the bars as soon as you get a day off, go travel around China! There are so many little villages nearby. Make the most out of it while you are living abroad. Check out all the nearby mountains, rivers, cities, and countries. Try their food, alcohol, and meet the locals. Train tickets are relatively cheap and allow you to travel almost anywhere in China. Plane tickets are also very affordable.