What position do you hold at LtL? What has been your career path so far?
I came first to China in 1999, back then as an exchange student and was amazed by this country. I, of course, expected there to be a cultural difference to the “western world” but I had not expected to come to a country where people’s basic views of life, values, relationships, problem-solving were so fundamentally different to anything one would find in the USA or Europe. I was fascinated and wanted to find out more, but quickly realized that without speaking mandarin there is no way to even get close to gaining any kind of real insight into this culture. I then decided to start learning Mandarin, first in 2002 in Beijing and I never really stopped. I find Chinese language and culture incredibly interesting and starting a Chinese language school was a logical step for me to make what I love to do as a hobby also my job. I have been running LTL ever since and helping students who come to China to learn the language and discover the culture, just like me many years ago, is very rewarding, a lot of fun, sometimes tiring, but never boring. Best job I could imagine for anyone to have.
Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I went to the UK for my BSc and MSc, did an exchange year in Hong Kong, studied Chinese in Beijing, worked in Germany, Austria, Singapore, and China, been to every single one of China’s provinces and pretty much every country between Tokyo and New York. I have never been to South America though and would really love to go one day.
How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?
The question that nobody dares to ask, is of course if Mandarin will take over English as the international language of communication. If this will happen I don’t know of course, but it is certainly a lot more likely than most people believe, particularly when seeing that less than 0.5% of China’s population speak English, which might increase to 1% or even 2% over the next few decades, but still means that anyone who wants to deal in a serious way with the world’s most populous country needs to speak Mandarin.
At the same time one can see how Chinese turns into a language of communication between non native speakers, when I visited Korea last time, speaking Mandarin was more helpful to order in restaurants than English was, when speaking to the Japanese owners of a Japanese bar downstairs from our school, Mandarin is our only way of communication. If Mandarin will be the next world language nobody knows, but that it will be one of the world’s dominant languages is for sure. Combined with the incredible shortage of fluent Mandarin speakers in western countries today, learning it is also one of the best career choices one can make.
What does the future hold for LtL - any exciting new programs to share?
A lot. Our new Two City Combo program has been very successful, giving students the opportunity to study in metropolitan Beijing and the historic imperial summer capital, Chengde. Homestays continue of course to be one of our strongest advantages, summer camps expanding, new cooperations with universities – Michigan State University just decided this year to give university credit for the LTL summer Chinese language course – it never gets boring here.