(This story first appeared in the August issue of the Arcadia News).
“I have always planned on being a lawyer,” Damore said. “Between law school and college, I knew I wanted to take three years off in order to travel and do things I wouldn’t be able to do once I complete law school.”
After graduating from Washington University in 2010, Damore worked a seasonal job in Lake Tahoe for a year to enjoy the area and spend quality time with her family. For her second year off, she knew she wanted to go abroad.
“I looked for jobs, found the best one in China, was placed in Nanjing and headed there in August of 2011.”
With an urban population of around seven million, Nanjing is one of Eastern China’s largest commercial centers. Damore lived in a 25-story apartment building with three other people – two Germans studying Chinese and one American teaching physics.
“It was a great set-up because it made it much easier to meet people and go out in the city,” she said.
Damore taught English to preschool students during the week and to adults and older students on afternoons and weekends.
“I loved working with the preschool and kindergarten students,” she said. “They’re awesome to teach because their minds are very flexible. It’s awesome to watch their progress. I really had a blast being with them in the classroom every day. Adults are harder.”
Damore’s culinary escapades abroad led her to try some pretty unconventional foods by American standards, including scorpions, beetles, fish eyes and frog.
“My favorite dish in China is Hot Pot,” she said. “It’s kind of like the Chinese version of fondue. There’s a big bowl in the middle of the table with boiling broth and oil. You order a bunch of vegetables and meat and then throw them in the pot to cook. So good.”
Damore found time to visit Beijing’s Great Wall and Nanjing’s Mount Zijin (Purple Mountain), famous for the tomb of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who is considered to be the “Father of Modern China.”
One of Damore’s favorite memories of the year was celebrating the Chinese New Year.
“On the one hand, it’s freezing and there are fireworks going off every two seconds,” she said. “But on the other hand, you’re with your friends all the time because everyone is off work and going out every night. It was a great week.”
Damore said she regrets not having traveled around China more during her year. Luckily, she will be returning this fall for six months to study Chinese at Nanjing University. She also will work part time at another preschool.
In the following spring, she hopes to visit either New Zealand or South America for a couple of months before finally starting law school.
“Living in China as an American is awesome,” she said. “People will go out of their way to help and befriend you, and your salary is 10 times what it would be if you were Chinese or any other Asian ethnicity. It wasn’t until I lived in China that I realized just how lucky I was in terms of the education I received and the lifestyle I am allowed.”
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