Chinese characters on our blackboards, University teachers and employees practicing the Chinese pronunciation all over the campus – our University CEU Cardenal Herrera gets to know a language and culture that is completely different to the Spanish. Han Tang left her come country to introduce her language and culture to us, teaching Chinese at our University. We are curious about what made the student of Chinese Language and Literature take this brave step of starting this adventure in Spain, about what life in China is like and why she wants to stay in Valencia.
你好, Han. You have travelled almost 10 000 kilometers to teach us your mother tongue Chinese. What did you expect to find in Spain, what did you think you would hear, taste or see?
Han: First of all, I must confess that the experiences I have gained here so far are worth every single kilometer I have travelled to come here. I appreciate it a lot to have the opportunity to get to know a different country by teaching my mother tongue to Spanish and international people. Before coming to Spain for the first time, I did not really have an idea of the country. I knew about its good weather, of course, about the good food and the positive way of life but the reason why I came here was because I have always wanted to learn some Spanish. It has always been a language which has interested me and when I heard about the opportunity of giving Chinese classes at University CEU Cardenal Herrera, I knew, this would be the perfect place for me. It is not my first time in Europe and Spain though. After having graduated, I did a Europe trip with my friends – this was a dream coming true. We went to Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville – and many other places around Europe.
Can you give us a brief impression of your home? What is life in China like?
Han: Well, my home town Dandong is in the Northeast of China. It is the largest Chinese border city, facing North Korea across the Yalu River. It has a quite dynamic history because of its good location for our natural resources and the convenient access to the ocean. There is a lot of trade with North Korea flowing through my city. That is very interesting for me because I could also get to know the Korean culture – and even language – a bit. It goes without saying that life in China is quite different to life in Europe. But still, I have already adapted to the Spanish culture, which is pretty easy for me because I really love the Spanish lifestyle that is so laid-back, relaxed and happy.
Coming from a country whose culture and language are so different to the Spanish, have you been afraid of language problems and culture differences before coming here?
Han: I came here in February without knowing any Spanish, so of course I was a little nervous at the beginning. Europe is definitely different to Asia, so it was quite good that I had already got an impression about it on my Europe tour. But being the only Chinese teacher here, having mostly Spanish colleagues, I was a little worried first that it would be hard for me to integrate. However, my concerns were totally groundless. My colleagues have been so nice and helpful – even if they do not know any English, they always try hard to help me. The international group of interns has also been such a nice group of people in which I really feel comfortable. I did not know anyone when I came here and they introduced me to so many people which made me feel really welcome. The interns are from all over the world – it is so interesting to get to know their cultures – we get along really well, it does not matter where we all come from, that is awesome!
You spend some months living in the United States of America – was that a good preparation for your stay in Europe?
Han: Even though the USA are still different to Europe, they are obviously more similar to it than Asia is. I think it was a good experience on one hand – to improve my English – and on the other hand to get an idea of how it is to live in a foreign country and in a foreign environment. That helped me a lot to overcome some initial difficulties and made me start this adventure with an open mind. I think that if you go to another country you must try to get to know the locals and their traditions and culture. That makes your world view brighter.
What is your favorite food, drink, or experience you have had here that you didn’t have in China and what are the ones you miss most?
Han: I really love tapas – it is a nice way of having lunch or dinner together. You can share and try different ones which makes it kind of a sociable “event”. Of course, I also like Paella. For me as a Chinese, having rice so often, I have tried the dish in many, many variants – but Paella was something completely new for me. My favorite experiences have certainly been the “fiestas” here. On my first weekend here I was invited to a birthday party – that was the best introduction of the Spanish parties because I was quite surprised about how late the Spanish go out. At the time Spanish people have dinner here, we in China would usually already go to bed. Spaniards love to dance – that is something I really like, too. It looks as if they feel so free when they are dancing.
What I probably miss most here is genuine Chinese food with fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. My favorite Chinese dish is “Hot Pot” – which is absolutely delicious. Of course, I also miss my family and friends, but we skype quite often and due to my nice group of international friends, I do not feel homesick – which is great!
Do you – as a teacher for Chinese – think that Europeans can learn a language which is so different to our languages at all?
Han: To be honest, I think that it is quite difficult to learn my language. I am pretty glad that I do not have to learn Chinese. It is especially hard for Europeans to learn our characters as they are so different. My students here at University CEU Cardenal Herrera, however, are really motivated and they try hard to improve and to learn a lot – even though all of them are very busy. But some of them even practice at home – I appreciate that a lot.
How do you think can your experience here in Valencia be relevant to your personal future goals – do you consider being a teacher your dream job?
Han: First of all, I think experiences abroad are always something that enriches your life a lot. Throwing yourself into an adventure and learning how to solve problems on your own makes you strong and independent. The beauty of life is its surprises – I am a really curious person and I need to see the world. I enjoy being a teacher a lot. It is not only teaching people something you know, it is also an art of speech which helps you to overcome any feeling of nervousness and to improve the way you express yourself. I want a job which allows travelling and using my language skills therefore my dream job would definitely be a travel blogger – getting paid for travelling, how great is that!?
Do you want to continue your “Spanish adventure” or does your longing for genuine Chinese food force you to go back to your home country?
Han: Oh, I could compensate Chinese food without any problem for some more time with the tasty Valencian Paella. I really want to stay here for some more time because I love my job here, I love the international vibes here at University CEU Cardenal Herrera. I also still want to improve my Spanish skills. However, I need to go back to China pretty soon for my visa and because I want so spend my summer holidays with my friends and family. I am really looking forward to that but I am also really looking forward to coming back to my new second home Valencia very soon.