As soon as I learned how much of a necessity it was to learn Chinese, I began studying the language. I had a couple of Mandarin language CDs and a few books that I studied when I had a free moment. While it was a challenge, I was greatly motivated by the American friends I had made in Suzhou who appeared to be fluent in the language. Their ability to take a taxi anywhere, order meals, and strike up conversations with the locals impressed me thoroughly. I told myself that with some focus, I would also be fluent in the language in a year’s time, when I planned to move back to the US. Later on, I came to realize that I was naive about my presumptions of my friends’ Chinese fluency, but my original attitude motivated my studies.
In the spring of 2005, I was getting ready to graduate from Northeastern University and starting to feel the pressure to land a good job and kick start my career. However, the travel bug had bitten me and I dreamed of seeing the world. My original vision was to backpack around Europe, but tight finances kept that dream at bay. At that time, one of my best friends, Jake, temporarily moved back to the Boston area from Miami with an ultimate destination of Suzhou, China. One of his classmates from UMiami had been living in Suzhou for a year teaching English and thoroughly recommended the experience. I had never heard of Suzhou, but I was impressed and fascinated with the idea of living in Asia for a spell. China? I had never considered moving there, but I had always had a certain awe of this rather mysterious ancient land that had suddenly become a hot topic on the lips of all of my business professors. After a few weeks of toying with the idea, I decided to go for it. I decided to move to Suzhou, China.