Torie Gervais

Journey East 2004

 

Wesleyan University

B.A. in East Asian Studies

Certificate in International Relations

 

Center for Teaching and Learning in China

Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

 

English Language Teacher

Beijing Normal University, Zhuhai campus

 

“Journey East and Beyond”

 

Torie GervaisUp until I was 17, I had barely even left New England.  My parents didn’t like to travel and we rarely went on family vacations.  When we did, it was usually only as far as Rhode Island or Vermont.  I had never been on a plane and I saw little chance for that to change.  My parents firmly believe that children should learn to be independent and start supporting themselves early, so my time was spent studying and working, and my money had to go toward more practical needs.  Travel was a luxury that I simply couldn’t afford and I frankly considered it to be something that just wouldn’t happen to me.

But then, Tom Connor created the Journey East program at my sleepy Vermont high school.  When Mr. Connor was my teacher in middle school, he infected me with his passion for travel, or as he would say, I caught the “travel bug.”  From the second I heard about the program, I knew that if I didn’t apply for it I would always regret missing the opportunity to escape small town Vermont and see places I had never dreamed of.  It took three years of convincing, but in the end my parents agreed.  So at the age of 17, I finally boarded a plane for the first time, bound for China.

As clichéd and melodramatic as it might sound, Journey East really did change the course of my life.  Before the program, I never had much passion for any of the subjects I studied.  When I was told to think about careers for the future, my mind went completely blank.  After going to China, I fell in love with learning about other cultures and I knew that I wanted cultural exchange to be a major part of my life from then on.

When I went to college, choosing a major was a simple decision.  I chose East Asian Studies and continued my love affair with China as I learned about the history, literature, and language.  I studied abroad in Kunming and lived with an amazing host family.  When I graduated, I applied to English teaching programs in China.  I moved to Shenzhen in 2009 and I’ve been living in China ever since.  Currently, I teach English at Beijing Normal University’s Zhuhai campus.

And now I sit typing this in my apartment in China, writing in English while listening to Chinese music, after having a conversation in Chinese about my surprise (and misfortune) at finding poison ivy in China.  I teach students who are all preparing to study abroad and I take every opportunity to challenge their preconceptions, encourage them to view things from multiple perspectives, and think critically about the world around them.  As we share our thoughts and ideas, I learn as much from them as they do from me.  Since living in China, I’ve also had the chance to travel to several other Asian countries and I never get tired of exploring new places.  So far I’ve been to Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Journey East was the catalyst that allowed all of this to happen.  Without Journey East, I may never have gotten the chance to travel to Asia.  I never would have chosen the major I did and I definitely wouldn’t be living and working in China today.  In the future, I hope to find a job in U.S.-China relations.  I plan to move back the U.S. in a year or two, but I never plan on leaving China and my experiences here behind. “