DRUMMER FEATURE AUGUST 28, 2016
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With his future uncertain, Nick Lenczewski traveled to China to teach English and now shares his experiences in a book
By Doug Voerding
"Not all those who wander are lost." - JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Back in 2007, facing college graduation and college debt, Nick Lenczewski wasn't sure if he wanted to enter the corporate world with his degree in mathematics from St. John's University.
Facing many interviews at a college career job fair, the 2003 Buffalo High School graduate walked away, even more uncertain and sensing a need to think hard about what he really wanted to do with his life.
Nick thought about his college experience studying abroad in Greece and Italy. He loved traveling and learning about life in other countries. He knew he wanted to keep traveling and knew that he was interested in Asia.
"I had heard about teaching English as a way to do this," said Nick. "and I found out about programs that sent people to China and Japan to teach English."
"Teaching English is the ideal way to meet and interact with the Chinese people. Some of my best friends to this day are those I met through the college where I taught. They were students or teachers or friends of those students and teachers. I guarantee if you come to China, you will make great friends."
Now, back in Minnesota, Nick has written a book about his experiences in China, Ultimate China Guide: How to Teach English, Travel, Learn Chinese, and Find Work in China.
In the book, not only does Nick share what he has learned about Chinese culture, but also provides anyone interested in teaching English in China with detailed information about living in China.
Although the book is a comprehensive guide to living and working in China, it is also a kind of memoir. Nick's guides are reinforced by his personal stories.
"This guide offers an alternative to working a 40-hour-a-week job as a career path and lifestyle - that is teaching English 20 hours a week, traveling through Asia, learning Mandarin Chinese, and turning these experiences into work you can be proud of and enjoy. It's not an easy path and you may feel uncomfortable at times, but if you crave adventure, you will feel alive like you've never felt alive before."
In the spring of 2007, Nick first was accepted into a program to teach English in Japan. A month later, he heard a Maryknoll priest and doctor talk about teaching English and living in China.
Said Nick, "He made China sound like an exciting place. From this point on, I was set on going to China."
In the fall of 2007, Nick was already in China with the Maryknoll Teach in China Service Project. For three years, Nick taught English at a college in Guangdong Province, Zhongshan City, near Hong Kong in southeast China.
He stayed with this program for three years. Nick said that knowing the Mandarin Chinese language is not required to teach or work in China, but, during those three years, "I developed an interest in the language and started learning. My best memories of living in China have been of speaking with Chinese people in their language."
"The most important part to living well in China is connecting with the Chinese people in their native language. This is the most enjoyable part of living in China, and it will also make your life tremendously easier because you will be able to get around easily without needing to rely on others who speak Mandarin better than you do."
Back to China Again and Again
Nick came back to Minnesota in 2010. While looking for a job, he worked as a tutor and a substitute teacher around Wright County.
Nick thought about starting his own business, but then joined a fellow Chinese-English teacher friend in starting an English training center in China. So in 2011 Nick was back in China.
"We opened the school and were in operation for one summer before I left. I felt I was not cut out for this type of business," said Nick.
Shortly after his decision to leave the business, Nick contacted several Minnesota companies with offices in China.
"I told them how I could help them," said Nick. "One company got back to me the next day."
After a few weeks of negotiations with the manufacturing company, Nick was again back in China, this time as an interpreter, translator, cultural liaison, and English teacher internally for the company.
"My days were now spent visiting suppliers and interpreting for foreign visitors who came to inspect the factories, helping my Chinese colleagues with their English, resolving communication issues, translating engineering documents, and occasionally helping out on the assembly line or flying some prototypes back home for client approval. My evenings were spent hanging out with friends and colleagues, and exploring Jiaxing, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Ningbo, or Suzhou on weekends."
Nick spent almost two years with the company in Zhejiang Province, Jiaxing City, near Shanghai in eastern China,
The translation and interpretation work for this company greatly improved Nick's fluency in Mandarin Chinese.
Ultimate China Guide
Nick's book is an "everything you need to know" book for getting and enjoying an English teaching job in China.
From finding a job in a specific part of China, to planning lessons and teaching methods, to finding an apartment, to vacationing and touring the country, to enjoying city night life, it's all in the book.
Even if actually teaching English in China is not possible, readers will enjoy Nick's descriptions of his experiences in China.
"Many restaurants will have picture menus. Sometimes there will be pictures of dishes on the walls, and you will be able to order by pointing to the picture you find most delicious that day. Other restaurants will have some English written next to each Chinese name in the menu. Oftentimes, the translations will be humorous. It's not uncommon to find dishes such as 'explode the chicken' or 'fragrant fish slivers'."
Back to Minnesota
Nick moved back to Minnesota three years ago, working as a translator for schools, businesses, and health care providers.
For the last year-and-a-half, Nick worked on his book, recently self-published with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.
Now, Nick is an author and independent Chinese translator. And, for the past month, he has been teaching Chinese at the Concordia Language Villages immersion camp near Detroit Lakes.
More information about the book is available at www.ultimatechinaguide.com.
Nick can be contacted at email@example.com.
This Saturday, Aug. 27, Nick will be talking about and signing his book at Buffalo Books from 10:00 a.m. to noon.
And that college debt? Nick was able to pay it off in less than two years, while working in China for that manufacturing company.
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