Living Abroad – Jack Lin

Living Abroad – Jack Lin

Every year, more and more Chinese are going overseas to study, work, and learn about the world around them. In partnership with the Dongguan Overseas Scholars Association, HubHao speaks with some of these Chinese who have lived abroad and ask them about their experiences.


I’m sat with Jack Lin outside of D:Union coffee shop in Nancheng. It’s not the first time I’ve met Jack. In fact, it was in a coffee shop not so different than D:Union just around the corner in the Hong Fa building. I had met Jack that day along with a  couple of others about trying to get the Dongguan Overseas Scholars Association football team to join a match I was organizing. I failed to convince them to join – the challenge is always open, Jack – but I did make a good friend.

I now know Jack quite well, so it was strange to interview him and also for him to introduce himself to the readers. “My name is Jack Lin. I am a teacher in Dongguan right now. I have worked with a number of different training companies, helping the students practice their English, but also help them apply for overseas universities.”

It’s been four years since Jack came back from Vancouver. He originally went there just to study. While others opted for the US or UK, Jack had a few reasons he chose Vancouver. “First, I had to worry about money, because my parents are not really rich. Canada is a really good place and the tuition fee is not too expensive. Also my Aunt, she lives there, so when I went to Canada I lived with her. So I save a lot of money. Plus, the education in Canada is not bad. Even though in Canada there are not a lot of famous universities, they still have some very good universities there.

“I studied Business Organization, kind of related to accounting, so I’m really good at numbers, that’s why I sometimes teach students Mathematics. I studied at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. It’s not really a famous university, but it’s a very practical one. The graduate employment rate is very high compared to UBC or Simon Fraser University. Most Chinese students will choose to go to those UBC or SFU because it’s famous, but in my opinion, students at this university could not learn a lot of things because the class size is very big. Class is two or three hundred. In my university, the maximum is thirty five students. The professor really knows you are and what you might be missing and can focus on you. It’s very easy for us to divide the students into different groups. So in each course we do a lot of group projects, so we can talk about and discuss the problem.

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Jack felt he thrived under the Canadian system. “The two styles were totally different. In China, the teacher just stay on the stage and keep talking, reading a book, showing you slideshows, and you just take your notes or finish your homework.  But in Canada, the way of all those teaching is different. In one class they probably only talk for ten or fifteen minutes and the rest of the time they let you talk or interact with the group. We really need to work together like a team. We need to write a lot of papers, make presentations. I preferred this style.”

It wasn’t only the education that Jack found interesting. He also built up a very colorful CV while in Vancouver. “For work I really did a lot of different part time job. I work like a chef assistant, pizza delivery, help with house decoration and flooring. I also work in a paintball shop so I know how to set up all those equipment. I also do the election monitoring. Scout Canada, I also help them. For this one I was more professional. I helped them collect all the data and analyze it for them.”

“I remember one very funny job was the bartender. It was not the normal bartender. It was actually in a KTV. But you know, there is a law in Canada, it is illegal to sell alcohol in KTV. So we just sell it secretly so the police do not know. I mean the wage is just so-so. They usually pay you eight dollars per hour, but the tips are really a lot. In a whole night I can get three hundred dollars. But it’s not an easy job. It started around 11pm and finish around 8am in the morning. You not only serve the alcohol. The customer drink a lot and then they throw up everywhere and you have to clean it up.”

“I worked there for 1 year, but unluckily we got caught by the police. It’s actually not hard for them to notice because if at twelve o’clock you still have a lot of customers parking then they will realize that something is wrong for this KTV. So they just knocked the door, we open the door and around twenty cops come in. They told us to get in the corner with your hands up. And you know, I was an international student and it is also illegal to work while studying. So I was kind of smart. I just pretend I was the customer. I just say I was drinking the alcohol here. So selling alcohol is illegal, but drinking alcohol is legal. They believed me. They asked me to show the ID and asked if I drink a lot, I said just a little. They said just drive carefully and they let me go.”

When he wasn’t busy studying accounting or bartending KTV, Jack picked up a sport or two. “In Canada, I learnt a few sports. One of them I want to mention is swimming. Actually, before I went to Canada, I didn’t know how to swim, because I almost drown before. So I was kind of scared of swimming. My friends would say, ‘Jack, come to the swimming pool, don’t be boring,’ but I told them I don’t know how to swim so I would just sit in the pool and get wrinkles. Then I tell myself I shouldn’t waste my time. So I check online, on YouTube and found a lot of lessons. So my teacher was YouTube. I learned breaststroke and freestyle.”

Also, I learnt golf. In Canada, golf is very cheap. I practiced at the driving range. Every time you just pay 2 dollars and you can play the whole day. So I just practice, practice and practice. After I learned it, I went to the real course, which was also cheap. We pay 40 dollars for half day. But right here in China, it is expensive. You need to pay 800 or 1,000RMB.”

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Jack not only learnt the breaststroke and how to drive a golf ball three hundred yards. He The way we behave in China and Canada is very different. People in Canada never think about it when people need help. Like when your car is broken they just pull up right there and help. In China, no one wants to help you. And even if you want to help, you think there must be a trick. So you are hesitating to do it. So when I was first in Canada, even when people need help I pretend I didn’t hear it. But after a few months I realize people are very honest, they really trust each other, so I started to follow them.”

Having heard Jack speak so fondly of his adopted home, it surprises me that he ever came back at all and wonder if he will ever go back to Canada.

I really like Canada, especially the people. I have a lot of friends there. But I also kind of dislike Canada’s living style. People are too relaxed. Everybody who goes there really enjoy the slow life. They do their work very slow. So I think Canada is an ideal place for the kids or the old people, but for the not the younger adults; maybe when I’m older.”

Jack recently had a his first child. A beautiful baby boy. I playfully suggest the son might follow in his father’s footsteps. “I will let him study high school in China. After high school, I will let him go abroad. Probably not Canada, but some other country like Germany or Italy. The most important thing is I care about his happiness. You know the Gao Kao in China is really awful for all those Chinese students. They study for twelve years and then one Gao Kao decides their life.”

Finally, I ask Jack if he had any advice for young Chinese about to go on the same adventure he was. “They have to prepare for everything. Everything means a lot of things; study English, understand the culture, and have some good manners. The way here is different in other countries. They way you behave here may not be acceptable outside. So when students go outside, you are representing your country. If the foreigners in other countries don’t have a chance to go to China then they will see you as China. You are responsible.”

点此阅读中文: Chinese (Simplified)

Edward O'Neill

Born to Irish parents in London and raised in Middlesbrough. As a child I reached the European championships of Lego before I threw a tantrum and broke the pirate ship I was building. Now as Content Manager for HubHao I feel like I have finally reached a similar high and this time I am determined there will be no tantrums. I have been living in Dongguan for the past four years but this city still has lots of surprises to be had and secrets to be found. I’m looking forward to writing for our readers and to working alongside the talented writers.

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