How I ended up in China

Have you ever pondered how every decision that you made in the past brought you to where you are now? How everything could have been completely different if you had chosen the other path? (Or if it had been chosen for you, as sometimes what happens is out of your control).

I didn’t know it back then but, in my case, China appeared on my horizon when I was 17 years old and a Spanish university rejected my application. That university offered the Translation and Interpreting degree, what I wanted to study, and it was the closest to my hometown (3-4 hours by bus). My friend also wanted to go there. In Spain we have a university access test, like the Chinese gaokao, and your mark determines if you can attend the degree/university you want. But this specific college I wanted to go to had its own entrance exam, with a written test and an oral interview. I went to take the test with my friend. We both passed the written exam, and after doing the interviews she was selected, but I was not. According to my mum, I didn’t pass because of the style of the clothes I was wearing (this was the beginning of the noughties and I have to confess I was into low waisted, baggy pants back then). I think I simply didn’t pass because the objective of the interview was to assess my English level and I didn’t talk much. The interviewer asked something about Harry Potter (which to this day I haven’t read/watched) and then had me describe a picture, and I didn’t do too well. So I had to go to a university in another city which was further away. No one from my hometown was studying there. This translation college didn’t have an independent entrance exam, but you needed a very high average mark in the national exam (I think that degree in that university had the highest average mark in the whole of Spain that year; translation was a popular degree back then and there were not many colleges offering it).

In my first choice of university (the one with the interview I didn’t pass) there were no Chinese classes. I would have probably studied Japanese, and maybe now I would be in Japan. Or perhaps in Germany, as German always was what I really wanted to study. The university I ended up going to was one of the only three universities in the whole of Spain that offered Chinese classes back in 2002. In one of my first posts four years ago, when I started this blog, I told the story of why I started studying Chinese. The short version of the story is that I didn’t have any prior interest in Chinese or in China but I chose it as an elective because someone told me the professor was very nice.

We used to have a “Chinese dinner” every semester in university. Notice how my chopsticks-grabbing technique was not too good back then. This picture is from January 2005.

Visiting the Summer Palace at the beginning of my first year in Beijing (September 2006).

If I had not gone to that university, I wouldn’t have started learning Chinese.

If I had not started learning Chinese, I probably would have never came to China, or maybe just as a traveller. To be honest, when I started studying Chinese, I had no intention whatsoever of going to China. Just the thought of travelling outside of Europe scared me! But a professor encouraged me to go to Beijing to study because in Spain we couldn’t really learn much.

If I had not been fluent in Chinese, the Spanish company I started working for in 2011 wouldn’t have hired me, and of course they wouldn’t have sent me to Suzhou.

If I had not moved to Suzhou at exactly that point, I wouldn’t have met C., or he wouldn’t have been single. Look at me now! The girl who didn’t have any interest in China has been here for 11 years, is married to a Chinese and is expecting a half Chinese baby. If someone had told me this in 2002, I would have laughed so hard!

Picture from our Spanish wedding. Yes, the photographer took us to very weird places. This was going up the tower of the castle.


What were the decisions that changed your life?