Campus life—11 years of teaching in China|Updated: January 12, 2024

As a Chinese- Indian, I blend in as I walk down the street in Kunming. Most people I meet assume I am local. When I first came to China this helped me to feel in-tune with the crowd — until someone asked me to read a document. I went to school learning English and Hindi not Chinese —characters were a mystery. On the other hand, it can be entertaining to confuse Indian people. When they hear Hindi in China —they turn around to look for an Indian and see no one that matches their stereotype.

I was born in Calcutta, to parents whose ancestors came from China. They gave me the gift of a Chinese face but not the language or culture. In 2011 when I first came to China for an internship in Guangzhou, I did not possess any Chinese language skills or basic Chinese cultural awareness.

Wedding reception in Kunming, 2018 [Photo provided to]

When I arrived it was love at first sight. I was suddenly transported to a city that was much more developed and modern than my hometown. Growing up as a “Chinese Boy” in India was a strange feeling. I didn’t look like them; but I spoke their language and acted like them. On the other hand, my experience in Guangzhou was the complete opposite; I looked like them but I did not speak their language; and yet, most importantly, I found another "home". I was determined to return to China after my internship. A year later, I returned to work in Kunming City College. My late mother (born in Meixian, Guangdong province) was quite pleased with my decision. It was she who encouraged me to work in China. She wanted me to learn mandarin and secretly wanted me to marry a Chinese girl.

Teaching in China (Kunming, Yunnan province) for over a decade has been an incredible journey filled with enriching experiences and profound personal growth. Throughout my time in this vibrant country, I have been captivated by the honesty, warmth and hospitality of the Chinese people, and encountered remarkable individuals. Working at the university as a foreign teacher, I found warmth and acceptance from students despite not looking like a "foreigner", and witnessed firsthand their unwavering dedication to hard work, humility, and national progress.

Class photo with English major students of Kunming City College [Photo provided to]

From the moment I set foot in China, I was greeted with unparalleled hospitality. This warm welcome extended beyond mere pleasantries; it was a genuine display of kindness that made me feel instantly at home. One particular encounter stands out vividly - upon arriving at the airport after a long flight, I met an exceptionally honest taxi driver who not only ensured my safe arrival but also shared valuable insights about local culture and customs. I was unable to communicate with him about my destination; the name of my school. But he was patient with me and came out of the taxi to ask pedestrian if they understood what this Chinese looking Indian guy was blabbering. He did not start his meter until he was sure of my destination. Back in India, taxi drivers would rejoice in meeting someone like me; I would have probably circled the entire city three times! This encounter exemplified the genuine nature of Chinese people's hospitality.

As a foreign teacher in China, it was expected I would stand out. I should look like a foreigner, my appearance should be different from my students. But I “looked” like them. The only difference was: we didn’t speak the same language. The attitude of the students amazed me. They were open-minded and accepting of diversity. Despite our physical similarities, they embraced me as part of their community without hesitation or prejudice. Their willingness to learn international language and cultural skills from someone who doesn’t look like a ‘foreigner’ demonstrated their maturity and eagerness for cultural exchange.

With graduating students, 2023 [Photo provided to]

One aspect that profoundly impacted me during my teaching tenure in China was witnessing firsthand the unwavering work ethic displayed by both students and colleagues alike. The commitment to education is deeply ingrained within Chinese society; it is evident through the countless hours spent studying diligently both inside and outside classrooms. The relentless pursuit of knowledge exhibited by these young minds inspired me greatly as an educator.

Another remarkable trait I observed among the Chinese people was their remarkable humility. Despite China’s impressive achievements and rapid economic growth, the people of this country have remained grounded and humble. This humility fostered an environment of mutual respect and collaboration, allowing for meaningful connections to be formed between students, colleagues, and myself. It was a humbling experience to witness such modesty in a society that has achieved so much.

Judging the United Nation Youth Leadership Program, 2023 [Photo provided to]

Being a teacher means you help enrich children’s lives; you wear various hats. On an average day, it may seem that you merely teach them the core educational skills; and yet, impactful teachers are also their guardian or a dear friend. Very often you also play the role of a confidant who will just listen to them — they’re not looking for an elder’s advice, nor a boring lecture but just a listener in their ever changing confusing life.

Today I know that I would have made my mother proud. I call the county she loved home. I have found a beautiful Chinese girl that became my wife and I know she is smiling as she looks down from above at her two beautiful grandchildren. The People’s Republic of China has enriched my life so amazingly and I am so happy that my children will grow up surrounded by the beautiful people, community and landscapes of this amazing country. I have been blessed so much living here that I look for ways to give back and support the community that has given me so much.

University:Kunming City College