When Karentina (Tina) Albin first came to China as a foreign intern with UIC in August 2012, she had planned to stay just for the year. Five years later, she’s still in Zhuhai but her life has completely changed.


Growing up in a town of 500 people in Minnesota, USA, Tina was used to small town living and knowing everyone around her. That all changed when she came to Zhuhai. Living in a city of over a million people, Tina felt overwhelmed, and still feels the population push even after living in Zhuhai for five years.

Tina never planned to be a teacher; she was not sure what she wanted to do, but teaching was not on the radar. Therefore, with no plans upon graduation, she decided to apply for a foreign intern position in China, where she’d be working at the same university as a friend of hers. As she worked, helping students and watching professors at UIC, the idea of becoming a teacher started to appeal more to her. Tina decided to stay a second year and gain more teaching experience. After gaining two years of teaching experience came the opportunity to upgrade to a full time teaching position. Tina was thrilled, and elected to stay in Zhuhai, in a city she was starting to love, however that’s not the only thing that kept her here!

Tina met her fiancé, Simon, on the popular Chinese WeChat phone application. There is a feature on the phone for you to find people nearby, and anyone else using the same feature can choose to chat with you, and vice versa. The magic words that started it all were “Do you like to swim?”. It’s not the most popular pick up line in the book, but it seemed to work with Tina, because she and Simon are currently in the planning stages for their wedding next year, after he proposed this past July.

Tina thinks it’s true what they say, “We all end up with someone that reminds us of our parents”, because Simon’s ‘dad jokes’ couldn’t remind her more of her father even though he and Simon have yet to meet in person! She hasn’t found too many problems dating someone from a different culture, except that meeting the parents becomes a whole new level of intimidation when you don’t speak the same language. Tina has learned some Chinese during her time here, but continues to study on her own to try to improve her skills. Besides learning Chinese and teaching English, Tina likes to spend her time with her three dogs she has adopted since being in Zhuhai, as well as exploring the city and travelling to other parts of China. Her favourite trip was when she got to see the pandas in Chengdu.

When asked how she feels about ending up in China, Tina says “It feels like fate”. China, and UIC, helped her to figure out what she wanted to do, and she met her life partner along the way. Tina says the most rewarding part about teaching is seeing her students succeed. Many of her students will apply to overseas universities, and she beams with pride when her students tell her they have been accepted to study abroad. She also loves hearing students use the English words and phrases she teaches them. When she hears them naturally using English phrases, she can feel confident that the students have begun to really grasp the language, and is so happy to have been a part of their success. 

Tina plans to continue teaching at UIC for the next few years, and will receive her Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Hamline University in December this year. As for the future, she’s hoping to be able to bring Simon back to the USA and introduce him to the American way of life! With her bright and confident personality, Tina is sure to succeed wherever she ends up. Tina is incredibly warm and welcoming, and any student would be lucky to have her as a teacher. She says that her favourite thing about UIC is getting to know her students, and always looks forward to the new faces she’ll get to meet each semester! Don’t be afraid to say “Hello” if you see Tina at UIC!

Reporter/Photographer: Samantha Burns
Editors: Samuel Burgess, Deen He
(from MPRO)


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