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How does someone spend her whole life in the same state and then decide to up and move to China?
For New Jersey native and former high school counselor Amber Scholtz, 27, the itch for something new late last year sparked a soul-searching mission that led her to teach English in Shanghai, China, for two years.
Her Inspiration: Just before New Year's, Amber decided she was ready for a major change.
"I had what most people would consider a good life in New Jersey," Amber explained. "I had a good job, an apartment, a car and I was close to my family. But I wasn't happy. I kept feeling like there's more out there. Where I was living seemed like a place for someone who wanted to get married, buy a house and have kids, and that's not what I'm looking for at this point in time."
A world traveler who had already visited Europe, South America and Asia, she started looking into options abroad. "At first I considered joining the Peace Corps as a way to live abroad and teach English. I love working with kids and have over 10 years of non-traditional teaching experience -- I taught preschool for five years, was the head of an after-school outreach program, and taught dance."
Her Decision: Amber decided to go to Asia because you don't need to be bilingual to teach there. After weighing a few opportunities, she applied to Disney English for a position in China, but she kept her domestic options open by applying to Teach for America as well.
Click here to keep reading about where Amber ended up and how she funded her trip.
"After going through a several-month-long application process with TFA, I was denied. I was disappointed, but at that point I was already accepted into the Disney English program. I felt like the universe would lead me to the right thing, and it did."
Her Funding: In January, Amber began preparing to move to China for a full two-year commitment to teach English.
"It took four months after getting the job to actually make the move because I was in credit card debt, had a lease and needed to give my job plenty of notice." Amber sold her car to pay her debt. She took her tax return and immediately started a savings account to ensure that she would have money upon arriving in China. "That money supported me until my first paycheck and also helped me to get an apartment here."
Amber says she receives a decent salary and a rent stipend in Shanghai. The city is also less expensive -- her apartment there is more than $250 cheaper than her one in New Jersey.
Her Challenges: Amber is still learning the language and has to rely on others to get around. She often receives funny looks from strangers. Customer service and standards of living are also vastly different than in the U.S. For instance, there are no tenants' rights. Homesickness is also an issue, but Amber has been able to keep in touch with family and friends through the Internet. The other teachers she's met have also helped her in creating her new home abroad.
"I love this city! It's now home to me. I walk around like it's regular, like I belong here. Sometimes I can't believe it. I'm just walking home from work and think, I'm in China, a foreign country, a communist country, and I don't speak the language, but I feel like it was meant to be and I'm at the right place at the right time. I can only take things one day at a time. As they say in "Rent," 'No day but today.' It's my Chinese mantra."