The Alumni Spotlight is an interview series where we interview Asia Studies alumni about their career paths, how they became interested in Asian Studies and for any advice that would be useful to our students. This interview features Nick Angiers, BA ’08 in Chinese language. He is currently an advisor at a private high school, for students from China and Taiwan.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you became interested in Asian Studies?
I grew up in a tiny town in the Ottawa Valley, and was never exposed to Asian culture of any kind until I
moved to Vancouver at the age of 20. Eventually I took a Chinese language class, and, when I got a taste
of the four tones, the complex but logical characters, and weird grammar, I was hooked from day one.
While a student, was there anything you did to get ahead with your career? Or anything that you would recommend that other students do?
In China you’ll get lots of opportunities to do random work; I did translation, hosted events, judged for English competitions, had a brief appearance in a Jackie Chan movie, and so on. For fresh grads looking to get some workplace experience, China is a great place to jumpstart your career.
How did you get your first “adult” job after graduating? Was it a simple transition?
After doing enough random hosting “gigs” I was eventually invited to host full-time for an independent American TV station based in China. It was a lot of work and didn’t pay much, but I had almost complete creative control over my production, writing and editing. I also got offers for more normal but boring jobs, so I guess it was just a matter of time. After your first job, how did your career progress and what are you currently doing? I later became a freelance host, mostly doing CCTV shows and events, while continuing with translation and proofreading. I eventually had enough work on both ends that I had to choose one, so I went with translation, as it was more consistent and I didn’t have to be away from home so much. I’ve been back in Canada now and am currently an advisor at a private high school, for students from China and Taiwan. I’ve also been designing tabletop games for learning and practicing Chinese, and that’s something I think is worth pursuing.
What do you enjoy about your current job? What are the challenges?
I like advising students because I actually get to care about them and their futures. I also get to speak Chinese quite frequently, and got to learn how to talk about things I never had before. Some of the students can be problematic, though.
Are there opportunities for recent graduates in your industry? What does a typical entry-level position entail?
If you’re of Chinese ethnicity Mandarin is an asset, if you’re not and learned Chinese from scratch it’s a huge advantage, because you can represent the non-Chinese population while still being able to communicate with Chinese clients. It’s an office job, and I like the consistency, but I still get to go to China once or twice a year to attend education fairs.
Has learning an Asian language helped you in your personal or professional life? What tips do you have for students who are keen to play the “language card” in their career development?
Mandarin has not only helped in my personal and professional lives, it has become a major and essential part of them. If you want to add Chinese to your resume, I suggest two years of fundamental language study in Canada, then another two years of concentrated study in China. So it’s a significant time investment, but if you really like Chinese and think it suits you, then go for it. Learning a new language, especially one as different from English as Chinese, will forever change the way you look at the world.
Do you have any other advice that you would like to impart to students and/or recent graduates?
Meetups are a good new resource where you can practice speaking Chinese for free. Vancouver in general is a great place to make friends who will help you with your Mandarin. Watch movies and all that stuff, but most importantly, speak it, a lot. I had a part-time job where I talked to random Mandarin-speaking customers using the few dozen words I knew, but I progressed quickly because of that. And learn Chinese characters, because they’re one of the coolest parts of the language.