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Amity volunteer from Norway taking photo with Chinese girls in traditional clothing

When I fell in love with China

Marthe was sent to Nanjing by the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) in early 2014. In Nanjing, she and Katrine, another girl sent by NMS, helped to care for children with autism at Amity Children Development Center. They also taught English at Amity Home of Blessings.

My name is Marthe Andreassen. I am 20 years old and I come from Norway. I’m a student at a school in Norway called Hald International Center where I study cross-cultural communication and international work. It’s a school with students from all over the world. As part of the exchange program, these international students stay in Norway while we Norwegian students go to their countries to experience a new culture and to work as volunteers.

It was not my plan to go to China. I never really thought about it. All I knew was that God had told me to apply for this school, and so I did. I really wanted to make a change, to help others and as I always said; “I want to save the world”. The teachers at my school decided where I should spend the next six months, and I ended up traveling to the other side of the globe. Nanjing was now my new home.

I got a big culture shock when I first came to China. I’m from a small town in the countryside with only 7 thousand residents where cows are walking in the town center and views of fields and mountains are visible. Nanjing is a city with over 5 million residents, with tall buildings and people everywhere. The language is totally different. The food is different and the traffic is crazy. I remember I asked myself the first days: “What am I doing here?” But then I remembered that it was supposed to be different. If I wanted everything to be the same, I should have stayed in Norway!

When I started to work at Children Development Center, which is a center for autistic children, I had no experience with autistic kids. I suffered some tough days and I didn’t feel like I managed my job. So I asked myself again: “What am I doing here?” After a while I got the chance to visit the countryside. It was an amazing experience, and I realized that China is not just big cities and crazy traffic. China got a breathtaking nature that amazed me. And even though the people we visited were very poor, they showed a happiness and generosity I’ve never seen before. That was when I fell in love with China.

After I started working again with a new motivation, I got more confident and connected with the kids. I got to know the routines, and everything was easier. I decided to show that I can handle the kids with just pure love.

Spending the first months without any friends beside my team-mate, I finally got someone else to hang out with. I started to get to know the culture, a little of the language and I think it’s fascinating. I realized that I wasn’t supposed to come to China to make a change, but to change myself. I came to learn, to experience how it is to be a foreigner and to get a new point of view. And now with under a month left, I can’t understand how I can ever leave this place.