Armanni Antoine-Chagar in Chengdu
At the age of 18, I left England to live and work in China by myself.
Even though I received sports scholarships for America, I wasn’t ready for university and thought having a working gap year in China learning the language would be beneficial for my future career in International Business.
For the first 6 months I worked as a kindergarten English teacher in Shenzhen. I had an amazing time meeting new people, attending start-up and meet-up events and joining a women’s international football team. I was surrounded by fun, young and cool programmers who inspired me to start coding, especially as I have a lot of app ideas.
I then got offered a job in Chengdu to work at a private international secondary school for a year. I took it because it meant I got the opportunity to live in a new place and start another new adventure. The best decision I’ve made yet!
Someone told me when I first moved here that “Chengdu is a home away from home” and I absolutely agree.
As soon as I arrived in Chengdu it was a completely different experience than when I first landed in Shenzhen. The Chengdu food is absolutely delicious! I also found out about the famous Sichuan numbing pepper by getting a numb tongue with my first hotpot. The expat community in Chengdu is a lot smaller than Shenzhen’s but it was so much more welcoming and I instantly felt part of a community.
In England, I competed as a junior elite triathlete so coming to China I knew that I couldn’t bring my racing bike with me so I kept up my running in both cities and I found whatever sports teams were available to westerners in town.
In Chengdu, I joined the women’s international football (‘Sunbirds’) and rugby team (‘Ruckin’ Reds’). Through joining these teams I have made friends for life all over the world. These teams are filled with Girls who have Gone International with their beautiful and different stories.
I’ve now been living in China for 3 years and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
Where do you live or where are you right now and why?
I live in Chengdu and I know I mentioned this earlier but there’s a cool story behind my choice in choosing Chengdu. Whilst working in Shenzhen, I applied for a teaching job in Chengdu. When I found out I got the job, I had the decision of staying in Shenzhen and get a pay rise or go to Chengdu, a new place where I didn’t know anyone and start over again, oh and with lower pay.
I did a pros and cons list and at the moment of doing the list I kept looking at one of my books that I brought with me which I love to read and also for luck. It was my signed copy of Wild Swans.
Before I left for China, by fate, on a trip to visit my sister who was performing in a play in Birmingham , I met Jung Chang my favourite author who wrote the famous book ‘Wild Swans’ at the same location.
Her story about her family history is incredible.
I then, thinking about the book, realised that she lived in the Sichuan province and she attended Sichuan University which is located in the city of Chengdu. So I left Shenzhen and moved to Chengdu and haven’t regretted it. I’m actually now a software engineering student at Sichuan University. It's so crazy and so much fun.
How has GGI affected or impacted your life or the lives of others?
As a young GGI, being part of this community has opened my eyes to how great women together are, whose stories continue to inspire me and I love how we all come together to support each other, be it looking for an apartment in Barcelona to helping a member look for a sports team to join in Chengdu.
What is it like living in your city as a GGI (ups and downs)?
There are so many ups for living in Chengdu, for me my greatest up is the people you meet are so friendly and will help you anyway they can whether its finding the nearest place to top up your phone or being put into a WeChat group for events happening in Chengdu.
Another up is being part of the women's rugby and football team with other GGIs, where we get to travel over China for competitions. I say the only down is the pollution but going out for dinner or a drink with other GGIs helps take your mind off it. Plus you can always wear a mask.