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 Centre. They also taught English at Amity Home of Blessings.

Chinese kids won Marthe's heart and vice versa

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 Centre 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 at the countryside with only 7 thousand residents where cows are walking in the town centre and views of fields and mountains are seeable. 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!

Marthe and autistic children

I started to work at Children Development Centre, which is a centre for autistic children. I had no experience with autistic kids from earlier. I suffered some tough days. I didn't feel like I managed my job, and 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.

Experiencing the spirit of philantrophy

I started work again with a new motivation, I got more confided 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.

After 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 and a little of the language. I think it's really interesting. 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 moth left, I can't understand how I can ever leave this place.

Marthe and Chinese ethnic minority girls