By Mollie Moric, BCom ’17. Originally published in the summer 2020 issue of Business Class magazine.
It’s hard to clearly remember the kind of freedom we had until recently to travel wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. With the world reverberating from the COVID-19 pandemic, my story sounds like one from a different lifetime. But however impossible it seems now, this was my journey to a career I love in Taipei, as I wrote it in early 2020. I know the world will look different when this is over, but I also know international business will always have a role to play in management and education. So let’s turn back the clock to the simpler times of early 2020 and what things looked like then…
My story involves a lot of airplanes. It seems like many of my early career’s pivotal moments—introductions, realizations, transition points—have taken place at 30,000 feet, and no surprise: in the last four years, I’ve lived and worked on three different continents.
The first of these significant plane rides, back in 2016, took me to Linz, Austria, to start my semester abroad.
I knew the next four months would be among the best of my university career, but I couldn’t have known this semester abroad wouldn’t be just an epic chapter of my education, it would change the course of my life.
For the most part, my exchange semester went exactly how I imagined. I made lifelong friends, explored more than 10 European countries, aced my classes and even snuck in a trip to Dubai.
But as the semester started to wind down, and the time came to book a flight back to Canada, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was hooked; I didn’t want my adventure to end.
Thankfully, the next plane ride that would change my life was about to occur.
On a flight back to Austria from a weekend trip to London, I was seated beside a chatty businessman. The two-hour plane ride quickly became a job interview, and a few weeks later, after my semester finished, I received an offer for an internship in London, England.
At the time it felt like I had peaked: a 20-something-year-old from Victoria, BC living and working in London, England. I had officially made it.
Shortly after graduating with my BCom, I found myself packing up everything I owned for the third time and staring out the window of a plane, this time headed to Taipei, Taiwan.
I had never been to Asia before, so it came as a shock to many—including myself—that I was moving there. I was fascinated by Asia in the international business classes of my degree, and knew that learning Chinese and understanding the markets would give me a competitive edge in my career.
But in spite of the seemingly surprise move, I knew my earlier exchange and co-op experiences had equipped me with the cross-cultural competencies that I needed to thrive.
Today, I am delighted to say I have been living Taipei and working in the marketing department at a tech company for the last two years.
My life here in Taiwan is vastly different than it was in Victoria, Austria or London.
Most days, before heading to work, I grab a pan-fried pork dumpling from outside my apartment. Depending on the weather—Taipei is either 40 degrees and humid or chucking down rain during typhoon season—I set off on a 30-minute bike ride across the city to my office.
On my morning ride, I turn my head to watch Taiwanese retirees practicing tai chi in the park, and turn my eyes away from the butcher chopping pork at his roadside stand.
The view from my office on the 25th floor is stunning. From this angle, the super-skyscraper Taipei 101 rises above the city, framed by distant mountains, making Taipei feel like both concrete jungle and part of nature at the same time.
My company—a local software company with an assortment of subsidiaries—boasts a mixture of local and foreign talent, and I have colleagues from all over the world. The skills I learned in marketing classes have helped me in my role as a marketing specialist. And my entrepreneurial and international acumen allowed me to lead the launch of one of our products into the Canadian market.
After work, I dedicate a few of my evenings to studying Chinese. The rest I spend dining at restaurants serving ridiculously delicious and cheap food from around the world. Eating out is essential as my apartment has no kitchen; I haven’t cooked a meal in over two years.
I’ve also been lucky enough to explore Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and all over Taiwan during national holidays and vacation time.
Although this adventure has been as incredible as it sounds, it wasn’t easy to start my professional career somewhere so vastly different from home. I am one of approximately 180,000 foreigners living in Taipei–a city of nearly 7 million. Of those foreigners, I am one of only 206 females from Canada. Since most foreigners here are working as English teachers, it’s rare for me to run into other foreign female professionals–let alone in my age group.
It was a bold decision to start my career in Asia–one which I wouldn’t have dreamed of without the outside-of-the-box education I received at Gustavson. In a time when much of the world is closing borders, Gustavson taught me to embrace different cultures, and strive to be a global citizen.
Since this article was published, Mollie has accepted a new role as Community Manager and continues to thrive in Taipei.
Photos: Courtesy of Mollie Moric