#80 Jason Schrott – Two decades of China adventure, and still seeking opportunities for growth
An authority on international education, Jason is currently the Managing Director for ELS Educational Services (ELS), a subsidiary of Berlitz Corporation and Benesse Corporation, one of the world’s largest education holding companies. ELS prepares thousands of students each year for university success in partnership with over 650 universities and 83 campus locations world-wide. Jason is responsible for all aspects of ELS’s operations in Mainland China and Taiwan and brings with him over 15 years of global education leadership experience. Today, Jason is going to share with us the wisdom and perspective he has gathered while living in and working with China for the past 24 years.
[on the value of learning cultural differences] In Mongolia, for example, if someone gives you the middle finger, that means you’re doing alright.
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Moving to Asia alone
Jason’s first encounter with East Asian culture was a martial arts class he started taking in second grade, which sparked his interest and opened his eyes to the beauty of other cultures. In high school and college he chose to be an Asian Studies major, which led to him being a student in Beijing and accepting an internship in Taiwan.
After graduating in 1992 he found a job at a New York based company which sent him over to Asia again. From 1993 until 1996 he worked in different Asian countries, while switching industries multiple times. After coming back to the US, he ultimately got into international education, which he has been involved with for 15 years now.
Moving to Asia as a family
In 2013, Jason received another chance to move to China, this time with his family. He and his wife, who worked in Latin America for 10 years, had never lived abroad together and wanted to seize this opportunity. He quips that this time around he asked a lot more questions than he did the first time coming over as a bachelor.
One major consideration was the age of their son who was just 8 at the time. In Jason’s eyes, at that age, an international experience could be hugely impactful for him and he would remember it for the rest of his life. Of course, being an international traveler for decades himself, Jason had the eventual transition home for his son on his mind, too, and in the end, decided that in a matter of years, when that time came, his son would have enough time for a smooth transition back into school in the US.
A normal day in China
On the one hand Jason says, a day in China is very similar to a day in the US. You wake up, make coffee, and take care of your family. At the most basic level, everything inside your house is very similar. It’s once you step outside when the differences come into play. Buying groceries, getting to and from work, mailing a letter – all the little things – can become huge tasks, at least in the beginning, especially if you don’t speak Mandarin. Each challenge is surmountable, it’ll just take some time to adjust.
Jason experienced a perfect example of cultural misinterpretation early on as an expat. After his friend got himself and Jason into a brawl that was sparked by a raised middle finger, he learned that when a Mongolian shows you his middle finger, it means you are doing alright. Now that was in Mongolia, but regardless of the country, to help prevent those situations Jason recommends learning the language. By learning the language, you’ll pick up helpful insight into the culture along the way.
What his family likes about China
Jason’s wife appreciates all the little lessons she can learn every day, even when dealing with frustrations. His son has a really good school and told his dad that he may have even more friends here than in the US. For him, being super social helped in the transition.
Balancing work and family
Jason is fortunate to have a local role without loads of travel so he can be present for his family. He chose this role intentionally just for that reason. To him, family is most important so he uses what’s best for the family unit as a filter when making career decisions.
Make new friends, learn the language and travel a lot.