Role Models:
Justyna Szumigala

Article by Yafei Li

Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Justyna Szumigala. I’ve been living in Xi’an for 4 years, working for the same company, EF. I am currently a director of studies at EF Chang’An. I’ve been travelling around the world for more than 10 years, teaching English in different countries of Europe, Africa, and Asia. When I don’t teach, I like to do yoga and belly dance.
Who would you say is most responsible for the person you are today?
My grandmother. She raised me and educated about what matters in life. She supports me wherever I go and whatever decision I make. She is always there for me when I need help or advice.
Could you think of a moment which significantly changed your life?
Yes! There were actually 2 moments like that. The first one was when I went abroad for the first time ever from Poland to New York. I was only 20 years old and didn’t speak English so well. I went there alone to work at children’s camp. I was so worried I will never be able to manage and find myself in that huge city. I was so stressed I could barely speak until the moment I got there! Then, everything turned out to be fine and from that moment on, I knew everything was possible.
The second time was my first teaching experience which I had in Libya. It gave me lots of courage and was just the beginning of my teach-around-the-world adventure.
What motivates you to work and teach internationally?
Since I was a child, it has been my dream to travel. For some reason, I’ve always been curious about different countries and cultures. Some people set boundaries to themselves, saying that you need a lot of money to travel. I want to tell you that it’s not true. Everything I achieved, I did it by myself, with no financial support from anybody. You just need to have a strong will and know what you want.
Working and teaching internationally broadens my horizons and shows me different perspectives. I could never learn so much about life, the world, and myself as I’ve learned when living and interacting with people from all over the world.
What are the biggest challenges you face in general and as a woman? Why do you think these challenges exist?
I think the main challenge as a woman is the marriage and motherhood pressure. Constant questions from the family can be frustrating. I believe every woman should have the right to decide what she wants to do with her body. Having a baby isn’t a must and there are plenty of ways to feel fulfilled as a woman. Motherhood isn’t the only way, so if you don’t feel like it, you shouldn’t do things against yourself, just because someone thinks they know better what you need.
What are your goals for this year? 5 years?
Professionally, at this point, having more than 10 years of teaching experience, I want to have less classes and share words too close to the border knowledge with other, less experienced teachers. I want to focus more on teachers’ training and management. Apart from that, maybe have my own belly dance tribal fusion group.
Privately, even though I love travelling, I’d finally like to choose one country to settle down and be more stable. Running around the globe is fun, but can be exhausting.
What inspires you?
I find people who are not afraid of doing new things inspiring. I think the way to become better is to try to do something that frightens you and not care about what others say. This way, you can leave your comfort zone and grow as a person. You will never find out, unless you try.
What advice do you have for other women, Chinese or foreign, who are looking to further their careers?
Don’t let others decide for you. Listen to yourself and do what truly makes you, not others happy. If there is something that you really want to do, don’t hesitate and just do it! Don’t be scared. You can do anything you want. Check what the steps you need to take are and plan them accordingly, one at a time. Slowly, you will reach your goal. Never give up and don’t wait for opportunities to come, create them instead!

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