After graduating from college, northeast Johnson County native Mark Vranicar moved to China to teach English. It didn’t take long for him to make a connection that would change his life — and that of his future wife — forever.
Mark: I was working at Aston English School in Xi’an, China, and I’d been there for about four or five months. And Qian joined the staff as an English teacher as well. There were about a dozen foreign teachers and 15 Chinese teachers at the school. And she caught my attention early on.
Qian: Our first conversation, I think, was in the office. It was a big office, with a lot of people in it.
Mark: And it was definitely in English, because my Chinese wasn’t conversational at that time. I asked Qian to be my Chinese teacher. That was my sly little move there. We’d get together a couple times a week and study with my book. After a certain period of time when we realized it was a serious relationship, we started talking about whether it made sense to go to the U.S. and whether she would want to go through the big visa process.
Qian: I would never have thought I would marry a foreigner. My grandma joked when I chose my major as English, she said you’re going to learn a foreign language and you’re going to marry someone from a different country. And I said, “No! There’s no way. Don’t even think about that.” And I guess you never say never. Because years later I showed up and my grandma said, “Ha! I called it!”
Mark: Her grandma is pretty smart.
Qian: It’s life. It’s full of adventure. It’s not easy for someone to move to a different country and start everything from nothing. We came here without jobs. And that was a tough time. But you learn more about yourself and what you can do. It’s not an easy experience, but it’s a good one.