Finding a place in this world

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For alum Rory Zimmerman, it's Beijing

Even before Rory Zimmerman went with her mother to China at 17, she had wanderlust. As a child, she imagined herself as a diplomat - an arts ambassador of sorts - in France.

Then the 2005 Kennesaw State alum, visited Beijing in 1999, and her ambitions changed.

"I was struck by this knowing that Beijing would be the place that I would live abroad first," she said.

A year after coming to Kennesaw State in 2001, Zimmerman participated in a six-week study abroad at China's Yangzhou University, a trip, which Education Abroad director Dan Paracka recommended.

"That's what really attracted me to getting my degree in international relations at Kennesaw," she said. She became a research assistant for Penelope Prime, a former economics professor and an expert on China and Indian markets. She also participated in the university's Model U.N. program and was a student government executive representative for external affairs.

As graduation neared, she announced to her family that she was going to China to become an English teacher, with intentions to work her way into broadcasting and business consulting.

''Then I just followed my heart, took the initiative and moved to Beijing," she said.

For the past six years, Zimmerman has "relaxed into Beijing" combining her interests and skills as an entrepreneur, communicator and artist.

During that time, she has worked as an English tutor for Chinese businesses, film stars, friends and families. For two years, she designed an English as a Second Language curriculum and produced interactive employee trainings for Beijing Perfect World Co.

''Think of Chinese computer programmers attempting the Bankhead bounce to OutKast's "Wheels of Steel" as they designed a 'hot dance party' on-line game," she quips.

She also has worked as an English teacher at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, where she created interactive lessons to help students confidently express themselves in English. Twice a month, she leads Chinese students on tours of Beijing art museums.

In another project, Zimmerman designed a 12-month curriculum for the Magic Bean House Children's Science Museum, China's first American-designed children's museum. She has also been a frequent guest on "Talkbox," a bilingual show on Radio Beijing 's foreign language channel. She now co hosts a bilingual news magazine program called "Listen to the World" that reaches a local white-collar Chinese audience on radio and a worldwide audience on the station 's website.

In her free time, the international relations major and former Kennesaw State Ambassador produces and performs experimental arts events and leads a "funky" rock band called Lame Goat: Music, Art Play. At performances, the audience paints while the band improvises music. On the day Kennesaw State Magazine interviewed her, Zimmerman brought along a pink balloon and a crooked stick she found on the street, props she had just used in a performance at an experimental space called XP. She also performs regularly at Hot Cat Club in East Beijing.

Zimmerman says she has developed a network of friends and colleagues, using skills acquired through teaching Chinese and performing to communicate effectively with Chinese contacts in order to facilitate business and trade transactions between Georgia and China.

"Speaking Chinese fluently and being able to handle your baijiu (alcohol) is not enough," says Zimmerman, who admits to never really studying Mandarin but acquiring it more through osmosis. "What's essential to success in China is being in Beijing and spending plenty of time interacting with your Chinese colleagues."

Zimmerman hopes to continue cultivating contacts in China and connecting them with Georgia-based companies that need assistance doing business in China.

"Since the Beijing Olympics," she said, "I've kept a Clipping from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with an interview of Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. The tagline reads 'Atlantans know China ties aren't just a sprint.' I've gone out in the world to represent my hometown and, in the process, localized myself to a new hometown."

 

-- Sabbaye McGriff