DEE FULLER, a 33-year-old American from Erie, Pennsylvania, is one of Shenzhen’s most athletic and charitable expats. She is a fitness instructor and a bicycle enthusiast as well, bypassing rush hour crowds on public transport and instead biking everywhere, sometimes from as far as Luohu train station to Sea World in Shekou. Now she has made the decision to utilize her athletic prowess by running the Big Red Run marathon in Australia, which raises money to fund programs that help combat type 1 diabetes.
A long-term expat, Fuller’s been in China for a full decade. After majoring in Chinese culture and psychology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she first worked at a school in the states. Then, when the dean heard about her educational background in Chinese culture, which includes her thesis on Li Bai and Song Dynasty (960-1279) poetry — she was invited to teach in Beijing.
“I was in Beijing for 17 months,” said Fuller. “Then I was in Guangzhou for six-and-a-half years before ending up in Shenzhen.”
Although she studied the culture, she didn’t have any language skills upon arrival. Today she is fluent, but it took a lot of work. “When I first arrived, my Chinese students asked questions and I didn’t know how to communicate the answers,” Fuller explained. “I decided I wanted to understand more, and I immersed myself in Chinese. I mainly read children’s books.”
Six years ago, she decided to expand on her experiences by becoming a fitness instructor. “Spinning was my first class, and then I started to get involved in yoga and Pilates.”
Fuller also became a certified coach for the New Zealand company Les Mills. “I’m now a certified nutritionist. I have ISSA certificate.”
With Les Mills, she helps train Chinese instructors who will later teach international customers. Sometimes that means teaching the Western cultural perspective in addition to fitness techniques. “There is culture behind dance. From Latin beat to pop ballet, EDM to disco — it’s very important to know the culture behind it.”
“On May 29th, I’m doing an event at Tavern sports bar in Shekou to raise money for type 1 diabetes awareness,” continued Fuller. “There will be a raffle, lucky draw, and more.”
In July, she plans to go all the way to Australia to participate in the Big Red Run marathon, an intense 6-day marathon covering 250 kilometers that brings together volunteers from all over the world and raises funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“I want to get back to being involved in charity work. I used to donate my time in America with the Salvation Army and the Special Olympics. Since I moved to China I haven’t had as many opportunities. This is a chance to do something I love for a bigger purpose outside of me,” Fuller said, “It just feels good when you do it.”
More information can be found on the Big Ren Run website, bigredrun.com.au.