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October 21, 2017

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Single mom builds a new life in a new land

EXPATS of Shanghai

Nearly 180,000 expats are now living in Shanghai, making it Chinese mainland’s No. 1 city for expats. Many of them regard Shanghai their second hometown, and they too have made great contributions to the city’s development. How is it like living here? What do they think of their second hometown? What are their future plans? In this series, expats will share their stories and experiences. If you also have a story to tell, please contact


Colombian Estefania Ussa Herrera never felt the alternation of seasons until she got a new job which brought her to Shanghai 10 years ago.

“There are no seasons in Colombia. Living in a city which has spring, summer, autumn and winter is very nice and interesting,” she says.

As a single mother of a 7-year-old daughter Paulina, Herrera describes Shanghai as a place where people can make their dreams come true.

“It is difficult, but you can do it. In other countries, you don’t have the same possibilities compared with Shanghai. Generally, China will offer you whatever you want, and you need to find it,” she says.

The most precious thing for Herrera is her daughter, who was born in Shanghai: “She was made in China and I am very proud of it.”

Besides her beloved daughter and career as the regional manager in a Spanish department store, another focus is animals.

As an animal lover and volunteer, Herrera always joins in events in her leisure time that promote animal welfare and adoption.

She rescued three dogs and three cats, raising them at home.

“We fight for animal rights,” she says.

Q: Can you share a story about Shanghai?

A: It is about surviving in Shanghai! Because you are not Chinese, and you are not talking the language. I became a mother in Shanghai, so I think it was a big challenge for me.

I worked for a French retailer in Colombia, and they proposed for me to come to the Shanghai office. It was very difficult for me in the first year here. I was adjusting to Shanghai and China, to a new job and to a new life.

I got pregnant two years later. I made the decision to have my baby alone. So when I made up my mind to have a child, I changed my job and decided to stay in China for a while more.

Q: You are so brave. I’m sure it’s tough to be a single mother.

A: Yeah, it is hard. I often heard people saying, “Are you crazy? How can you manage this?” Well, I just faced my fears. And now my daughter is almost 7 years old!

She can speak Chinese, English and Spanish — very smart girl. Sometimes she can even help me with Chinese, since I don’t speak it.

I’m very proud of making this decision. I’m very happy to have my daughter. And I think she saved my life. I made my decision to stay in China because of her.

Q: I’m quite curious about your hobby. I know that you are helping with an animal rescue organization.

A: It is not a rescue organization, but a group or a platform where we can share our experiences. For example, if I find a dog, a cat or I need some advice on how to rescue or protect animals. And of course, we help with adoptions for stray animals. One of my friends, a Spanish woman, is in charge of this group. Right now, we have more than 300 members in Shanghai and other cities.

We just try to educate people not to abuse animals and the environment, stop cruelty and protect them.

Q: Which road do you like best in Shanghai, and why?

A: My favorite is Fuxing Road. You can trip around, and there are lots of trees. When you are going, probably in spring or autumn, you will see the whole road is green or yellow. It is very nice and it is a combination of Chinese and Western styles.

I also like Fumin Road, part of Changle Road from Shaanxi Road S. to Fuxing Road — all these areas are nice. Some streets are full of restaurants, and others are full of bars, nightclubs or nice shops.

Q: What do you love about Shanghai?

A: I think I like Shanghai because I can get everything. With a smartphone and good apps, you can do all that you want. The city moves fast. Every day is something new.

Q: Do you have a special memory?

A: A lot. I had my daughter here; I developed my career; I learned Chinese culture and met a lot of friends from different countries.

There are a lot of memories. One impressive one related to this city is the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, it was my third year here and I was pregnant. I will remember forever that year in Shanghai.


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