Leigh Lawrence hails from sunny San Diego, California where she grew up learning Spanish, playing volleyball, and eating avocados (or aguacates, as Leigh might say). After graduating high school, Leigh studied abroad in Beijing- her first time out of the US- and realized her love of the Chinese language. Leigh graduated with a B.A. in Chinese Languages & Literature from Arizona State University, with a certificate from the Chinese Language Flagship program. As an undergraduate, Leigh studied in Beijing with Princeton University and at Nanjing University, where she was awarded the prestigious Boren Scholarship for her studies into Sino-West African relations. Leigh has taught Mandarin in San Diego, at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota, and at Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy in Vermont.
For the past two years Leigh has worked at the NSLI-Y team at American Councils for International Education in Washington DC, facilitating study abroad programs for critical languages. Leigh has traveled throughout much of China and has a strong love for the Chinese language, dialects, and particularly Chinese idioms as their cultural and historical connections. Leigh also has a passion for food, having spent time working at a gourmet food magazine in Nanjing and hosting baking lessons at local cafes in that area, semi-successfully teaching everything from sugar cookies to fondant roses. Leigh is also a published journalist in China, writing Chinese versions of her favorite American recipes and researching environmentalism and the vegetarian movement in China. She extended her passion for baking and teaching to her hometown of San Diego through a community engagement project designed to teach Chinese language and culture through traditional Chinese food.