Yan was born in Hunan and grew up in Guangdong. After completing two degrees in China, she studied at Edinburgh and had extensive training in both English and Philosophy. She completed the Cambridge CELTA training at Chiangmai, Thailand. Later, she taught EAP at Reading Academy, Nanjing University of Information （南京信息工程大学） where she received the Recognised Teacher's Status from the University of Reading. Before she joined XJTLU, she taught at Beijing Normal University （北京师范大学）as an adjucnt lecturer.