Teaching English in China is an experience I will never forget. I had never planned to go abroad teaching English but my friend had, and she talked me into applying. I had no idea what I was getting myself into but it sounded like a fun adventure and I had always wanted to travel the world so I went for it. My friend and I were actually assigned to the same school in a town in Southern China called Xiaolan. I remember my first few days I was terrified! I had never been outside of the US and it was my very first teaching experience. I had no idea how to be a teacher! But I wanted to be challenged and see the world. Little did I know how different China was from America. The people, the streets, the buildings, the smells, the food and the culture were completely different. It’s fair to say that I was in shock, but again, I reminded myself that I wanted this challenge. I wanted to completely immerse myself in this unknown world. I definitely had a lot of doubts but I was so grateful for the training and support I received once I got to China.
I taught Monday-Friday, 20-25 hours a week. I started every morning by eating breakfast in the cafeteria with the rest of the teachers. At 8:30 am I was ready to teach my first class. My classes consisted of 8-11 students so it was doable to manage all the 3-5 year old students. They were full of energy but they were also genuinely excited to learn English. I taught from 8:30-11:30 am. Then we would have lunch and nap time. During this time I would plan my lessons for the next day. I then would teach an afternoon class from 3:30-5:00. Again these students were 3-5 years old. At 5:00 pm I would eat dinner at the school and then go explore the city.
I truly fell in love with these kids. Teaching the kids was so much fun and so rewarding! I know this is totally cliché, but I truly do feel like I learned more from teaching the kids than I ever taught them. Teaching kids English as a second language opens so many doors for them and allows them to have a brighter future. I loved when I was teaching and could tell they really understood and were using what they were learning. I felt like I really was making an impact on them. They just looked so happy! Even though teaching was tiring at times, I felt so alive. Teaching has its ups and downs but I will never regret going to China and teaching English. I loved teaching the kids and exploring the world. I have made life time friends and am so lucky to stay in contact with my students! There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your students learn and grow.
Here are a few tips I wish someone would have told me before going to China:
1. Forget about yourself and be completely immersed in the culture.
Try everything at least once! Try all the weird foods, get a massage, take photos with random strangers, and do a crazy talent show. This culture is very different than what you are used to so that best way to adjust is to immerse yourself and have fun!
2. You can survive without speaking Chinese
Learning a new language is very helpful when living abroad but if you have never learned Chinese, then that is ok! You won't be able to speak to your children in Chinese which is exactly what they want. They want to be completely immersed in English. But when you are out on the streets it will be helpful to know some basic phrases. Although you could survive without them, they will be helpful to you! In order to survive the first few weeks here a few tips:
3. Order food with Restaurants that have pictures, that way you can just point to what you want.
4. Carry a card with your home address or School address in Chinese characters.
5. Download the Pleco translation dictionary app.
6. Have a Chinese teacher help you write a few basic phrases that will be most helpful and keep that with you at all times.
7. Learn how to travel China on a budget
As a teacher you will have vacation periods where you will want to travel around China. But what is the best way to travel without spending all the money you worked for?
You can basically go anywhere in China for under $100 USD but the cheapest way to get around China is by a long-distance train. These long distance trains have beds which makes the long journey more comfortable. Make sure to book a "hard-sleeper", which is a three-bunk bed.
Stay in Hostels. They are so cheap! You can often find hostels for $5 a night. It's also a great place to meet new friends and immerse yourself.
8. Be positive. you only have yourself to rely on in your new life abroad, so stay positive. It will make you happier in your new life. Don’t get frustrated. just enjoy every minute. Stay positive even when you make mistakes. Success only comes after failures. Don’t get too hard on yourself, work hard and have fun!
*If you're interested in becoming an Associate English Teacher in China and get paid to travel, APPLY HERE now!