Every year thousands of young people move to China to teach English. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that's exactly what I'm doing right now. I've been here for the last nine months and...it's been ACE!
Let me put this straight. I've never even thought of becoming a teacher so this isn't one of the dream-job-comes-true situations. Actually, I've never been more certain in my life that I don't want to be a career teacher at all.
So why am I trying to persuade you to pack your bags, book the next flight and move to China?
For one, teaching is just a small fraction of your new life here. It's learning about a new country, meeting new interesting people and having great and weird experiences more than anything else.
Of course, it's not just rainbows and unicorns. Some days, you don't understand what's wrong with the world. You feel lonely and just...want to go home. With my fellow foreign teachers, we call it "I-hate-China day".
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
I'm leaving China soon though so I decided to put it all down. Why I love living in China and why I think everyone should give it a try. Read on and make the big step today!
great first job abroad
A lot of people know that working abroad might be the right thing for them but they're not sure where to start. So they end up googling new jobs in the most random places for hours whilst thinking up weird scenarios for what to do with their life. I've been there.
Getting a job in China is a fairly easy process and it's accessible under just one condition. You need to speak great English. Schools usually don't require any teaching experience or education background so the only other thing might be a university degree (motivation to finally finish that thesis?)
You can directly apply for the positions on the Internet from anywhere in the world but honestly, when I first started thinking about working in China, I had no idea where to look first. What about the VISA, choosing the right school, getting a good salary, arranging necessary documents?
While some TEFL teachers swear by arranging everything independently, I fully recommend employing an agency. A good and reliable agency will guide you through the whole process, mediate the communication between you and Chinese school and enable you to concentrate on your next big step: moving to China. I used The China Teaching Experience and I couldn't be happier.
Once you are in China, millions of other opportunities turn up. And no matter if you want to continue with teaching (and climb up the salary ladder a bit) or continue with what you started at university, I bet the ten months in China will look pretty good on your CV (especially if all you have is that Weatherspoon's job in first year...)
Let's be a bit controversial in the world of travelling. Comfortable lifestyle might not be everyone's priority but it's not too bad to afford nice meals, taxis instead of crowded buses every now and then, new clothes or electronics.
As any other student at university, I was constantly broke: for three years. I would earn plenty of money during summer, spend it on travelling and return to university with empty pockets in September. Three months after my graduation, I suddenly had nice meals out almost every night, spent weekends in Hong Kong without any saving effort and bought a DSLR I dreamt of ever since I was 13.
While you don't earn much as a new teacher (and certainly not in comparison with Europe), you can afford so much more than you would in Europe. Free accommodation and paid utility bills might be included in your contract as well so you can just enjoy yourself. (Just like we are doing in the picture. While on a long weekend in Shenzhen, we decided to go to SPA...)
This kinda relates to the previous point. Life in China is cheap. Food, public transport, most of the daily life necessities are cheap. It surely depends on personal preferences but from my experience, you can live on about 2000RMB (about 200£) a month. Even less if you try.
No matter if you're saving up for the next around-the-world-trip or just want to get out of your student overdraft...
As a starting teacher, you'll get paid between 4000-8000 RMB (depending on the city, type of school and weekly hours). It doesn't sound much but like this, I was able to save up for a 5-week trip including an open water diving course and two weeks in rather expensive Japan in just about three months. Altogether for about £1600.
No matter if you're saving up for the next around-the-world-trip, want to buy some expensive equipment or just want to get out of your student overdraft, teaching in China is an exciting alternative to that 9-to-5 job back home.
If you've been looking into this, every other travel blogger tells you teaching English abroad is a super-easy way to start travelling. Spot on. Since I moved to China, I've dived in the Philippines, eaten myself into a sushi coma in Japan, became a city girl in Hong Kong, enjoyed wine and pasteis de nata in Macau, cycled through the Guilin Karst dreamland in China and had Indian for my Christmas dinner in Malaysia. I've been travelling more than ever before.
But let's put this straight. What a lot of travel bloggers don't mention is the fact that teaching is a real job. You can't take a day off whenever you want to. If you're an all-season traveller or a nomad looking for a job which would help you to continue travelling, you might be disappointed.
However, as a to-be traveller with great plans, not much money and the only alternative being a boring office job or just a person who likes to travel slowly, this will be exactly for you.
School children in China have two long holidays: 6 weeks in summer and 4 weeks in winter, Then it's a week long National Day in October and some public days in April, May and June. Some schools also grant a few days off for their foreign teachers at Christmas. Unless you get self-employed, have you heard about any other job with so many opportunities so travel?
And, after all, you live in a foreign country. Every little weekend trip is exciting. Here in China, I live about three hours from Hong Kong and two and a half hours from the world-renowned Guilin Karst. Quite a change from a boring little town in the South-East of "Czechia".
boost of Confidence
You know, moving to a foreign country is a big deal. You leave everything you have ever known behind and replace it with completely new things, people and situations. It's hard, at first. You don't understand why things are happening and feel lonely.
Once you overcome all of these though, you become a stronger, more confident and independent person. When I realised that I can easily manage situations which horrified me even a few weeks earlier, my confidence soared like mad!
Getting on a bus going in an unknown direction hoping to get where I need while not speaking a word of Chinese? Trying to hitchhike (alright, that didn't work out)? Not a big deal anymore. Suddenly I realised that living in a country as far, different and, to be completely honest, mad as China, is actually pretty easy. And I can do it!
Bonus: standing in front of a class of 55 teenagers is a powerful way to rid the fear from public speaking. If you can speak for forty minutes while being interrupted, laughed at, asked impossible questions or just ignored, you can really speak in front of anyone.
Did you study Chinese for years or are you just about to pick up the basics? Moving to China will help you like nothing else. Think about it. People go to China to teach English. It means majority of the population has very poor knowledge of the language. Great for you!
Learning at least a few phrases is absolutely essential for daily life and most of the locals are really nice and curious about foreigners. It gives you hundreds of opportunities every day to learn new vocabs and practise the old ones. Also, after a couple of people compliment your great accent saying "ni hao", you will want to learn more.
Chinese being one of the trendiest and most useful languages in the world right now, that's another skill to put at your CV at the very least.
Make a difference
China being somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, foreign teachers have a unique opportunity to tell Chinese youngsters about what they don't learn from their parents or TV.
Do you sometimes wonder why the Chinese still use tiger teeth as a medicine, why they just don't get vegetarians or judge gay people? Well, very often it's because nobody told them. You can and they will listen. Because if Taylor Swift speaks English and you speak English too you must be pretty cool and worth listening to, right?
Don't think that you will change the whole nation by yourself. That would take a bit longer and honestly, changing people is not the reason why you should go to China. But you can broaden their horizons by simply telling them about things from your perspective.
More importantly, life in China will change you. It will change your lifestyle, your appreciation of little details, your thinking about the world as a Europe-centred place. You'll come back as a whole new person.
And that's it. Thanks for reading :). Moving to China was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. What do you think? Are you ready to rock this?