Before Coming to China
Why did you want to teach in China?
I was a teacher in the US, but I wasn’t enjoying it much. I’ve always liked Asia, and thought it would be interesting to come teach here instead. There are many jobs in China, in all different areas of the country and in many kinds of institutions, compared to say, say Vietnam, where the teaching is mostly for children. I left Asia for awhile and went back to the US. I got my MA in TESOL. I also taught in other countries, such as Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. But I liked teaching in China the best by far. My heart was here, so I wanted to come back again.
How was your experience finding a job through On the Mark Education Consulting?
It was very good. On the Mark listened to me and had the kinds of jobs I wanted (no kids!). They communicated well, which is very important when finding a job in a different country. China’s process can be especially complicated.
How long did your visa process take? How was the communication with the school during the visa process?
I was in Vietnam when I was getting everything together to come to China, so it may have taken me longer than some to finish the visa process. I got a good recommendation for a service to use in order to get all my papers authenticated, and the service was great. Altogether, it took about a month to get everything taken care of, including going to the local Chinese embassy.
What website did you use to book your ticket to China?
I usually use Expedia or Travelocity, but in this case, I went to a local travel agent and consulted with them. I was glad I did, because they found me a better deal than the sites I usually use online.
Teaching Life in China
Can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
I’m in Mianyang, in Sichua province. I like it very much. It’s clean and modern. There are not many English speakers, but the local people are kind and always try to help, even though my Chinese is limited. I love to bicycle, and I can get around the city on my bike. The traffic isn’t too bad, especially compared to Hanoi. The weather is also great. In the US, I lived mostly in Texas, which is very hot much of the year. Mianyang is also warm most of the time, and the winters are supposed to be pretty mild.
What has been the biggest culture shock about China?
It’s always a challenge when you move somewhere and can’t communicate well in the language. I miss easily being able to explain myself, especially when I go shopping. I was also shocked about how everyone pays for everything with WeChat or AliPay. We have Apple Pay in the US, but it is nowhere near as widespread as WeChat Pay is here. It still feels strange to me to pull out my phone when I buy something.
What’s your favorite memory to date of life in China?
There is nothing really big, but I love all the small things that are an adventure: finding little shops that sell vegetables in back streets close to my apartment; taking the train all by myself to Chengdu; riding my bike by the river in Mianyang.
What do you like most about working for your school? And can you tell us about your typical day teaching English at your school.
I work at a language school, so we work evenings and weekends, mostly. I get to school around 12 and classes start at 1 pm. The schedule changes depending on the students, so I might have three classes or I might have six. They’re 55 minutes long. Some of the classes are one-on-one sessions and some are bigger classes. Even the biggest class has no more than 20 people, and this does not happen often. We have a dinner break at 5 pm. I’m done at 9 pm and I bike home.
What I like most about teaching at my school are the students. Since they are all teenagers and adults, most of the students are motivated and want to learn. There aren’t any classroom management issues. The students are happy to be at school and eager to learn. They are also very funny and thoughtful. They appreciate someone who takes some time to learn about them and about China.
What three things would you would have wanted to know or have brought with you before you arrived?
1. I would have brought some stick deodorant. I much prefer it to roll on or spray, but haven’t been able to find any here.
2. I wish I had known I wouldn’t be able to use Netflix. I was here before I figured that out, since I had been able to use it in other countries in Asia.
3. I probably also would have tried to bring some sugar substitute, like sucralose. I haven’t found any of that, either.
Were you able to save some money? What percentage of your salary were you able to save each month?
I’m able to save money. I have my own apartment, so I need to pay all the bills and the rent, plus food and transportation, and whatever else I want to do. Still, I can easily save at least half of my salary, if not more.