Why Teaching in China is The Second Best Decision I've Ever Made
Graduation is a wonderful, exciting time, but for many it is also a time of trepidation; and not just of falling on stage. When Adam Day applied for university (incidentally his best decision) he had no idea of what career he wanted to pursue afterwards, and it remained much the same for the entire three years. There really is no escaping the question of what you’re going to do next from friends, family and, most intensely, yourself. That is why Adam, like many others, had his interest piqued at the prospect of moving to China: it offered intrigue, challenge, and, most importantly, an escape.
A month after graduation I found myself sitting on an aeroplane alongside my partner wondering what on earth we were doing. After a flurry of farewells the reality brought with it exhilaration, but also a slice of genuine fear. My anxiety was not induced by flying or even moving to a foreign country, but rather the prospect of teaching abroad. Although we were assured that training would be provided at our orientation camp, I’d had no previous experience and felt like an imposter. I needn’t have worried, though, as the majority of people there were in the same boat as me: fresh out of university and looking for an adventure. It wasn’t wholly restricted to recent graduates, of course, and was a great opportunity to meet people from all kinds of background. In spite of my apprehension, the training camp turned out to be a brilliant place to party with new-found friends and I found myself reluctant to leave!
Teaching English in China is certainly a unique experience, and I must admit that I wasn’t fully prepared when I arrived at my assigned school in Hunan province. The initial period provided plenty of challenges, and even once you familiarise yourself with the school and your students, China has an incredible ability to conjure surprises. But although there is no denying that teaching in China can be frustrating, it is a fantastic opportunity for the experience of a lifetime. One thing you must embrace, though probably not have previously experienced, is the fact that you will become a minor celebrity. In many parts of China, certainly in smaller towns and cities, it is rare to see a foreigner, so to have a resident foreign teacher at your school is quite the coup!
It is true that many schools employ westerners largely due to the prestige bestowed upon them in China, which in turn makes the school lucrative to prospective students and their parents. Whilst this could well be viewed as a negative aspect, it can actually be beneficial for all concerned. Firstly, it obviously creates job opportunities for foreign teachers: there are always schools and institutes searching for native English speakers. Secondly, and more importantly, it exposes students to this essential, native-speaking communication. The rarity of foreigners in China naturally gives way to a lack of this exposure, and it is widely apparent. So, as a native-English speaker in China, I had the wonderful privilege to provide a small contribution by conversing with students, colleagues and even curious members of the public.
China a land of vast contrasts, with the frozen city of Harbin to the north and the positively tropical island of Hainan in the south. The opportunity to explore China was perhaps the primary reason behind my decision to teach there, and I was fortunate enough to visit some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in the world. There is so much to see and do in China – which really are must do’s - but it is also a great base from which to venture out to travel in south-east Asia and beyond.
Having recently returned, I now find myself itching for my next adventure. I couldn’t say that I left for China with any significant prior interest, or that I’ve ever harboured a burning desire to travel the world. It’s not that I wasn’t open to the idea; I’d just never given it any great thought. Now, a year on, I’m looking back on an experience that I’ll never forget. And that’s an important point: even if you never considered yourself as the ‘right type’ of person to travel, there are plenty of opportunities for graduates and non-graduates, young and old and even rich and poor- you’ve just got to look for them. I’ll refrain from using that cliché of finding yourself, but travel is a unique opportunity to develop as a person, gain vital experience and, failing all else, see some pretty awesome things. With the glorious benefit of hindsight, I can safely say that travelling to China is a decision I wouldn’t change for the world.
By Adam Day
- TEFL Certification Courses in China
- Teach English in Asia
- Guide to Working in China
- Paid Internships in China
- Gap Year Jobs in China
- Volunteer in China