Why Teach English in China?

Here at i-to-i, we ‘met’ Sarah via Twitter and knew I’d get along with her after she tweeted that she’d blog in exchange for virtual chocolate – now there’s an idea…

Sarah lives in China and absolutely loves all of the badly translated signs and menus that she comes across, so stay tuned for plenty of funny blogs from her coming up… but for now, why don’t we get to know her a little better? So, take it away Sarah…why teach English in China?

Where are you originally from?

A tiny village in Dorset, England. Population 772.

Where are you now?

Zhangzhou, Fujian province, China. Population 4.8 million.

What attracted you to long-term travel?

Can I just say I love travelling here?! No? Alright then. I love challenging myself. It was a friend who introduced the idea of China to me and ever since she mentioned it, it was always in the back of my mind, going “you can do this.” I’m one of these stubborn people who, when she has an idea, will never give up on it. I promised myself after last Christmas in China, I would spend the next Christmas in New Zealand, so what have I done? Only gone and booked the flights.

Do you have a favourite destination so far, and why?

I fell in love with Xi’an. I’m a sucker for all the cultural things and walled cities are amazing. Doing some of the walk up Huashan, the mountain about 2 hours away from Xi’an has probably been my highlight though!

How do you budget as you move around?

I’m lucky that China is a relatively cheap place to live, plus I’m here a while so I know it’s going to be a stable income for me. I send some money home every now and again to keep my balance going at home, but I am already budgeting for my next move however, even though it’s over a year away.

How are you finding it?

It’s not too bad. The worst thing is dealing with Chinese banks. They take forever.

How would you rate the experience out of 10 and why?

10, obviously -there are not enough superlatives in the world for me to describe once of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Every day you experience something different. Every day you learn something new.

Why did you teach English in China?

I worked in an school in Germany on my Year Abroad, so it wasn’t a completely new idea to me. I then taught English in Italy for a summer before my friend put me in contact with a group from Belgium who required an English teacher for a week in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, I’ve been everywhere, haha!

Did you do a TEFL course before you started teaching?

I did an Introductory Certificate In TEFL Through Theatre and Play in Italy, during a week’s training course before being let loose on the summer camps there. I know it’s not a full TEFL, but I learned a lot during it, and my current employers seemed to accept it anyway. We covered everything relevant, including classroom management and English grammar and I still use the handbook I was given to this day for lesson ideas!

Where are you teaching now?

Zhangzhou, Fujian province, China. I originally started in Ordos in Inner Monogila, meaning only to stay for 6 months, but 10 months later I’m still here and plan to be for a while.

What attracted you to TEFL?

I love travelling and exploring new countries and cultures. You can only truly learn more about a country if you spend an extended period of time there. I’ve been learning Chinese, which adds to the German I kind of have and that alone gives me the confidence to walk around town and buy things without any assistance.

What age kids/adults are you teaching?

I have anything from the age of 3 to adults in their late thirties or older. It’s a mixed bunch which is what I like. As much as I love the smaller kids and their love for me, 45 minutes with them is more than long enough and I wouldn’t want to do it all day every day.

What were they like?

In my new school it’s almost better as for most of the kids this is their first foreign teacher. In my old school the students had had foreign teachers previous to me so maybe took longer to understand my way of teaching. Generally though, my students are little to no hassle and we have a great time. Obviously now and again you get a couple of monsters, but that’s life isn’t it.

How are you finding teaching?

I honestly think I’ve found my calling in life. I’ve always worked closely with children from an early age and I’ve learnt a lot over the years. While I don’t think I’ll be in TEFL forever, I’m beginning to look at what I want to do when I come back to Blighty, and I’d love to do Teach First, as after TEFL, I think that will challenge me more than a PGCE.

Random question time! Window, aisle or middle seat on a plane?

Aisle. I hate annoying people if I want to get up, as I don’t sleep well on planes.

Are you the same person as a year ago?

I can speak more Chinese for starters! I also see a lot more. It’s the little things that you see or do on a trip that can make the biggest impact.

Would you rather do a bungee jump or swim with sharks?

Definitely the sharks.

What is your favourite type of cheese and why?

Please don’t mention cheese, I haven’t eaten it in over 11 months. A good block of cheddar or brie won’t go amiss here.

We hope this answered your question of why teach English in China, and if you’re a TEFL teacher in China right now, feel free to share your experiences!


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  1. Ben Noon

    Great interview, always good to hear plenty of views from genuine TEFL teachersin china as its such an up and coming gap year experience and ideal for building solid work experience foundations for a variety of career paths. I do miss it! Btw theres some really good jobs on https://www.nooneliterecruitment.com/teach-english-in-china at the minute. Hope this helps! :)

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