What Should I Do When I Graduate?

Do you often sit there and question: “What should I do when I graduate?”.  The answers are literally endless, but this is what TEFL teacher Nathan kept thinking, until he moved to Shanghai that his!  Frustrated with the UK economy and fed up of the jobs market, Nathan and his girlfriend boarded a flight to Shanghai and have never looked back.  Here, he is willing to share his own teaching experiences, and asking the age-old question of “what should I do when I graduate?”…

Coming into the office on a typically wet and cold morning back in 2004, I realised 4 years of my life had passed me by.  My existence at this time was mainly based around weekends, going out with friends and basically just enjoying myself. While it was fun, I felt as though I had achieved very little of note in this period.

I was at a juncture with little prospects of promotion at work and I was slowly becoming disheartened at the thought of my future. How quickly would the next 4 years pass me by? And the 4 after that?  A horrible image came over me, of sitting at my (albeit, very comfortable desk) for the next twenty plus years: it scared me into thinking how I could alter my path in life.

Now, I don’t usually take my inspirations for major life changes from war criminals, but the motto “education, education, education” had stuck in my mind over the years, so I thought that would be a good place to start.  I got in touch with my local college and sought information about how I could get myself into university.

A few months later work had allowed me to go part-time and I was going back to school. After nine months I had passed and been accepted onto a degree course at the University of Hull to study English and American Literature. Little did I know that the three years I spent at university would be not only the most fulfilling of my life up to that point, but the quickest too.

As my time at university was coming to an end, I went to numerous job fairs and signed up to a million graduate jobs websites.  Unfortunately while I and thousands of others had our heads stuck in books our futures were being changed by others. I had gone to uni to try and better my prospects, but as a result of the banker’s greed, the jobs market I was now faced with was at one of its lowest ebbs.

Would I be able to get a ‘better’ job than the one I had?  Although great while I was studying, the part time wage I was earning wouldn’t be enough now I wasn’t getting students loans to pad my income out.  Thousands were out of work, so I couldn’t complain, but I had had much bigger hopes for my working life after university and couldn’t help feeling a sense of disappointment at my prospects once more.

My girlfriend and I had always spoken about our joint wish to visit some remote corners of the globe and experience new cultures and throughout my final year at uni the idea of us taking this trip was once again mentioned. South America was the place which came to my mind, while the missus was excited about the idea of travelling around Europe.

Unfortunately for us we were in no financial position to take either trip so the increasingly popular and somewhat clichéd “year out” was resigned to our pipe dreams. I would find any job I could after uni with the sole intention being to save cash. After a year we would evaluate our plans once more.

What should I do when I graduate?

This was all to change though in a few whirlwind weeks. My girlfriend came home from work one night and excitedly told me about an advert she had seen for a position within her company, only in the Shanghai office.  In an instant South America and Europe had been dismissed and China became the destination we started to envisage spending the next chapter of our lives.  All that I needed to do was find a job in China.  The thought was a bit daunting at first, but I knew that in a city the size of Shanghai, opportunities must be available.

Teaching English was straight away the route I envisaged myself taking, as the thought of being able to “put something back” into education after taking four years out was something I felt strongly about.  The only thing was I had little or no idea about how to break into this environment.

That was until I went to another jobs fair, this time at Leeds University. As soon as I saw the brochures for the TEFL course I knew this was the route I needed to take. While we waited to see if my girlfriend’s job application had been accepted I enrolled myself on the next TEFL course I could.  This was in May and if all went well we were looking to leave the UK on 31st August… exciting times ahead!


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