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“My experience in China has been amazing. This programme has given me the flexibility of gaining teaching experience, while still giving me ample opportunity to travel. It has only been a few months and I have already developed basic mandarin communication skills. This experience has enabled me to be fully immersed in the Chinese culture, and learn about the traditions, food, and people.”
- the full review -
Why I decided to come to China:
After graduation I knew I wanted to live in a different country to get out of my comfort zone and explore a different culture. Having done the TEFL course a few months before, I was looking for an opportunity to teach abroad but did not want lots of pressure as I had never taught before. I did not really have a particular country in mind but China fitted the bill by being a very culturally different country that I could feel safe in. When I saw the advert of TOFU education for the internship in China, it seemed perfect since it was only 5 months and no experience needed.
The application process:
The process of application was very smooth and TOFU education responded quickly whenever I had a query. Since I had never been to a country where I needed the visa before, the visa process was very intimidating at first but liaising with TOFU and the company in China made the whole process easy.
Good for travelling with a friend or as a couple:
A great thing about the internship is that you can travel with a friend or partner. Since I was planning to go with my boyfriend, it was really important that we could find somewhere to go together. This internship was perfect for that as we got easily placed in the same university. The internship programme also gives you a friendly expat community that you can easily contact. With 100 interns coming this year, there have been lots of opportunities to meet up with people in Chengdu and get some Western food! It also gives opportunity to travel to places together, many interns travelled to Beijing and Shanghai together in national holiday week for example.
Life at the university:
Me and my boyfriend were placed in a small town called Luojiang, about a 1 hour bus ride from Chengdu. There are advantages and disadvantages for living in a quieter location. It is very relaxing here and everything is much cheaper than in a city. However, sometimes it would be nice to be in a city where it is a bit more multicultural and where there is the option of western food if we are missing it! Nevertheless, this has definitely been a more authentic experience with local people showing real interest in us and often paying for our drinks in the bar and food in restaurants.
Our accommodation is a good standard and we are very grateful to have a western toilet! At the orientation week they were preparing us for the worst saying it is definitely not going to be the standard you are used to at home. However, in comparison to student accommodation in the UK, I would say the accommodation in China is slightly better! Although there are some interns that do have squat toilets in their apartment, the majority of people seem very happy with the standard of their accommodation with some people having big kitchens and 2 bedrooms.
The staff at this university have been very welcoming. However, a major cultural difference is how last minute everything in China is. For example, you may be told on the Friday that the school has something planned that they would like you to attend on the Sunday. Or you will be told the day before that you need to have your exam papers ready. This just seems to be how things work in China. From my experience, if you can’t make something because they have told you too last minute then they are not going to be angry with you. This is one of the things that takes getting used to and it is best just to go with the flow and not let it annoy you.
I am teaching reading to business English students and general English to a tourism management class. We have textbooks but we are given a lot of freedom with how we teach and the other teachers generally leave us to it. I was so so nervous before my first class but by the 2nd or 3rd lesson I started to feel more comfortable and found my style of teaching. I find that the more prepared I am, the more confident I am teaching. It is true that Chinese students have a lot more respect for teachers than western students, sometimes they will say something really sweet to you that cheers you up for the day. For example, when I was teaching with a cold, a student messaged me and said ‘Teacher, I am so sorry to hear that you are ill’. Some of the students can be quite lazy and go on their phones a lot. Also, talking on top of each other does not seem to be as rude here as it is at home. Nevertheless, these are quite minor issues and although I am not very strict with them, I am still able to teach the class. Because they are only one or two years younger than me, I have found it hard to be strict but I think for younger students it would be essential to have a no phone policy.
Classes in China are usually 30- 60 students. All my classes are around 50 students which makes learning names very hard. However, they are used to being able to go unnoticed which means that making them participate is also very hard. Luckily, there a few that will always volunteer to answer. However, I quickly learned that hands up activities don’t work well.
Time to travel:
Holiday week is probably the best time to travel to far away places although lots of people will say not to because the whole of China is moving around that week. Common places people have visited in/near Sichuan are Mount Emei, Leshan, Chongqing, Mount Qingcheng. Considering Sichuan is bigger than the UK, it would take years just to visit most places in the province, let alone further afield.NationalDepending on your timetable, depends on how much time there is to travel. Because I have lessons on a Friday, it makes going far away quite difficult.
Overall, this has been a really great experience and I do not regret coming at all. The teaching has really built my confidence up and I no longer fear speaking to a crowd. We have been well looked after by TOFU education, the SEAIE internship and the school. The money the internship gives easily covers the cost of food with some left over to do local exploring on weekends.
I will leave China with fond memories and I am sure that I will quickly miss the friendliness of people and the delicious food that I get to eat everyday.
“This programme is a great life experience and I would recommend it to anybody thinking of coming to teach English in China. The staff have been very helpful and supported us from the moment we arrived in China and throughout my stay, and even arranged trips for us and nights out etc. Thank you guys your great!”