When I moved to Beijing to teach, I didn’t really know what to expect; but I was up for the adventure. When people ask me to describe the city I tell them it’s one of great contrasts: you could be drinking swanky cocktails on a rooftop one moment and using a doorless, hole in the ground bathroom the next. When I arrived in China in 2013, I almost found it both more modern and more traditional than I could have imagined. There were all the Starbucks, western clothing brands and hipster hangouts I could wish for. Yet the little hutong alleyways where wrinkled old men still sit outside and play board games surrounded by ramshackle buildings, communal washrooms and neighbourhood watch committees made up of red armband clad retirees, still existed between the glass fronted sky scrapers.
Exploring the Culture and Country
Teaching in Beijing gave me the opportunity to explore a fascinating culture and city. At weekends we learned about Chinese history from the Ming dynasty hundreds of years ago, to Mao’s cultural revolution in the 60s. We visited historical sites like the Forbidden City and religious and cultural places like Lama Temple and the serene Confucius temple.
In our vacations we travelled far and wide across China. We visited ancient Xi’an on an overnight train, modern Shanghai on the high speed express and experienced traditional Tibetan life in the western provinces. Justin and I even lived in a traditional hutong courtyard home during our second year. As I was working at an international school, my Chinese teaching assistants helped me to learn about real life in Beijing in ways that I could never have understood if I was just a tourist.
Life was not always rosy, of course. It’s easy to become frustrated when you live in a country so different to your own and we frequently donned face masks on heavy pollution days. But when the sun comes out, Beijing is a truly beautiful city. Nowadays, we hear from friends still in China that, once again, the government is undertaking huge renovation projects and some beloved businesses have closed down. But that is the nature of a country like China and part of what makes it so exciting. Things change at lightening pace. The hot pot restaurant you used as a marker to find your way home through the maze of alleyways might suddenly be gone one day, but the city, and it’s residents, evolve in new and interesting ways. New businesses pop up overnight too and you’ll find a real creative and entrepreneurial buzz amongst young people.
Why You Should Go For It
If you are considering teaching in China, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you do it. Although I taught at an international school, English teaching jobs in China are also plentiful. I myself got started out teaching English as a foreign language in several different countries and it is a wonderful way to really get to know another country and culture. I have actually lived and worked in five different countries, several of them because of TEFL. Not only is it a great way to live overseas, it’s an easy way to travel in your vacations and perhaps see if teaching might be a good career for you. Teaching English helps you build a variety of skills that look great on your CV including: organization, team work, leadership and adaptability. Not only that, but you are likely to make life long friends. I still have very good friends from everywhere I have taught. I have even been invited to quite a few of their weddings. I actually met my husband on my first day teaching overseas!
Preparing to Teach Overseas
If you’re ready to take the plunge and teach overseas I would say: go for it! You’ll never know everything you need to know before you go, but there are a few things you could do to prepare. Look for blogs online written by people also teaching/living in that country. They will often have a wealth of information and most bloggers don’t mind answering questions (I still regularly email with people considering living or traveling in China). Read a couple of good books about your chosen country. ( For China, I love anything by Peter Hessler) Look for lists of home comforts (such as food, bath products) you might really miss and want to stock up on (although these days it’s becoming easier to find almost anything, anywhere). Research the school/city/country’s hiring process by using travel and teaching forums. But above all, just relax, have an open mind and prepare for an adventure- possibly a life changing one.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Have you ever taught overseas or would you consider it? Share your experiences and views below!
Thank you for reading. If you liked this, you can sign up to receive updates by entering your email below. Or follow my Instagram here. ♥