Tell us about your path to TEFL teaching. What inspired you to pursue teaching English and the big move to China?
I had previously worked on cruise ships and had a taste of traveling from that. I then worked in central London doing a job that I loved but came to the conclusion that I wasn’t yet ready to settle into my chosen career. There was more of the world I wanted to see and I needed a change from my busy work life that became a little stressful.
I felt I wanted to be able to do something completely different and make a difference in other’s lives while creating challenges and life-changing experiences in my own. So that’s when I decided TEFL teaching was for me.
What was the move to China like? Had you travelled far from home before?
Moving to China was extremely exciting, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was quite literally thrown into the unknown and it is so different to any country I have ever experienced before. There were plenty of people on hand for support and advice if needed so that was reassuring!
Did you experience any culture shock? What was most exciting to you once you got there?
The culture is completely different, the food here was the hardest thing to get my head around Chicken feet and grasshoppers are snacks here and I have found that hard to adapt to. Nevertheless, I’ve tried them! I wouldn’t be getting the full experience if I didn’t put my all into it right? Saying that, the more I’ve tried different food, the more I like it! There is such a large and varied cuisine and I hope to take some ideas back to England!
What has also been a huge culture shock is the amount of attention that I have attracted for being a foreigner. People are constantly asking for selfies and business owners have even had photos with us to promote their business. Even in restaurants, no one is shy when it comes to taking photos of us. I’ve even had people taking pictures of me in the gym- it’s like being a real celebrity.
What are the top three things everyone should experience is they’re visiting or moving to China?
- Food definitely. It’s so different it’s hard to describe and many things just by looking I was hesitant to try but once trying found that it was a potentially a dish I would most definitely have again.
- Transport. Make the most of the different modes of transport. I have an e-bike which is the most popular mode of transport. It’s just like a mo-ped but roads in China are extremely dangerous and helmets are very rare so be careful!
- Getting to know the locals. The Chinese are extremely welcoming and I have met some wonderful, kind people who have really shown me the true culture and generosity of China and that I will never forget.
What do you do outside the classroom for fun? Sightseeing, meeting other teachers or sitting in an authentic little tea shop maybe?
For fun, I like to go on extreme thrilling adventures and China does not disappoint when it comes to that. I have made two of the most exciting memories including climbing a mountain and walking on the worlds largest UFO glass bridge.
I’ve also taken on “The world’s deadliest hike” on Mount Huashan, the iciest mountain. I then walked the sky plank which I later found out that 100 people die a year from taking on the challenge! An adrenaline junkie’s dream and memories I will never forget!
What have been some challenges you’ve faced on the road to living abroad? How did you overcome them—any advice for our readers/future TEFL adventurers?
One challenge I’ve faced is the language barrier. I would highly recommend that you download a translation app to help you as sometimes (no matter how good you are at charades) miming is just not enough.
Furthermore, you are away from your family and friends which can be somewhat challenging. I’d advise investing in a VPN so you can stay in contact via social media.
What are your 5 favourite things about living and teaching in China?
- Teaching the children of course! They are all so hardworking and being able to watch them grow and become more confident is a hugely rewarding experience!
- Immersing yourself in such a different way of life. The culture is so different
- There’s so much to do! The amount of activities and beautiful mountains and scenic spots China has to offer is immense!
- Being able to challenge my self every day. Whether that be by trying new foods or learning how to ride around on new modes of transport.
- The generosity of all of the local people. The locals are so kind and also have a huge love for KTV which is basically Chinese karaoke. Karaoke is my favourite so I fit right in when it comes to having a night out the Chinese way!
What’s next for Alice? More English teaching or travel perhaps?
I would like to continue to teach and travel in the future. Right now I’m excited to return to England to see my family but I’m definitely not ruling out coming back.
I have honestly had the time of my life and made lifelong friends through other interns and teachers along the way. It has been the most rewarding challenge and the memories I will take away from this experience have been unforgettable.