When China beckoned, Global English TESOL graduate Rhiannon seized the opportunity. Here she reflects on her amazing China teaching experience and offers some words of advice for anyone else with a thirst for a teaching adventure overseas…
Hi Rhiannon. Please tell us a bit about yourself and why you chose TESOL.
I’m an illustrator and author. I graduated from University in 2014. Like many young people in New Zealand I have a thirst for travel but being a poor artist, world tours and cruise ships were out of the question. A working holiday seemed best, but I didn't want to spend my time in seedy bars or as a waitress. Since I was at that point already a published author, the idea of teaching English was extremely appealing, so I went ahead and did a course with Global English online. I did some freelancing in Australia for a short while before finding work further abroad.
Why China and which school/organisation did you work for?
I submitted my CV to an online job forum and pretty much immediately I heard back from the Union Institute of Language saying they had an urgent need for a teacher in Changchun, China. I had never heard of Changchun, so I agreed straight away on principal alone. They were looking for a young teacher, someone creative and fun who could be lively in the classroom.
What were the highlights and difficulties of your time in China?
My entire experience was a highlight. I cannot think of any particular difficulties. Possibly the only bothersome thing about my life in Changchun was the fact that at the end of my tour of duty at my high school, I was given so many gifts that I was unable to take all of them with me! I received jewellery, ornaments, toys, books, art supplies, candy and countless cards and flowers. People on my street, that last week, grew used to seeing me walk home from school with my arms full of stuffed animals.
What were pay and conditions like?
I had a fabulous and highly competitive package. My accommodation was completely free and my salary enabled me to be free of money concerns in China. I was able to save a considerable sum for someone my age, much more than I would have saved slaving away in a design studio. Changchun is less polluted than other parts of China, and so I had a comfortable life there. I had a lot of free time, so I was able to travel all around China and have amazing experiences. Additionally, I had enough time to write a whole new novel and publish a game!
How did your TESOL course help you secure work and also teach?
TESOL is absolutely essential for teaching abroad in a legitimate school. There are a lot of horror stories out there surrounding people who want to go to foreign countries and teach English, and end up at unscrupulous language academies because they lack credentials. TESOL courses should be vigorous and prepare any teacher for the intensity of teaching. I also feel that people who are considering this path should take it seriously and treat the profession (and their potential students) with respect. I would not have even been considered for this position without a TESOL qualification.
Any other advice to those considering China?
China is a country like no other, and if you behave respectfully and treat the locals warmly, they in turn will love you and become your family. I also think that Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) is actually a very easy language to pick up in terms of speaking, and it won't be very long before the committed ESL teacher in China is able to function in it to a decent degree. If you don't mind giving up some of your Western luxuries, then you might find that China will become your second home nation.
Thanks, Rhiannon and best wishes for your next role in China or Korea.
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