It's Better Abroad

Heading to China to teach English? Follow these top tips

Are you about to go teach English in China?

There will be a lot to take in when you arrive. Getting off on the right foot by being organized is vital. Here are some top tips to make sure you’re prepared for this awesome adventure.

Brace yourself for the long-haul flight

You may feel a little disoriented when you arrive after a long-haul flight.

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the airport you’ll be arriving at, which will most likely be Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.

Many schools in China arrange for a member of staff, or approved person, to meet you at the airport and drive you to your new home.

Make sure you confirm this with the school beforehand as it will help take a lot of the stress away.

Download a translation app

Like most Westerners who teach English in China, chances are you don’t know how to speak Mandarin. That’s ok.

As more and more Chinese people are learning English, it’s increasingly easier to get around China with no knowledge of the language, particularly in the bigger cities.

Having said that, Chinese people can be quite shy when it comes to practising their English, so be patient.

You’ll probably make a lot of Chinese friends who will be happy to help you get by. However, having a translation app installed on your phone will make ordering food and giving directions to a taxi driver a whole lot easier.

Get your money in order

You may not be paid your salary until four to six weeks after your first class due to the school’s pay cycle. It’s therefore critical you have enough money to survive on when you first get to China.

You need to factor in food and living expenses, which may be a little higher than normal in your first month while you settle in and find the right places to eat.

Free housing is usually included if you’re teaching at a public school. However, if you’re teaching at a private language institute, you’ll need to have money set aside for the initial rent payment.

If you packed light in anticipation that you would buy heavy items (e.g. snow boots) once you arrive, factor this in too.

Bring relevant teaching materials

Some schools in China have a structured syllabus and accompanying text book, while others are more flexible and allow you to create your own syllabus.

As this may be unclear until you arrive at your school, it’s best to come prepared with at least a week’s worth of lesson plans.

This is particularly true if you’re teaching in the public sector where English teaching programs are more flexible.

Avoid bringing any heavy text books – you probably won’t use them. Instead, your curious Chinese students will be much more interested in authentic things relating to your country and culture like:

  • Money (notes and coins)
  • Photos of your family and friends
  • Food products and/or labels
  • Restaurant menus
  • Magazines, pictures and posters
  • Videos
  • Music (electronic files or even a small instrument).

You can build your lessons around these things to create an interesting and engaging classroom environment.

Download a VPN app

China’s internet is protected by the Great Firewall of China.

This means most major Western websites and apps are blocked. This includes Google, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and a whole lot more.

But don’t worry too much – just get a virtual private network (VPN) on all your devices and you’ll be able to access the sites and apps you’re used to.

Getting a VPN for China is relatively cheap and easy – just remember to download it before you arrive in China.

If you leave it until after you arrive, you won’t be able to download it. Imagine not living with Google or Facebook!

Try to adjust to your new surroundings

It can take some time to adjust to your new surroundings.

Rather than fighting any culture shock, acknowledge that you’re in a new environment and allow yourself to adjust at a ‘normal’ speed.

By accepting that things will be different in China and that adjusting will take time, the initial arrival period should be less overwhelming.

Once you’ve settled into your accommodation, ask your school contact for a timetable and directions to (or personal tour of) the classrooms and how to use any multimedia equipment like computers and overhead projectors.

Equipment will vary greatly between schools, so ask to be shown how to use it before your first class.

Feeling better now?

With these top tips in hand, you’ll arrive in China more organized and without the unnecessary stress.

Have a great time teaching in China!


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