TEACH ENGLISH ABROAD: Read up On My amazing adventures as an ESL Teacher in South Korea & China For Over 5 Years!
[Part 3] Teach English Abroad: On the Road to China & Why Choosing the Right ESL Employer Was the Most Important Step
My first experience as an ESL teacher in Seoul, South Korea was a blast, hands down; however, this time around my eyes were set on teaching English in Japan, specifically in Tokyo. Sushi, anime, Samurais, Geishas, video games, innovative tech, I mean "forget about it!" Next up was South Korea again, and then China. With that, I updated my resume, linked up with ESL agents, and applied for positions all over the place.
And then it happened: an ESL agent responded with an available position at an English training center in China. "China!?", I thought. Heck, that was my last choice, and I didn't know anyone that had ever visited the country. Plus, China just always seemed so ancient and vastly lagging behind Japan and South Korea in terms of technology, influence, innovation, and the works.
And I literally only knew a handful of things about the country of some 1.3 billion people. As for popular regions, there was Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. Famous people—Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, Donny Yen, and what's her name from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? And what things was China famous for? The Great Wall, Kung Fu, and great food. Not to sound stereotypical, but that was all I knew, seriously!
Nevertheless, fate works in mysterious ways. Despite seeing it as a region 'behind the times', I can clearly recall how in 2011 China was all over the place. I couldn't go one day without hearing praise of China's robust economy from the news and how it was even on track to becoming the world's largest. It was as if every article on Yahoo's homepage covered how China made a billion dollar deal here or there, became the number one producer of this and that, and was now the biggest market for all types of products and services. That it was slowly transforming into the new land of golden opportunity much like the US had once been.
As a young 24 year old just 2 years out of college, that stood out to me as something that I not only wanted to bear witness up close, but also something that I knew I'd be excited to take part in.
Looking back on my ESL journey, it was this coverage of China's powerful emergence on the global stage that largely assured me that teaching English in the country was the right choice.
Additionally, there were 4 other factors that contributed to my decision to teach English in China. For one, my ESL agent—a local Chinese woman—was not only very professional but also came off as someone I could trust. This time around I didn't have the luxury of knowing any friends that had travelled to China before so looking for someone with concrete answers and tips about getting to and living in China was essential. Check.
Next up I wound up making a valuable connection with the recruiter from the training center, who was also vice principal. I'll admit that she didn't always respond in a timely manner, but she did manage to assist me with all that I needed and more. The most valuable aspect of our relationship, though, was that she was able to provide me with pictures of the school, staff, and students, along with a video tour of the campus, at my request. This would help build up my trust in the company and allow me to have a better visual look at where I'd be heading. Check.
Third and perhaps most importantly, I had the chance to speak with an actual foreign English teacher working at the company; in fact, he sat in on my interview. Afterwards I'd email him and asks both general and personal questions about the training center and life in China. He wound up giving me valuable insight on things I should prepare for and what to expect. He also shared his experiences and opinions on items such as dating in China, food options, and even what brands to look for when buying tea. Check.
Lastly, though the employer was situated in Kunshan, a city in China that I had never heard of, the recruiter made sure to emphasize that it was only a mere 15 minutes away from Shanghai by high-speed train. That not only meant that I could escape to Shanghai with ease on the weekends or holidays, but that I'd also live near a region heavily populated by expats and a tad bit of Western culture. Staying close to the big city without having to live in it? That was an option I could definitely get down with. Done!
I really can't express enough just how much these 4 factors were absolutely critical towards my decision-making process. Each helped towards making me feel comfortable and secure with getting to my destination, knowing who I'd work for, and understanding more about the new environment I was potentially heading too.
By November of 2011, I had signed a contract to work as an ESL teacher at Kid Castle English Training Center in Kunshan, China, and Phase IV of my ESL journey had begun.
MORE ESL POSTS
MY ESL JOURNEY
About the Author: Don is from Los Angeles, CA, USA and has served as an ESL Teacher & Foreign Department Manager in both China & South Korea!
ESL TEACHER BLOG
Join a TEFL Course