You may have just received an offer to teach at a great school in in one of China's mega cities and in your excitement, you accept the offer without hesitation. Sometimes with that excitement, we become blind to the risks and precautions we need to take.
What may look great on paper may not be that great in real life. Teaching in China has long been a popular choice of adventure for those who wish to experience a different culture as well as those who are looking to further their careers., however, it’s important to know what to expect and the reality of the situation. Here are a few things that you should take into account:
The first thing to consider is the school you will be teaching at. It is important to differentiate between teaching hours and office hours. It’s always useful to speak to current or former teachers at the school and have the school researched for peace of mind. The facilities at different schools will vary, especially between major cities and the more rural parts of China. It may be useful for you to have access to technology in the classroom or having your own office, so it is important to establish what your working environment will be like before accepting an offer.
Next, when teaching in China, consider the type of students you will be teaching and the classroom size. Taking into account the English proficiency of your potential students and what their expectations are will enable you to prepare better and ensure a good experience teaching in China.
The type of accommodation should be something else to consider. Some schools will provide accommodation, which will generally have western toilets although this will vary. Other schools may offer an accommodation allowance, where you will need to find your own apartment, but this may work out better as you can choose somewhere based on your preferences. If you know someone else working in the same city, you can usually find a great deal if you get an apartment together.
Before teaching in China, you should familiarise yourself with the differences in cultures. Many expats arrive and experience culture shock. Reading up about the culture and customs and learning a few useful phrases can go a long way and can help you settle down much more quickly.
Once all the formalities are completed, the excitement of packing arrives! It’s important to pack correctly and not to over pack. Due to globalisation, most things will be available abroad too, but it’s worth double checking as some more rural parts of China may not have your favourite shampoo. Airlines also charge hefty fees for overweight baggage so decide whether it’s worth the extra cost. Taking a few essentials is generally sufficient.
Knowing your surroundings and conducting research into the school will not only make you more comfortable in an unfamiliar country but it will also help you to be better prepared for the unexpected!