- Meleri Haf Roberts-Hicks and Jasmine Liah Collins
If someone had told us at this time last year, ‘by next year, you will be teaching Oral English, in China, to a class of 60 students’ – we never would have believed them. We had never considered visiting China, let alone living and teaching here. When Phil came to Aberystwyth University to discuss TEIC and inform us what the organisation was all about, we became more and more curious, and decided to contact Phil to ask further questions. He was more than happy to guide us through the steps, which led us to Jasmine Hagger – who has been an enormous help to us. Then before we knew it – we had a Skype interview with Lany, and had been accepted to teach in China!
As we are friends from home, our request was to be placed at the same school. Luckily for us, we had no problem with our request and Lany had succeeded in placing us in Changde No 1 Middle School, Hunan Province. We were giving an apartment on campus for free, which is very convenient to get to classes.
We must admit, we had never heard of Changde before. When you think of China, you automatically think of the bigger cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing. But even with all the research we had done on Changde, nothing had prepared us for what it’s truly like to live here. It is considered a ‘small’ city with a population of 4 million, which is bigger than the population of Wales. At home, we live in a small Welsh village – which is a complete contrast! If you’re really looking for a real challenge and to experience the full Chinese culture, then the smaller cities are a great option.
When we first arrived 6 months ago, neither of us had any previous teaching experience. It was very daunting and scary at first, especially with 60 students staring at you! What we recommend is to keep lessons simple, and talk about your experiences. The students are so welcoming and eager to learn. They love to hear about western cultures and are fascinated by our way of life. Some of the students had never seen a foreigner before, so get ready to be asked lots of questions and to take pictures!
Every single day here is different. You cannot get bored, as there’s so many new things to discover. Get involved with the culture, try the local cuisine (even if it doesn’t look very appealing), go visit the sights. One day you’ll look back and be able to say ‘I can’t believe I lived in China!’ We still can’t believe it ourselves, but just think – this time next year you could be here too.
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