Louise is on the China Internship… and she’s got a few things to share with you! Read on to discover how Louise is settling into her new Chinese lifestyle and how it is a far cry from her native Ireland!
Where are you originally from? Cork, Ireland.
Where are you now? Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China!
Why did you decide to look at teaching English? I went into University with a big question mark over my head in terms of what I was going to do with my life but I kind of shoved it to the back of my mind in first year and just concentrated on university life. Realising how fast the semesters were going I made the decision one day to sit down and work out what to do with myself afterwards-otherwise I’d be graduating before I knew it with no future prospects. So I sat in front of my laptop and quite literally Googled the phrase ‘jobs with an English degree’. I can’t remember where specifically on the internet but I came across the idea of teaching English as a foreign language and thought ‘hmmm…….that looks interesting……’
I did some research, and pretty much the more I read the more my interest grew and the rest is history!
What attracted you to the China Internship in particular? There are a number of reasons why I chose the internship as opposed to finding work independently but my two main reasons were:
1) I like to think of myself as being very independent but at the end of the day I was moving to another country on my own so I wanted some support.
2) If I didn’t like teaching, China, or teaching in China for any reason I wouldn’t have to commit to a whole year.
What age students are you teaching? I’m teaching Grades 7 and 8, so my students range in age from 12-15 (a lot of them look much younger though!).
How are you finding the experience of teaching?
So far I love it! My students are for the most part very enthusiastic and cooperative which makes things a lot easier. They have a good enough grasp of the English language to understand the gist of what I say so I can tell them to do something and they’ll get right on with it. I feel very comfortable speaking to/leading the class and I get a great adrenaline rush from it. I think I would prefer smaller class sizes though. It’s hard work trying to manage forty five teenagers who don’t speak my language.
What is the cost of living like in China? Do you have enough money to keep you afloat?
Things are ridiculously cheap here! For example a 4.5 litre bottle of water costs 9RMB (that’s about 90 cent!) in my local shop. Busses cost 1RMB and the metro in Chengdu is really cheap at 2-3RMB each way. My school provides me with three meals a day too which is really handy as I don’t have to spend money on food/worry about cooking during the week. However I would recommend having some money saved up before you come out here so that you can travel and see more of China.
What do you do and who do you socialize with in your spare time?
Well, on weekday evenings my friend Nicole and I spend our time lesson planning, web surfing, watching tv/movies and just generally chilling out. On Wednesday nights we head to our local watering hole Shamrock to meet our fellow interns and see what they’ve been up to during the week. The past few weekends have been spent meeting up with our friends and exploring the city, although now that we’re settled in we’re going to start planning more cultural outings!
What to pack/not to pack?!
Ok, I’d recommend bringing a laptop (with some movies/tv shows loaded onto it to keep you sane in those first few days when you may not have the internet at your apartment), over the counter medication (Panadol, Nurofen, Motilium, Imodium, etc.)one or two ‘teaching outfits’, Blu-Tack, pictures of family/friends/pets, skincare products (a lot of these contain ‘whitening agents’ here, which I think is just a fancy way of saying ‘bleach’), deodorant and some home comforts like chocolate, crisps etc. Everything else you can pretty much find out here!
What is the best thing you’ve discovered about living in China?
I love the fact that China is so different from Ireland and yet after just six weeks of living here it’s starting to feel like home. Chinese people are the nicest people I’ve ever met-they’ll do anything they can to help you. Oh and the food is amazing too (especially the pork buns!)
How would you rate the experience out of 10 so far?
My experience has been great so far and I don’t regret coming to China, but I knocked off a point because I do feel a little bit isolated at times. This is purely because of the language barrier-the other teachers don’t speak to me much in school and I can’t talk to my neighbours. If I didn’t have my western friends with me I think I’d be miserable.
If you had one piece of advice to give to someone thinking of embarking on a TEFL adventure – what would it be?
Stop thinking about it and DO IT. If you keep putting it off by saying “I’ll think about it”, before you know it, twenty years will have gone by and you’ll still be thinking about it. Make the decision and go for it. Even if you hate it, isn’t it better to find that out now than to spend the rest of your life wondering “what if……..?”
Random question time:
Window, aisle or middle seat on a plane? Aisle seat for the simple reason that I have the bladder of an 80 year old and don’t want to disturb people in the middle of their naps!
Are you the same person as one year ago?
I honestly don’t think I’ve changed that much in the past year. The only significant difference that I can think of is the fact that now I know that I want to be a teacher! I’m much happier too-I’d say I’ve laughed with genuine amusement more in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings? I have my ears pierced which is as far as I’m going in terms of having needles poked through my skin for the sake of it. I don’t have any tattoos but I would like to get one someday.
If you could take three things with you on a desert island what would they be? Excluding a boat (I know, I’m hilarious) I would take my kindle, my laptop (yes, the island has Wi-Fi) and a LOT purified water!