Greetings from China! I signed up for the Teach & Travel Internship in February and am now settled into my placement in sunny Shenzhen! Shenzhen is located just north of Hong Kong and is huge industrial city, supposedly the richest in China. It was the first SEZ (Special Economic Zone) so, as you can imagine, it is jam packed with factories. You know all those things you have at home that say ‘made in China’ on them? Well, they probably started life here!
I live in an industrial (shocker!) district about an hour outside of the city centre. It’s not that great an area but we do have a high street pretty close by, a mountain behind the school and a hilarious roller disco just outside the school grounds. You should see the Chinese teenagers skate! It makes me feel like Bambi.
Before arriving at the school I spent just over two weeks in Beijing for my orientation. I came to China not knowing anyone and with no idea where I would end up working. A lot of people back home thought that I had gone a bit mad to enter into something so blindly but I was quite excited about the prospect of not knowing who I would meet and where I would end up living! Overall, I think things are working out pretty well!
Beijing was a very sociable time and with there being about 80 or so people on the Internship it was easy to make friends and there was always something going on. Being in Beijing was one of the busiest times I’ve ever had. I barely had time to sleep! Not because the workload was too tough though, it was more to do with the everlasting party that seemed to be going on.
Whilst in Beijing I completed my 20 hour classroom TEFL course which was facilitated by James Jenkin. I thought the course was excellent but it really brought home to me the whole reason that I was in China – to teach. It all felt a bit surreal to think that I would be standing in front of a class within a week somewhere in China.
We were given our placements on a Wednesday and then left Beijing on the following Saturday. I was placed with four other interns, one of which I had got to know well whilst in Beijing. I also discovered when I arrived at my school that are two other English teachers who are both from the U.K already working here. Bizarrely, one of them is actually from the same hometown as me. I’m from Weymouth, a small seaside resort in Dorset. What are the chances of that? You think you’re doing something really different then you bump into a neighbour! I think that proves that it really is a small world!
Things in China are never what they seem and forward planning doesn’t seem to really exist here. I got my first taste of this when we were picked up from the airport and realised that there weren’t enough seats in the van for all of us. As a result, we had to take turns to sit on the floor. Although they knew how many people they were picking up, it seems that they just never thought about the logistics of it. I have come to learn that this is very typical! Flexibility is a must out here!
My accommodation is not too bad. It’s pretty basic but I have my own apartment with a fridge and air-con as well as my very own lovely little squat toilet. Nice! If you want to come to China, ask yourself one thing – can I brave the squat toilet for six months?!
So, on to the teaching. I have no syllabus and can literally do what I like in lessons, which is good but also means that I have to rely entirely on my brain. The teaching isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. The kids are so cute and they’re really friendly. I teach grade 1, grade 4 and grade 5. Classes are a lot of fun, especially a couple of my grade 1 classes. The kids are beyond adorable and I actually think that I might love them! Every time I see them around school they all shout my name like I’m some sort of celebrity. It’s the strangest experience!
In typical China style, when I arrived I was given my timetable an hour before my first lesson. Slightly underprepared (to say the least), I walked into the jaws of death; 45 mental 4th graders all jumping around, screaming and massively overexcited. That came as quite a shock, I imagined Chinese students to be really well-behaved and quiet. How wrong I was, how very wrong!
The lesson that directly followed that one couldn’t have been any more different. There were six kids who were all really well behaved and quiet. I was mentally prepared to be faced with a similar sort of class so this threw me completely! Overall, I teach 14 classes and all of them are really different. Some are crazy and difficult to control whereas others are perfectly well-behaved. I really enjoy the teaching and I am definitely hoping to continue with TEFL work after the internship ends.
If you have any questions about the internship so far or any part of life in China, I would be happy to try to best to answer them! I believe you can leave comments below…