New Experiences – Teaching English in China

By Eleanor Hutson, 3rd Year Chinese (modern language and classical literature)

Teaching English in a foreign country was not something I had given much thought to until last summer when I was scouring for new job experiences and internships. So what made me decide on an internship teaching English in China?

Applying to “Teach English in China”

Having spent my third year studying Chinese at SOAS University, I was looking for  experiences that would supplement my undergraduate studies and help me develop new skills and improve areas I felt I was lacking in (such as public speaking and leadership skills). Teaching seemed like the ideal choice for filling those requirements. I’ve assisted teachers in school before, so I felt encouraged by this and also thought it might be fun to get insight into different educational systems.

Amongst many teaching internships available online, Teach English in China’s“Summer Teaching Internship” caught my attention. The company is run by former teachers, so it seemed trustworthy. The programme not only offered the experiences and opportunities I was looking for, but they also covered many living expenses in China. Additionally, the internship was not too long, only a fortnight, and it was in a place that I hadn’t been before, Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. 

My Companions 

Although the internship was only 2 weeks long, I found there were plenty of opportunities to learn new things and make new friends. Some people who participated were teachers in training, whilst others, like myself, had little prior experience. Some had been to China before while for others this was the first time. 

Most people at the camp were people on the same internship coming from the UK. I did meet other people from across the globe, from New Zealand, Samoa and Pakistan. Each teacher was given a Teaching Assistant, who helped with classes and acted as a translator for when things were too difficult. I was able to become close friends with my TA despite the short time period.

Everyday Tasks

The camp itself was intense but rewarding. We prepared classes, taught classes, and supervised students. A typical day would be to leave our accommodation by 7:30am. We would arrive around 7:50 just in time to prepare materials then teach the first lesson at 8am. 

Most teachers had 3 classes of two 40 minute sessions (equating to 1 hour and 20 minutes, with a 10 minute break in between) a day. I had two Grade 5 classes and one Grade 6 class (roughly 11-13 years). 

At 11:30 we would break for a 2 hour lunch, in which you could also prepare for the next few classes, chat with colleagues or sleep (if you had nothing to do). The afternoon consisted of more teaching, but around 4:30pm there were exiting extra activities for everyone.

We would be given dinner at the school, before heading back to the hotel where we would spend our extra time either relaxing, shopping or preparing for the next day’s lessons.

Food and Accommodation

The school canteen kindly provided us with lunches and dinners. There was a mixture of Chinese and Western food, such as Sweet and Sour Chicken, Egg Fried Rice, Deep fried Chicken, Chips etc. 

In terms of accommodation, the school had also arranged for us to stay in a hotel nearby, only a 15 minute drive to school. It was also a little bit further in the town, so we could access convenience stores and Dairy Queen!

Challenges and Rewards

I found preparing for classes challenging because we had to come up with our own topics, make them interesting as well as understandable. I also found class maintenance difficult during game times, particularly because of some language barriers. (Though our teaching assistants really helped in these scenarios.) Finally, I discovered that quite a few students would feel upset if I hadn’t chosen them to answer questions. I had to balance allowing eager students to answer questions and giving quieter students opportunities to succeed.

The most rewarding aspects to teaching the students English, is that I was able to teach them about different cultures and feel that I was aiding their personal growth. I was able to meet new friends from this experience and appreciate distinct cultural differences between British and Chinese teaching systems.

Advice for Future Participants

Teaching is a likely road to success, however whilst I found this experience to be extremely enjoyable and valuable, I am still searching for a role in society. 

I am grateful for the chance to expand my horizons and learn about working outside of the UK. My advice to future participants would be to try a new experiences, don’t be afraid about the challenges because Teach English in China has many people and friends there who will support you.Enjoy a different experience!

Programme page for this program: https://teach-english-in-china.co.uk/our-programmes/summer-teaching-china/

Students can apply here: https://teach-english-in-china.co.uk/apply/

Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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