Claire Campbell - 2015 Program Participant
Great Wall of China - an included excursion on the ImmerQi internship
What inspired your to embark on an international adventure?
We were looking for a new challenge. As qualified teachers we thought this would allow us to develop our skills whilst getting experience of living and working abroad. The companies seemed professional and the reviews positive. Having traveled to China on a previous trip, we thought that this was somewhere we wanted to learn more about.
Why did you choose ImmerQi?
They were linked to i-to-i TEFL, which we had done the online training portion with. They offered the in-country practical training element that we needed as part of the ODLQC accredited course that we were doing. Furthermore, there were included cultural excursions we were interested in such as a visit to the Great Wall of China!
What was your favorite part about Beijing?
Beijing was a perfect mix of modern and traditional.
What surprised you most about China?
Even though I had been before it was still a bit of a culture shock. I looked at China with fresh eyes as I knew I wasn't a tourist on a limited timescale, but was going to be living and working here, amongst the local community for an extended period of time. I was most surprised by how friendly and helpful everyone was and even more shocked when I settled in and felt like I had been here for years!
What are the most unique aspects of ImmerQi’s program?
You get to meet people from all over the world (UK, USA, South Africa, and Australia). You get complete support (24/7) from the moment you leave your home country, and everything is taken care of.
How did local staff support you during your time in China?
There was nothing they wouldn't do, from sorting out rooming issues, getting SIM cards, organising classes and cultural classes, as well as organising and supporting us whilst on placement.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
It was a challenge, but a good one. I've traveled to a fair few places and never have I encountered so many who do not speak at least some, broken English. Here in China you really do need to learn a little of the local language and make an effort to speak to locals wherever you can. That said, everyone is really helpful even if you aren't very good and there is a shared, common language of the smile that can get you a long way!
What's one thing you wish you would have done to prepare for your program?
Learnt more Mandarin before we arrived; it was a bit of a shock not being able to read any of the signs or communicate with locals.
Describe a day in the life of an ImmerQi participant in China.
During training we would wake up in our hotel room and go down to a buffet style breakfast. We would then follow our schedule, taking morning classes in either TEFL training, Mandarin, culture, or orientation. Lunch again would be buffet style before afternoon classes. After some down-time to relax, mix with other interns, or use the internet, we would have a sit down meal with the staff. Late in the evening there would be the option to relax further in the hotel or go out for drinks with staff. There were, however, changes to this day if cultural trips were being organised. There was no true typical day.
Peking duck - the welcome meal
What was the hardest part about earning a TEFL certificate?
Finding the time to complete it whilst balancing a full-time teaching job in the UK was a real challenge. Once I made the time I really enjoyed it and enjoyed learning more about my own language.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before going to China?
I wish I had appreciated the language difficulties a little more. As an English speaker I am very fortunate that wherever I go in the world there is always someone who speaks English and most of the important signage is in English too. This is not always the case in China, and therefore I know I should have put a little more effort into learning some basics in Mandarin before getting out here, it makes all the difference.
What was your favorite part of the program outside of your placement?
The cultural trips where we got to mix with the interns and staff, learning about the culture and history of China.
What was your accommodation like?
During training, a hotel room with all the key facilities (except no WIFI, it was wired access only). We then had an apartment on placement.
Would you recommend your program to others?
Yes, I would definitely recommend this program, especially for those who are unable to commit the time to planning it themselves, are single, or are not confident in taking what is a really huge first step. Once on the program they will meet so many others in a similar position, will gain a universally important qualification, and opportunities will constantly open up to them. It is a life-changing opportunity.
Typical Chinese street where we tried scorpion!
What do you feel the biggest benefit of earning TEFL certification is?
I feel the biggest benefit has got to be the international job market and opportunities that are now open to me. I have the potential to work all over the world in both paid and volunteer positions. Furthermore, I have the opportunity to teach English, which is the most globally important language of the 21st Century. I believe education can make a difference to the lives of young people and to be able to access this education (often for free via the internet) then an understanding of English is required. Not only all this, but it provides a vehicle with which I can continue to travel.
If you could go abroad again, where would you go?
Luckily this isn't an “if” for me, but hopefully a way of life (at least in the short-term). Next I shall be off to visit some more of Asia (Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka) to use my TEFL qualification I gained in China for good by volunteering in some of the poorest communities. I shall continue this volunteer work in South Africa too.