GoAbroad Interview

Shirley Ji - China Expert

Shirley Ji - China Expert

Shirley has spent over two years in Ireland gaining her master’s in international business and global management. She loves travelling, photography, cooking for friends, and is passionate about learning new things. Known for her sense of humor, she often has the Premier TEFL team in fits of laughter. She’s enthusiastic about her job and wants everyone to visit China.

How did you end up working for Premier TEFL?

Premier TEFL is about giving people chance to teach abroad, it’s about giving people the chance to take an adventure too! As a Chinese person in Ireland, I can honestly recommend jumping at the chance to experience life in another country. I joined as the China specialist to help bridge the gap from applicants who want to go East and teach in China; I can share a lot of knowledge to help people decide if they’d like to live and teach English in China. The world is getting smaller and closer now, it’s so easy to mix with new culture with lifestyles, and Premier TEFL helps people to do that, so I love it. That’s the reason why I came to Ireland to study and work, and personally I think it is really worth it.

Woman working in an office
Shirley Ji in the office

Describe your role at Premier TEFL. What does a typical work day look like for you?

My role at Premier TEFL is the China Expert, but I help out in a lot of areas. My main responsibilities are to help people interested in going to China to learn about the lifestyle, culture, work ethic, and of course our traditions. In a way my job is all about customer service, answering questions through live chat, email, Skype, and phone. I’m happy to talk to anyone who hopes to teach English in China!

What is your favorite part of your job?

I really enjoy to dealing with customers by email or on the phone, to figure out what are they thinking about when they ask about TEFL, and I try to help them with any concerns. I also love to encourage them to plan an adventure in their life with TEFL. Plus I enjoy the atmosphere in the office because I have many lovely colleagues.

In your opinion, what is the most unique thing about Premier TEFL?

The most unique thing about Premier TEFL is that our main focus is helping people who are new to English teaching to become certified and get live teaching experience. We have programs for people who are fluent English speakers, as well as non degree-qualified teachers. So in my opinion we really cater for everyone who wants this type of adventure.

You grew up in China and then completed your master’s in Ireland. How do you use your own international study and travel experience to support interns?

I spent my whole life in China, growing up there, which means I can provide more local information for Premier TEFL applicants. And I love travelling around Europe, I’ve been to more than 12 countries in Europe, and I’ve lived in Ireland for about two and a half years now. I totally understand what the customer needs from us. I can give potential TEFL teachers the most genuine tips for moving to a new country with a totally different culture.

Tourist in Ireland
Shirley Ji travelling in Ireland 

What makes China such a great place to be an intern?

China is a big country, and growing fast. Chinese people always pursue high level education: about 300 million Chinese are learning English. It’s a really exciting place to be at the moment. And if there is a native English speaker who can teach English in China, that’s the best.

China is a very welcoming country for foreigners.

Real, local traditional Chinese food has to be tried, and there are so many famous landmarks and views to see, these help to make China to be a great place to intern. Plus, almost everything is made in China which means you can buy things in China much cheaper!.

You are responsible for informing Western teachers of what life will be like in China on the Premier TEFL internship. What cultural differences do you normally highlight? How do you prepare interns for potential culture shock?

Part of my job is to explain things like how we usually eat outside in China, because it’s cheaper and more convenient. Whole families will eat from street food stalls and it’s a social thing too. Chinese are really friendly but some of them may not have seen many foreigners before (as in, never) so I explain how if they stare at you when you walk on the street, that’s normal, don’t panic. There are loads of social activities you can do in China if you want - it’s true we love Karaoke, public transport is convenient, you can go everywhere without having to drive. I can help people get over culture shock if they talk to me with my special Chinese accent! You’ll feel happy that you know what to expect.

Student graduating from University of Limerick
Shirley Ji graduated from University of Limerick

What is your best piece of cultural advice for anyone about to embark on a Premier TEFL internship in China?

In China , we don’t say hello to each other on the street (if you don’t know each other). When I came here to Ireland, people always say “hi, how are you?” to me , which made me feel a little bit uncomfortable at first. So at first, when you move to China, you can simply give a friendly nod to people on the street if they look your way. Also many people ask me about bowing, but you can save this for visiting Thailand. I’ve also just made a week-long online orientation for China for Premier TEFL - you can get one email per day for a week to understand more about Chinese life.

Do you have any packing tips for interns heading to China?

Check which part of China you will go, and find out the temperature. The south and north of China have totally different weather. You definitely want to know if you need a jacket or not! Chinese people always like presents, so you can prepare a little gift (not a made in China one), something from your home country will be perfect to help make a good impression. I always say there’s no need to pack a huge suitcase, you can buy everything in China, unless you are very tall, then perhaps shopping will be more tricky for you.

If you were going to intern abroad with Premier TEFL, which program would you choose?

If I was a trainee teacher at Premier TEFL I would choose the Spain internship. Accommodation is included and you also have monthly stipend which is great. But since I’m not a native English speaker, I am a better fit for the Colombia placement which has really good benefits too.