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Paid Teacher In China

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • The School/Placement

    10

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Pay and Benefits

    8

  • Teacher Support

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

Amazing Experience

My Experience with GeoVisions on my teach program last year was great. I had a culture course online before I went over. It really helped me know what to expect when I got to China. My placement was not exactly where I wanted at first, but everything worked out in the end. I had one hiccup with the accommodation. The previous tenant at my apartment left the place filthy. When I called GeoVision's partner XPloreAsia they were great and took care of it right away and got it cleaned and fixed. Every time I had any issues GeoVisions were always there to support me. One thing that I was quite lucky with is that I got a good Chinese co-teacher at my school. I recommend that anyone teaching in China should definitely make friends with their co-teachers. It really helps to not only make things smoother in the classroom, but also to show you around and help you get used to the local culture. Overall it was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Overall Rating

6/ 10

  • Social Life

    4

  • Health and Safety

    4

  • Teacher Support

    3

  • Pay and Benefits

    6

  • Living Situation

    2

  • The School/Placement

    3

The experience I'll never forget...

I have just spent 12 months living and working in Mianyang, Sichuan, China. Please allow me to preface this by saying that the experience has definitely improved my life- it has forced me to grow and develop, learn an appreciation for the Chinese way of life and its people/culture, and I wouldn't change a thing about what I did. I have no regrets and am grateful for what I have been through.

So, after months of paperwork, I landed in Mianyang and was picked up from the airport. There were communication and cultural clashes from the very first second. Everything was more difficult than I had anticipated, although the support from Geovisions was amazing. I thought that the standard of living there was going to be below what I am used to in Australia, although there were many, many uncomfortable challenges for which I received little assistance. When I was severely unwell, I was taken to a doctor to receive Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) [ie a bag of tea], instead of getting the help I thought I needed. My apartment was absolutely tiny, and although I was incredibly grateful for my western toilet, it was said to be 'fully furnished', which I can vouch that it wasn't. It had a few items (uncomfortable, scratchy linen on the world's hardest bed, an old TV I never used and a tiny chair. The kitchen was impossible to cook in with the lack of equipment (only two stovetops), and the washing machine had definitely seen better days. To top this off, it was snowing when I arrived, and my bedroom had a hole in the wall that led directly to the outside of my building (15 floors up). I received little help from the school. For example. in the first fortnight, my MacBook Pro managed to erase all my data. As someone fairly competent with computers, I knew I needed professional expert assistance. I was told "just to look for someone", by my teacher assistant at the school. I have absolutely no Chinese language skills and there is no English in the city I was placed. I spent many hours of my first month in tears from all of these challenges, but I reiterate that it was a learning experience and definitely what one calls, "character building". I eventually coerced one of the Chinese-English teachers to help me (one of the very few who obeyed the instructions of remaining in the classroom throughout my lesson - most would disappear leaving the kids to run amok throughout my class), and we found someone to wipe all data from my laptop and re-load the operating system (in Chinese).

I had entered the school and met with the few other foreign teachers, some of which were the calibre of people I would readily avoid if I were to meet them in my hometown. However, they were kind enough and provided advice and company when I asked for it. I worked very hard on all of my lessons, but the schedule was incredibly demanding (teaching 24 lessons per week to 24 different classes, each class with ~60 students in it). Teaching exactly the same 40-minute lesson plan 24 times a week is incredibly monotonous and at times, I wanted to just get out of there, it was driving me insane. The kids were friendly and absolutely loved me, although I oftentimes wished for a place where I could get some peace and quiet (constant construction work in the apartment next to mine left me with migraines many days). I was definitely unable to get peace and quiet at the school; of 8000 students in the school, approximately 3000 of them knew my name, so would always run up to me and try to speak to me in Chinese. It had its days where I just wanted to be invisible. However, it also had many days where it was incredibly rewarding and the only acknowledgement for my work was from myself.

As mentioned, there was little assistance when I required it (in finding out how to check and reload my gas and electricity cards, setting up phone and internet, etc), and there was absolutely no notice or organisation of daily changes to timetables, such as exams, swapped classes, sports days, etc. This often left me unprepared for absent classes or spontaneous class changes.

In addition, another point to add is the serious change of diet and food availability. I was given a meals card with the school to eat in the school cafeteria 7 days a week, for three meals a day (in very limited time slots). However, the meals available were not particularly fresh, nutritious or varied. A scoop of an unidentified meat dish and a block of rice was the standard, which was fine (as I am fairly open and non-vegetarian). However, after weeks of these oily, greasy, salty and rather sloppy meals, I wanted a change and was craving some fresher, healthier and a little less-processed foods. I was able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the ground market stalls nearby my school (which I had to have discovered for myself, of course). Washing these caused grief, however, in that the water was so unsanitary for consumption, that I felt the need to cook everything I bought to eliminate the possible bacteria (and kill the bugs), and all I really needed was a salad or some steamed vegetables. Although there are a variety of foods available in the markets, hidden supermarkets, or a bus-ride into Walmart, it was not easy at all to head for a quick fresh or healthy meal nearby my home. Most food I consumed was oily and salty, and having mentioned this, I found I was susceptible to poor diet (and with lack of adequate exercise), and consequently I put on a few extra kilos, but I really wished I had the means and access to healthier food throughout my time.

Having mentioned all of this, I finally navigated my way through it. I faced these challenges and worked my way through them. It gave me a great understanding and appreciation for daily life in China and the Chinese way of living and working. I now have a new appreciation for the luxuries and extravagances of Australian life, and even having mentioned all of these problems, I wouldn't change anything that happened. I have grown from it, I have been encouraged (forced) to learn some Mandarin Chinese just to survive in the city, and I was lucky to get an absolutely true and authentic teaching experience. The city was far from touristy (like in the larger cities of Beijing or Shanghai), and the lack of non-Chinese in the city meant that my appearance was cause for much excitement and talk throughout the streets. I was constantly having photos taken (which became incredibly frustrating and annoying) and people all wanted to come and talk to me, but found it hilarious and impossible to believe that I didn't speak any Chinese at all. They believed I must be fluent in standard dialect, but I just struggled to understand the Sichuanese accent - not the case. I didn't speak any Chinese at all!

I am now home and looking back at my experiences. I know that there is no way that I could write about everything I've done and for everyone to believe some of the things I went through; the banquets and drinking culture, the bizarre business meetings, the lack of need for privacy (I had the principal of a school casually ask me questions whilst looking me direct in the eye as I was using a door-less squat toilet...)

I can't thank Geovisions enough for helping me to grow and learn as I have. I look back and know that had I not applied to them for a teaching position in China, I would have continued along in my administration role in Melbourne and been, honestly, very fed up with it as I was before I left. Instead, I wanted an adventure, a challenge, and I wanted to go and do something exciting to feel alive again. I found this. I absolutely found this. Thank you, Geovisions, for opening up the world to me and giving me this opportunity. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a change, a challenge and a bit of adventure. I have made some new friends for life as a result of my time there, and a lifetime of memories and photos to bring along wherever my journey takes me now. Knowing what I know now, would I go back and do it all again rather than remain in my comfort zone in Melbourne? Probably. Would I go back to the same place tomorrow and do it for another year? I definitely don't plan on it... But let's see where life takes me.