Amalia Mattock - 2015 Program Participant

Why did you decide to apply for a TEFL program abroad?

After having completed my degree at the University of Cape Town majoring in political science, I felt I needed to experience life in a communist country as much as I could. Having never been to Asia in the past, I decided the 120 hour TEFL course was the perfect opportunity to enter into Shanghai and gain a qualification simultaneously.

View of Shanghai, China

Our view from the school on 28th floor!

Why did you choose TN TEFL Academy?

I chose the 120 hour intensive TEFL course because during my political science studies (with my preferred module focusing on democratic theory and practice) I came to my own realization that the primary mode that change may occur is through the ability to communicate. Communication enables different cultures, religions, and echelons of society to relay ideologies to each other effectively, and ultimately lead to a greater understanding of each other in our globalized modern world.

What was your favorite part about Shanghai? 

Shanghai offered a location to explore the lifestyle in a communist society, which I immediately realized was exceptionally different to those that exist in Europe and Africa (places that I have lived in and had experience in). I loved the contrast between the old and the new in Shanghai, the modern skyscrapers directly next to an ancient temples, and the high tech people who treat each other with old world respect.

What made your TEFL program unique?

The TEFL program run through Teaching Nomad, was different to other TEFL courses that I explored due to the fact that it incorporated actual in-class teaching. Along with this, we were offered Mandarin lessons, in order for us to understand how difficult learning a foreign language is for our students, as well as comprehending the idiosyncrasies of the mother tongue of the students we teach. I quickly came to the realization that an online TEFL program would not substitute for the actual real life experience teaching classes and handling different personalities within the class.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff could not have been more supportive! I was collected from the airport and fully set up in my hotel (which was all organized for me by the staff) with everything that I would need whilst there. The course coordinator Ginger de Ridder not only guided each and every one of us through the extent of the course academically, but also handled each of our emotional "homesickness" with the eloquence of a trained counsellor. Our trainers, Steve and Lisa, prepared myself and my course mates to the highest degree in preparation of our exams as well as our possible careers in the teaching ESL field.

Chinese girl napping on her teachers shoulder

Exhaustion kicking in! A quick nap session before classes!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I would've liked to change is the proximity of my hotel residence to the training school; the trek to the campus everyday was draining. However, it did provide for an authentic experience of the lifestyle of a Shanghai resident.

Describe a day in the life of your program.

A day in the life of my program would start with meeting my course mates in the hotel lobby; inevitably one of us would've overslept, resulting in a mad dash to the metro line where we'd have entered into the full hustle and bustle of everyone on their way to work/school. After a line change half-way through the journey, and eventually arriving at the correct station (which was on occasion missed by us), Starbucks was the first port of call in order to get our Westernized fix of a "venti soy latte."

Upon arrival at the campus (28 floors later), the stories of late nights, lesson planning, family dramas, and exhaustion would be told by myself and my course mates. Once our trainers arrived and lessons started, the day went quickly. After our lunch/dinner break (depending on what time we had started that day), our Mandarin lessons and lesson planning would begin.

During the evening hours the students would arrive at the school and two trainees would teach an hour long class each, being observed by the rest of the trainees and invigilators (as well as being filmed for reflection)! This was usually a pretty nerve wrecking experience; however, once our first class was taught, things got progressively more relaxed. Once these lessons were completed a review of the classes would start, during which each of us would have to critique the trainee teachers of the day and the invigilators would give their feedback as well. The journey home would then start with a quick stop at Family Mart for the acquisition of study snacks before heading home!

A busy street in Shanghai, China

The city buzz!

What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program? 

My favorite activity outside of the program was the Thanksgiving dinner that was organized for us. I chose this instead of a sight-seeing activity because it perfectly illustrates the care and effort that is put into the trainees on the course by the local staff. Although I have never personally celebrated Thanksgiving, it was an honor to be included in the traditions of the American trainees present on the course. A family style gathering at one of the staff members house was organized, where we all contributed to the cooking and festivities. The dinner was a welcome break from the intensive nature of the course and made everyone feel a little less homesick!

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I stayed in a hotel for the duration of the program. This contributed greatly to the suspicions of my friends and family that I'm a bit of a diva (haha). However, it was the perfect environment to live in during a course this intensive, as the time for cooking and cleaning alternative housing would've been limited. Housekeeping was definitely my favorite feature, being the complete germaphobe that I am! I similarly loved having other course mates staying in such close proximity to myself for that late-night ice cream run.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

I have been back in Zimbabwe for just over a week and am already fretting about my next visa to go back to Shanghai. Needless to say, I fell in love with the culture and drive of the city. I have been offered a year long contract with a training center in Shanghai and I absolutely am so looking forward to the experiences that are still to come! Life at home seems to go at a slower pace than normal after the last intensive six weeks abroad, however I am loving the time with my incredibly supportive family as a welcome break and '”reset” period!