GoAbroad Interview

Rosie Mansfield - Co-Founder

Rosie has been working in the TEFL industry for more than a decade, dipping her feet in various programs, companies, and ultimately co-founding PremierTEFL. She is passionate about traveling, to say the least, and enjoys any destination with spicy food. Rosie has a bubbly, energetic approach to her work that is infectious among all her colleagues.

Giant Panda Base

You recently visited Premier TEFL's China internship destination. What surprised you most when you arrived?

As someone who’s travelled a lot to Asia, I thought I knew what to expect. But I was wrong. China is even more amazing than I had imagined. Visiting Chengdu in Sichuan Province, there is about 13 million inhabitants – over double my home country of Ireland’s entire population! And unlike similar sized cities in Asia, there is much less of a chaotic feeling in China. If I think about all the millions of motorbikes in Saigon honking horns and filling the streets like a continuous river of motion, it is so different to what I’ve seen in China. It feels relaxed and people are inquisitive and friendly; Chinese people are very quick to help a foreign visitor. 

In the centre of Chengdu city, it’s very clean, organised, and well laid out. The skyscrapers are huge and traffic is mostly all well-behaved cars and buses. I can imagine moving to China as a teaching intern and having much less of a culture shock than in other countries. If an intern were coming from a city in the U.S. or UK, they’d get a sense of familiarity for sure. 

In my travels, I like to experience the traditional side to a country and you’ll find plenty of that in China too. While I was surprised by the city scape that greeted me first, just a short stop away from downtown Chengdu you’ll find ancient monasteries, typical tea houses, and alleyways filled with speciality noodle bars. 

In this part of China interns have the ultimate setting. Teach English in Chengdu and you’ll find a bustling city as the backdrop and an ideal place to visit on weekends (settling any homesickness for Jimmy Choo lovers) that sits perfectly alongside areas of ancient Chinese heritage and culture. China is a must-see, it will not disappoint.

Sichuan spicy beef noodles

What is daily life like for a Premier TEFL teaching intern in China?

Placed in either kindergarten, primary, secondary, or university locations, teaching interns deliver around 15 hours face-to-face lessons per week. With weekends off to explore, an average day may have three hours of class time.

To be the best teacher you can be, preparation is key and you have plenty of time for that. Aside from presentation slides, successful interns will incorporate video, drama, roleplay, photos, and props into their classroom. Games and puppets are also very useful. Teachers have found they need to adapt their lessons once they get to know their students more, so be prepared for this. 

Meals on workdays are provided by your school; it’s a great way to taste as many Sichuan dishes and discover your favourites. Eating in the canteen is also a great social opportunity. Accommodation is usually either shared with other teachers, each person having a private room or self-contained mini apartments for one. Some teachers take care of their own laundry or find it’s cheaper and faster to pop it down to the laundry service. 

For those in university campus placements joining a club or society is a great way to meet new people as develop a skill. Plus since all teaching interns get free language lessons there’s no reason not to say Ni Hao to Mandarin while in China. Most interns will hang out together and make friends with the locals who have the most advanced English. Teachers say that days pass quickly! 

Chengdu city view from Tianfu Square

How are interns supported in their daily life, by local staff and the Premier TEFL team?

Living away from home can be daunting for anyone; moving to the other side of the world is an even bigger challenge. That’s why we have so much support for new teaching interns on arrival and throughout their four and half month stay in China. After a week-long orientation filled with cultural tips, teaching workshops, and fun tourist activities (including the Giant Panda Base), it’s time to go to your placement location.

All interns will have a director at their school to help them during their semester with queries or support. Some schools have a helper for lessons, but as a teaching intern you’re very much one of the school faculty. As a government sponsored internship with the Department of Education, local program coordinators are on hand for extra support. It can be so reassuring to know that there’s someone at the end of a text on WeChat to help with a bump in the road. There is also a teaching expert who can work with interns who are having any classroom niggles. And from our head office in Ireland, if a teaching intern feels that they’d like to talk something over with us, we’re only a Skype or email away.

Side street of Manjushri Monastery

Why is China a unique place for TEFL internships abroad?

As a country that possibly felt “so far away” or inaccessible a decade or two ago, China is now SO accessible to foreigners, and it will continue in this way. Already the local Metro has instructions and stops all in English. Not only that, but they are such a welcoming nation and forgiving of travellers (especially when we don’t know the customs). Knowing what I know now about the people, food, culture, this location, and the experiences waiting for people - it is an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself fully.

Learn and experience this wonderful culture for yourself first hand. And not just as a day-tripper, because you have an opportunity to really capture a sense of all that is so amazing about China. I’d dare to say you have not lived until you’ve been to China. 

What is the best part about the location of teaching internships in China?

Between the city of Chengdu and around two hours outside of it are where most teaching interns are placed. Often people ask us (with fear in their voice), “Will I be placed in rural China?” They recall China from a movie or book that strikes a vision in their mind of rice fields and dirt tracks. What is rural to a Chinese person compared to someone in Ireland or the UK is at opposite ends of a perspective. Small schools in China will still have a few thousand students. When I was a kid there were 50 pupils in my entire primary school! One of our university campus’ has around 12,000 students; you won’t feel isolated. 

The best elements of this teaching internship location are that you’ll have full access to a city that wouldn’t be out of place in the U.S. You’ll have every amenity you need multiple times on the same street. You’ll never feel hungry and you’ll never be bored. Smaller cities and towns provide a cool contrast to the ultra-high skyscrapers in Chengdu.

Sichuan Province is also known for its relaxed and laid back attitude; Chengdunese people know how to have fun. Plus, you’ll also find 80 percent of China’s Giant Panda population call it home as well as some world-famous dinosaur fossils. They liked the area so much they stuck around 160 million years! 

Zigong Dinosaur Museum

Any can't miss activities or destinations in the surrounding area?

  • There are a ton. Too many to mention, but here’s a few:
  • Giant Panda Base (interns go at orientation)
  • Ride the Metro (it’s all in English so explore until your heart’s content)
  • Wide & Narrow Alley is great for food
  • Manjushri Monastery
  • Traditional tea ceremony
  • Afternoon tea in the city centre
  • Zigong Dinosaur Museum
  • Grab a rental Mobike and cycle the city (carefully!) for about 10 RMB
Lunch with our partners

Do you have any insider tips for TEFL interns preparing for China?

I sure do, and some I learned the hard way!

  • Download a good VPN before you leave, if you want to use social media like Facebook (try PandaPow)
  • Try the food before you ask what it is (unless you have allergies of course!)
  • If you like spicy food, then try Hot Pot
  • Try to practice a few Mandarin phrases, like hello, yes, no, please, thanks, bye, and how much, before you go
  • Make some traditional Chinese recipes at home to get your taste buds ready
  • If you’re vegetarian or vegan make some printed signs and laminate them in Mandarin to show restaurants (tofu is eaten a lot in China)
  • Mentally prepare for being a bit famous
  • Bring footwear that’s comfortable for walking
  • Bring typical things from your home to use as props in your class
  • You can pronounce the currency Yuan (RMB) for short, like this “qu-eye”

How does Premier TEFL continue to ensure TEFL internships in China are effective placements for both participants and local hosts?

Sichuan Hot Pot

While participants are teaching interns, their role is very important and the success is measured. Teachers need to be effective to help their students learn more English conversation during their semester. Both school staff and local coordinators will do classroom visits to teachers, sit in on their lessons, and recommend any upskilling support that can be offered where needed. As well as that, visits like mine are designed to see where our program can continue to improve and we set goals to get better results every single semester.

Any new plans you have in mind after your trip?

I do! I have a suitcase full of local knowledge that we’ll build into our pre-departure communications. Already we have a special online China Tour that gives a six-day email orientation to life in China. I’ll be adding new knowledge to this in the coming weeks. We’ll also be in a position of greater expertise when recommending this program to interested applicants. 

At Premier TEFL, we really pride ourselves on advising applicants on the best TEFL program to suit their criteria, so it’ll be a win-win for everyone.