Salvatore is a First Leap teacher from a small town in Massachusetts who just arrived to teach English in China in May 2019. He shares all about his experience arriving in China, being picked up by the Career China on-boarding team, and going through First Leap orientation and training.
I came to China because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to try something new, something that I wasn’t sure I would be able to achieve, and I wanted to follow through with it. Teaching English was the conduit for my path to self-achievement. For much of my life I took things for granted and accepted the easy way of doing things, but now I am taking this opportunity to grow and learn new things along the way.
Some people take direct flights, but most of us had a connecting flight. I flew from Logan to Newark. Newark was where the fun began. While waiting to board, I downloaded a VPN and ate.
The plane situation from Boston to Beijing was complicated but not as bad as you would think. The connecting flight from Logan to Newark was painless and the plane ride to Beijing was better than I expected it would be. Having Career China book my ticket in advance helped alleviate some of the stress of traveling to another country.
Once I was in the airport, I realized I had done everything that I could. My bags were packed and checked (make sure they follow the weight limit restrictions for your airline), the tickets went through, and there were no complications with my passport.
When boarding time came, I gave my passport to the lady and walked on the plane that would take me halfway across the world. I brought a few books on the plane and there were movies too, but in hindsight the best thing I did for myself was sleep. I slept fitfully sure but any sleep will help when you are shifting time zones by 12 hours. Do whatever you need to put you at ease on this long journey!
I arrived at Peking International with a suitcase, a carry-on, and a backpack – I was a foreigner a bit out of place and overwhelmed. At first I couldn’t find my Chinese handlers, but after a few minutes I saw them rushing towards me, anxious to help take bags and welcome me.
We introduced ourselves to one another and they brought me to Maan Coffee while they looked for another teacher who turned out to be my roommate. As I sat in the café I thought about my trip and what it took to get here - I had made it to China . Eventually the on-boarding team came back with the other teacher and we were off to our hotel.
Some of the Career China on-boarding team with new teacher arrivals!
Once back at the hotel, our on-boarding team handled the check-in process and I didn’t have to worry about anything. The rooms themselves were spacious; there was air conditioning, a TV, and a very nice bathroom. Everything was clean and there was more than enough room for two people to live comfortably.
After settling in, my roommate and I went to eat at a place right across the street that our on-boarding team suggested. We ordered sizzling black pepper beef, dumplings, rice, and ice cold beer! Our friends from the on-boarding team were eating at the same time and they ordered us a roasted duck dish as well, and they even paid for our meal! Chinese hospitality is great - thanks Tim.
Because my roommate and I arrived in Beijing one day early, we decided to use our extra day to explore. As we walked through the hotel lobby, we introduced ourselves to the new teachers that just arrived. We then asked Tony where the subway was and were on our way. I was a bit nervous to use the subway, but it ended up being really easy to figure out. Don’t be afraid to go the wrong way - it happens, and it doesn’t cost anything to transfer between lines.
We decided to go to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the heart of Beijing. We got off the subway and walked to the wrong side of the Forbidden City, which if you didn’t know is about a mile and a half long. Undeterred we went to Jingshan Park, which was close by and had a great 360-degree view of the city.
We walked past the monument to the People’s Hero, the massive portrait of Mao, and to the entrance of the Forbidden City. Gate after gate, palace upon palace, the imperial estate, the Forbidden City was incredible. After a long day of jet lagged walking, we went back to the hotel and took a well-deserved shower. This is only the beginning of my time exploring China, I can tell.
On the first day of training, all the new teachers met in the lobby and walked to the subway as a team. Along the way everyone talked to everybody - starting a conversation with the person next to you is the easiest thing in the world. I’m not normally an outgoing person, but because everyone was in the same boat and excited to begin training in China, the conversation flowed easily. Everyone is friendly, intelligent and, most importantly, exactly where you are, so just start talking.
My first impression of First Leap was their professionalism. They formatted training with a great attention to detail and transitioned from one introductory class to the next easily. The information they taught throughout training was very important to building our teaching skills and helpful to our transition in a new country.
Training over the next two weeks was really special, not only because of all the new information, but also because of the process of meeting new people and making friends with them. The orientation environment is one of acceptance and honesty. Don’t be afraid to stammer through your first demo because it will get better as time goes on.
Along the way you will meet the most fascinating people from all over the world; Tims and Daves from London, sarsaparilly Desirray from Houston, Peter (Triple P) from Canada, the genuine and kind Andrea, all of the lads from South Africa, Big Papa Rob, Philosopher Mone, Reserved Sash, the King of Kindness Shaneel, and Spirited James. The best part of orientation was that I made friends with people that I will speak to for many years to come.
Now that orientation has ended, I am sad but also excited to start my journey as a First Leap English teacher in China! I will be traveling to Nanjing and working in the Jianning Center with about 12 other teachers. I am very excited to explore the many temples, hike Purple Mountain, and to see the Great Library, third largest in all of China, and see all the other amazing things in Nanjing. My last note to any reader would be to remember this: you made it to China, so make good use of your time here.
If you want to start your teaching journey in China like Salvatore, check out our available opportunities and apply today!