Beth is a First Leap China teacher from Nottingham in England, UK. She graduated in 2017 from Staffordshire University in England with a First Class Degree in BA Hons Photojournalism. She shares about her experience moving to China, how Career China and First Leap helped her settle in, and what her new city is like!
After graduating in 2017 and moving back home, I jumped around jobs not being settled and content with what I was achieving in life. I had always known I wanted to travel and a few holidays a year wasn’t quite cutting it. I had seen many recruiters advertising teaching jobs in China and it was something I had considered for over a year before applying. I am very close to my family and China seemed so far away, but sometimes you have to be a little bit selfish and at the end of the day I knew my friends and family would always be there when I returned. One day I plucked up the courage to apply and in less than 24 hours I heard back with an interview date. The process was overwhelmingly fast.
I had heard so many positive stories about teachers that had moved to China to work with First Leap. First Leap had such a large social media following and intriguing blog which enabled me to read up about the company and watch the lives unfold of the teachers who were currently in China. Everything appeared to be very positive and structured which made me feel less anxious about the move.
I flew to China at the beginning of November to begin my training in Beijing with First Leap. Now, I have settled into my teaching city, Qingdao, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.
The recruiter experience was so smooth and everything happened at such a quick pace. There was always someone available who responded exceptionally quickly to any questions I had. Once I had been offered the position, I found it comforting that Career China had a Facebook group for each month that a bunch of new teachers were heading out to Beijing to begin training. This enabled everyone’s inquiries to be answered and we could speak to other people we would later be training with and meet people also teaching in our city. Career China also posted useful links and articles about life in China, important information and other teachers experiences.
When going through the Visa process I was allocated a Visa Case Manager who helped me from start to end with exactly what documents were needed and when. She responded to all my inquiries and kept me up to date. I also got emails and texts with updates so I knew how far along the visa process I was. My TEFL training was smooth and Career China sent me the link so I could begin my training.
**Learn more about the Documents to Prepare for a Chinese Work Visa
Career China were waiting at the airport with a sign for myself and 5 other extremely tired new teachers that had just stepped off various flights from all over the world. They helped us get to the mini bus with all of our luggage and took us straight to the hotel. We were then taken on a short tour of the surroundings of the hotel and the metro station. In all honesty this was a bit of a blur as we were a bunch of severely sleep deprived people who just wanted our beds, a shower and some decent WIFI.
When our training was complete in Beijing, all 30 of us headed in different directions all over China by various planes and trains. We were all taken by a mini bus to either the airport or the train station that would lead us onto our next adventure. Myself and 2 others hopped on a 4 hour train to Qingdao. Upon arriving, the Foreign Affairs Manager for our city met us at the train station and escorted us to the HQ First Leap Center in Qingdao where we would be observing for a short while. We dumped off our luggage after a short tour and headed out apartment hunting.
Unlike some other ESL teachers in other cities that had been put up in a hotel for a few days, we had to find an apartment on the day we arrived in the city. Our Foreign Affairs Manager had got us in touch with an estate agent prior to coming to Qingdao who showed us some potential apartments we could view.
As my First Leap center was quite far from the HQ center, I wanted to ensure I was living nearby my work, which also happened to be near the sea, so I went off alone to an estate agent to find an apartment (not my brightest idea). This was probably one of the most daunting things I’ve ever done. 8 hours later, a dead phone battery, no apartment in sight and a difficult language barrier to overcome, I thought I’d made the biggest mistake. Luckily my agent gave me a portable phone charger and I could communicate via a translator exactly what sort of apartment I wanted. I knew I wanted to live by the sea, have a nice view and live in a modern and clean place.
The last apartment viewing of the day came and I was in awe, I knew it was the one. After 2 hours of sleep and an empty stomach, I signed the contract, went back to the HQ center to collect my luggage and moved in. I was in love with my apartment, I had a view of the sea, May 4th, the Olympic stadium/rings and torch. I was lucky enough to realize that every night the buildings near the sea lit up and I had the most amazing view of this from my bedroom window.
**Read all about how to rent an apartment in China!
Learning the ropes of your job:
Every center in every city is different. I was lucky enough to not get thrown into the deep end and I observed a great deal of classes before having to teach any classes of my own. Every Wednesday and Thursday we have training which enables us to learn more about our job and practice and discuss some lessons. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and offered to help in any way they could.
There’s so many things I love about living in China. Firstly it’s SO cheap. I can get a wash/cut/blow dry for as little as £2 (back in the UK this would be around £30). You can get a taxi for around 45 mins which would only cost about £4.50, in the UK this would be anything above £35. You can go 15 stops of the metro for around 40p and the food is incredibly cheap.
Secondly I love my working week, I get Monday’s and Tuesday’s off and don’t start until 3:30pm on a Wednesday, which enables me to travel around China on my weekends. I’m only a 1 hour flight away from some amazing places, such as Shanghai and South Korea. I love the fact that everyday there is something else that shocks you and makes you giggle... you can buy turtles in your local supermarket, you’ll walk past a bunch of dancing Grannies in a square and you’ll find lots of intriguing things on restaurant menus such as pig brain, chicken feet and intestines.
Be open minded because you are in a new culture. In China, you cannot flush toilet paper down the loo. Instead it goes in an open and visible bin next to the toilet, this includes sanitary wear. FYI, you have to supply your own toilet paper (I’ve been caught out a few times). And 9/10 times you visit the bathroom in China, you won’t be greeted by a standard Western toilet, but instead a squatty potty. It is also very difficult to find deodorant in China and on the rare occasion that you do find it, it’s very pricey. Christmas songs are played throughout every month of the year. It’s normal to hear “All I want for Christmas is you” in June. People can smoke pretty much anywhere in China from hotels to restaurants, bars and apartment complexes. There’s also no legal age limit to drink alcohol in China. I went to the beer museum in Qingdao and saw kids as young as 7/8 necking pints.
However without all of the above, I’d have no stories to tell. Travelling is all about making memories and filling your life with never ending stories.
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Expats moving to China should take some time to understand some Chinese culture facts & differences they may encounter.
Who knew that a casual bet with my friend in the UK would take me on an adventure through China and beyond.
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