What it Was Like Teaching English in China – Chelsea’s Story

Travelbud’s very own Chelsea Moses spent 5 years teaching English in China before joining the TravelBud team as a Support Coordinator.

Over her many years of shaping the future minds of China, she has learned a thing or two about a thing or two and in this blog shares some valuable insight into living and thriving in China!

What were you doing before you left to teach English abroad?

I was in my final year of university studying towards a Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSci) in Political Sciences and Policy from The University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa and I was working part time at Lush, a British cosmetics retailer.

What made you decide to leave life back home for the teaching abroad adventure?

I felt like I needed a gap year to travel and my friend told me about the opportunity to teach at his school in China and so I went.

I actually only planned to only stay in China for 1 year but 5 years later

Person in front of fountain in Shenzhen, China.
TravelBud’s support coordinator Chelsea Moses taught English in China for 5 years. She’ll help guide you through everything you need to know to make your year abroad a success.

What was it like arriving in the country? Was there someone to meet you? What happened on your first couple of days?

I arrived at Shanghai airport (the closest international airport to my city. My manager was there to fetch me with a driver. She was as kind in person as she was on the phone and helped me check in and then took me to eat some really spicy food which has now become my favorite food!

I met the foreign manager and some other colleagues the next day and that was all within the first 1 to 3 days and then after that started training. 

Where did you teach exactly

I taught in Jiangsu province, in a city called Wuxi, for 5 years in China. 

What type of school did you teach at?

I taught at a  training center for 2 years, a government school for 1 semester (6 months), a kindergarten school for 1 year and an international school for 2 years. 

What was your accommodation like there? 

The accommodation was amazing. Because the city I was in is a lot smaller and cheaper than Shenzhen, I only always lived in apartments with 2 bedrooms and one bathroom and then 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.

There are only really apartments and villas in China, not really houses with gardens due to the huge number of people. 

What happened on a typical day?

This depends on where you are working in terms of the type of school.

Our Teach English in China program is a government school so I will talk about my typical day in the government school I worked for.

I had no office hours so all the Powerpoint presentation lesson plans I made at home.

If I had a class at 9am, I would arrive 5-10 minutes before and go to class, plug in my USD and teach for 40 minutes.

I had about 4 – 6 classes a day. I taught 21 classes a week and I taught 750 students. This is because I taught all the 8 grade 2, 4 and 6 classes.

Some Chinese schools will require office hours and in that case you will most likely start at 7:45 and end at 4pm or 4:30pm. When you do not teach,  you go to the office and do teacher admin (plan lessons or mark).

What were you most nervous about before going over? How do you feel about it now? 

I was most nervous about living abroad because I had not been abroad before. So I was not sure how I would even buy food let alone get around.

But I was truly blessed to have amazing staff members, with whom I am still in contact. One of them has become my best friend, and I am the godmother of her son.

I also learnt the language, which empowered me to communicate effectively on my own. I have really learned and grown a lot, and I am so grateful to China for teaching me how to be resilient.

What do you feel you learned/how do you feel you changed or grew since teaching abroad?

I became more adjustable and so much more independent and stronger.

Teaching abroad really allows you to discover new avenues of yourself that you never ever knew you had. I would suggest it to anyone. Even in the bad times I was able to reflect and grow and I the person I am now because of it. I also met true friends from my time abroad. 

Did you have the chance to travel during/after your teaching contract?

Yes. I ended my contract in January 2023 and went to South Korea, Turkey, Bali and South Korea again and I plan to go to Macau and back to China again to see my friends. 

What were your favorite parts about living in China? 

  • The convenience of it.
  • I can say with 100% confidence that I have been to 9 Asian countries and 1 European country and China is the most convenient country.
  • You never use your card or cash to pay for anything.
  • As long as you have your phone you can pay, buy food, take a cab.
  • Their online shopping is also super fast and although they are not as foreign friendly as many other countries, they are super developed and surpass all the negative rumours.
  • It is also super safe.
  • The low cost of living as well as the accessibility to other countries makes traveling super easy. 
photos of china

How easy is it to learn Mandarin and could you speak any before you arrived?

I could speak no mandarin at all besides Hello 你好.

It is really hard to learn Chinese as they don’t use the Roman alphabet. They use the Chinese alphabet called Pinyin so there is no such thing as “ABC”.

Also you can only read characters if you know the alphabet.

They say Chinese is the hardest language to learn and I think it’s because of the tones.

There are 4 tones and one word can literally have multiple meanings so if you say one tone wrong, you can be swearing at someone’s mother instead of asking for a strawberry!

It is really funny and I would suggest practicing everyday and not being shy to speak!

Photos of China

What made you decide to work for TravelBud? 

I love traveling but I also love teaching and I just want to help people who share that same passion to feel safe and not overwhelmed.

I was able to figure a lot out by myself so I would love to be that person for someone else to make their experience the best it could be.

What are you most excited for in your new role as a Support Coordinator? 

I can’t wait to learn more about all our programs and the various nuances of each of them and I get to share my experiences and help others experience the personal and professional growth I experienced teaching english abroad.

About Grace Martens

Grace is an enrollments coordinator at TravelBud signing people up to our many programs and helping them get all the answers to the questions they may have about taking the plunge and going overseas for amazing teach English abroad adventures.
Filed under  China 

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