What it was like for me in China as an English Teaching Intern – Aileen’s Story

Nick Paul

Nick Paul

June 6, 2018

With over of 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s largest country by population, 3rd largest in area and largest again in demand for English education. It’s no wonder then that it draws so many ESL teachers to work and travel there. We’ve always been on the hunt to add value and a unique experience for those wanting to teach English abroad and with China it’s no exception.

Our latest program allows you to work as an intern in China, teaching English. This is a great option for anyone not wanting to commit to a full year abroad while gaining valuable experience living and working in this rising superpower. There are then a wide range of reasons people choose this program, from wanting to benefit from the free Mandarin lessons to understanding the culture which will help them do business in the country in future, to gaining teaching experience for those wanting a career in education.

Aileen from Scotland shares with us about her experience teaching English in China as an intern

We chat to Aileen, an intern teacher from Scotland in Guangdong Province in the South of China about her experience there.

Nick: What were you doing before you moved to China to teach English?

Aileen: I had just graduated university after studying Communication Design and was still working at my part time job as a waitress.

N: So, what made you decide to leave life back home for this adventure?

A: I decided that I wasn’t ready for a desk job and I wanted to travel the world. The only problem was I didn’t exactly have the money for a round the world trip so I looked into TEFL as a way to fund my travels.

Participants arrive in Beijing and are met by a company representative at the airport and then taken to start their orientation before heading off to their placement location.

N: What was it like arriving in the country?

A: The thought of navigating the airport and getting through customs and immigration in a country where I knew exactly 0% of the language scared me a little bit but it actually turned out easier than any other country I have travelled to before.

There was a representative waiting just as I came out of baggage claim and then also our in-country contact Ben was also waiting for everyone at the Starbucks in the terminal with some of the group who had already arrived. We were then taken to the training centre for our orientation week where we learnt a bit about Chinese culture, had some Mandarin Lessons and got to know everyone from the group.

Aileen was placed at a beautiful bilingual school in Guangdong Province in the south of China.

N: Where did you end up teaching exactly?

A: I was placed at a bilingual school in Guangdong Province, not too far from Hong Kong. Guangdong province is in the south of the country so it can be very humid with plenty of thunder storms but it is a beautiful part of China! Our school has one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen with trees everywhere and even a lake on campus.

N: I’ve heard your school was a little different to regular schools in China, what made it special?

A: My School is a private boarding school and is actually one of the top schools in China. The government uses it to test out new teaching methods and exams.

Aileen’s English classroom in China. Aside from teaching English, Aileen also enjoyed weekly Mandarin lessons to help her master life in the country.

N: Wow, that’s pretty exciting to get such a wonderful placement! What was your accommodation like there?

A: Our accommodation is on campus and provides everything we need. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the canteen and are provided as part of our internship contract. If you want to cook for yourself then the apartment does have a kitchen with a hob and fridge provided.

The apartments consist of four bedrooms a communal living room, a kitchen and a toilet/wet-room. The bedrooms each have a double bed and air-conditioning (which is very needed as it can reach up to 38˚c here).

Accommodation is provided in a private room with a double bed with shared communal facilities for teachers on the campus of the school.

N: Sounds pretty comfy! Can you tell me a bit about what an average day would look like?

A: A typical day consists of 5 classes each with 40 students, usually this is broken up into three classes in the morning, a two and a half hour break for lunch (and a nap) and then two classes in the afternoon. The teaching day starts from 8:30am and finishes at 4pm.

N: What were you most nervous about before going over? And how do you feel about that now?

A: I was most nervous about what I would be able to eat as I am allergic to gluten and a vegetarian but this has not seemed to have caused any issues so far. The canteen mainly serves rice dishes and I was able to apply for a meal allowance for the days where I am unable to eat anything in the canteen.

I was also slightly concerned about the language barrier and then I had heard that mandarin is extremely difficult to learn but we are provided with weekly mandarin lessons and our teacher is very good at tailoring the lessons to what we want to learn and need to learn to help us best in China.

South China is really warm, particularly in summer with temperatures regularly high into the 30’s (˚c). You can request where you’d like to be placed in China when applying for the program.

N: What do you feel you’ve learned since starting this program?

A:  I definitely learned a lot about how to handle a classroom. I teach grade one and this can get chaotic at times, especially considering they only know a small amount of English, but I have learnt what techniques work best for this age group and how to keep their attention during the 40 minute lesson.

I realised while on this program that it is important to pay attention to the class as a whole but also to make sure that each individual is following the lesson. There are always children in the class who know all the answers but it is important to encourage some of the shyer children to get involved as well.

I have also learnt a lot about China and the Chinese culture. Before I came here I knew a bit about China but it surprises you every day, there is always something new to learn about this country.

With 5 classes per day of 40 students each, your days can be quite busy. Luckily 3 meals per teaching day are provided, saving you time and much needed travel cash!

N: Sounds like you’re getting into the swing of being a teacher! And, speaking of learning about China, did you get to travel and see more of the country?

A: I have travelled within my province to the seaside town of Zhuhai and also to the nearby town of Zhongshan. I also plan on visiting Guangzhou to properly explore it before I leave China as I have only been there to catch the train.

We had a week vacation time in April for the Chinese Tomb Sweeping festival so myself and a couple of interns took this time to travel up to Hunan province and visit Zhangjiajie. This is where James Cameron found the inspiration for the planet “Pandora” in his movie Avatar and it truly felt as if we had left planet Earth. I will hopefully have time to travel after my internship to Chengdu to see the panda sanctuary and we are looking into travelling across to Guilin during the dragon boat festival.

Aileen was able to take some time to explore Zhangjiajie where James Cameron drew inspiration for his landscapes for the movie Avatar.

N: Wow those are some very exciting plans! What do you plan to do once you’re done with your intern contract?

A: My plan as it stands is to travel to Vietnam to teach English as a foreign language in Hanoi city but I am also considering staying in China for another semester or even another year as I have fallen in love with the country and TEFL.

N: Aileen, thank you so much for sharing with us your experience so far! Thanks for all your wonderful pics too and I hope you have a fruitful teaching career and get to explore plenty more wonderful corners of this world.


Interested in being an English Teaching Intern in China? We’ll send you more info!



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