Alex Randell

I have spent the last year on the TEIC programme, and chose to spend much of my time learning Mandarin. Personally, I believe that TEIC is an excellent way of allowing people to do this, due to the low number of teaching hours and the location (in my case the centre of Beijing's university district). If you want to study the language, classes are often inexpensive, with even private tuition only costing from 40-60RMB an hour, or you can find a language partner from the all-too-eager Chinese student population. Although its reputation for being difficult to learn is somewhat well-earned, the constant exposure means you are sure to get plenty of practice!

Having studied Mandarin for nine months, I am seriously considering staying on in Beijing or Shanghai to continue my study and gain work experience. Many International companies offer entry-level positions or internships in China in a wide variety of areas, and the opportunity to start my career in one of the world's fastest growing economies is something I am all too keen to exploit!

I decided to join the TEIC program for two main reasons. Firstly, I had just finished university and wanted a change of scenery; a chance to do something adventurous and original for a year before commencing full-time work. And secondly, to learn (or at least begin to learn) Mandarin!

A typical day generally involves two to four hours of teaching work. The common element here is a two-hour lunch break, during which I spend one-hour planning my lessons. In addition, most days I will study Chinese for two hours. Eating occurs either in the campus cafeterias or in a restaurant further afield. I often try and do some sport as well. The campus is relatively large but contains all these facilities: though I often do activities outside, it is nice to have the Beihang 'nest egg' to fall back on.

The lifestyle varies upon the person. Beihang is fortunately situated only a ten-minute walk from the Wudaokou subway stop, which is home to most of Beijing’s foreign students and many expatriate workers, so you can feel back at home surprisingly quickly! Most of your socialising is likely to be with other expatriates due to the language barrier, but due to the mix of nationalities this is interesting enough in itself!

The teaching hours are few, and you have autonomy over lessons, partly due to the lacklustre support materials provided. The students are a mixed bunch; the best classes are bright, attentive, sociable and a pleasure to be around. The worst classes are unresponsive, apathetic and the time drags by.
That said, there are no problems with authority or discipline, even with the worst students.

I would recommend the programme for people who wanted time out and a chance to explore Asia. It is also a good way to get your foot in the door with companies here.I think that TEIC helps build up a level of independence and drive. You have a lot of free time so it's up to you to make things happen. It also allows a ground-level experience of China and through that of many Asian countries.

The accommodation is basic but functional. Every apartment has a television, internet connection (albeit slow!), shower and washing machine. Most rooms are double beds, although some are single.

The lack of formal training hasn't been a big problem. The teaching is mostly in conversational English and main things that need improving are their pronunciation and ability to think quickly in English. If you can come up with interesting ideas to talk about and turn into group work, then everything else will fall into line.

PS. I have just finished a year of working at the EUPIC centre in Chengdu in Southwest China. It's been a really interesting ride, working for a Chinese company is certainly an experience. The Mandarin continues to potter along. Barring any drastic changes, I should hopefully be heading to Shanghai for an internship at an investment bank next month.

I'd be interested in hearing how TEIC is continuing, and I'm happy to try and help out whenever you need. It was definitly very helpful in providing a 'soft landing' into China for me and I'm sure many others. Tom has returned to England and is working at his law firm, but continues to study Chinese in his free time. Others have stayed on or gone back but everyone seemed to appreciate the experience.

If you're ever back in China and want to catch up, I would be more than happy to try and meet up with you.