Sam Tappenden

My name is Samuel Tappenden, and I signed up for the Teach English In China (TEIC) programme in April 2008. At the time I was studying for my history degree at Cardiff University. I always had a curious interest in China but never really had the opportunity to discover the country more intricately. I was introduced to Professor Phil Thomas through one of my tutors who is a specialist in Chinese history. Professor Thomas was extremely welcoming, upfront and honest about the scheme he was advertising. Initially TEIC seemed too good to be true – a significant amount of financial support, free Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) training and a considerable amount of flexibility of where to teach in China. Professor Thomas worked very hard to ensure I got a placement with my girlfriend, I received the type of place I wanted to teach in and the age of the students I wanted to teach.

There was a certain amount of organisation involved to make sure everything went to plan accordingly. The Chinese visa service Professor Thomas recommended was very efficient and hassle-free, and he was always contactable through e-mail to quickly resolve any queries I had. I also had the support from officials in China with my paper work. Bureaucracy and administration in China is very different to Britain: In China, everything takes a long time to happen, and then things happen all of a sudden. Please don’t let the paperwork put you off – there isn’t that much to do and it’s all very straightforward.

So far I’ve really enjoyed my experience in China and I’m really glad I made the decision to come out here. It was a pretty big decision to make, and one which I was fairly apprehensive (and excited!) about. In the first week we arrived in the capital of Hunan province (Changsha) to complete our TESOL course. The course introduced me to teaching concepts, gave me practice in classroom scenarios and gave me a number of materials to help teach my students throughout the year. The course was really useful, and it was great to meet the other people on the TEIC programme. The type of people this programme attracts ranges immensely – newly-graduates, experienced workers to married couples.

China itself is a fascinating country. Every single person I have met has been incredibly warm and friendly, and I have nothing but good things to say about the Chinese people. There are some questionable social habits, but if you’re like me and enjoy a good laugh and have an interest in different cultures, who cares! I’m teaching in a fairly rural school in South Hunan called Jianghua. I teach fifteen to seventeen year old High School students. Each week I teach twenty classes of approximately sixty students each. The levels of ability range immensely – some students have excellent English, while others struggle. The important thing however is that the majority of the children want to learn and are absolutely fascinated with foreigners.

The children are incredibly friendly, open-minded and well-behaved. For example, each class begins with students standing up, saying “good morning, how are you?” I’m paid 4000 RMB each month (about £320) which of course in British terms is little pay, but considering everything is so cheap here, you can actually live pretty lavishly. The accommodation is clean, spacious with all the fundamentals. We have a big living room, a double bed, a study, a large TV, heating and so on. Accommodation does vary from school to school, but the organisation makes sure it has the basic requirements and is keen to ensure you’re needs are fulfilled.

We have plenty of support and help over here. We are well-looked after by our Chinese teacher colleagues. In your free time you can do a range of things – play sports, learn Chinese, visit local sites, and so on. Teaching in China really is what you make it. The great thing about the programme is that you have plenty of free time. The total teaching and lesson planning time amounts to about twenty hours a week. You also have holidays where you have the opportunity to travel further afield.

I would certainly recommend this scheme to anyone who wants to try teaching, has an interest in China or would like a more meaningful way of travelling. The benefits of the scheme are numerous: You can travel around China, learn Chinese, meet new people, discover the Chinese culture, and improve your confidence and other ‘employability skills’. One of the best parts of all is you get financial assistance and plenty of support at home and abroad.

So whether you’re a newly-graduate looking for an opportunity to travel, teach and improve your CV, or an experienced graduate looking to try something completely different and exciting, the TEIC scheme is definitely for you. The initial effort, organisation and planning may seem daunting, but when you’re here and enjoying yourself, it’s completely negligible. The idea of living in a completely alien country for a year can be quite a nerve-wracking prospect, and the thought of visas and bureaucracy might make you think twice, but look past the initial misdemeanors and you’ll open yourself up to a great opportunity which you’ll be glad you took part in.

Sam Tappenden 05-11-2008

In short:

Pros:

- Plenty of support from Professor Thomas and Chinese people
- A fantastic way to experience Chinese life
- A significant amount of financial benefits
- Free teacher-training
- Meet new and interesting people
- Free time to travel China, learn Chinese and get involved
- A great (and cheap) thing to do for graduates before starting work properly

Cons:

- Organisation and planning
- Initial paperwork
- The understandable fear of living in a different country for a year
- Initial costs