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8 days, tons of questions, nervous


Keenan
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Hey guys, I'm looking for an opinion on my situation from other people interested in learning Chinese and/or teaching English in China.

 

I graduated from university two years ago with a major in History and Biology (I'm 26 now), and seriously considered teaching English abroad, either in Korea or China. I'm much more interested in Chinese, since I took first year Mandarin at school, and the culture tickled my curiosity. 

 

I ended up working for a large telecommunications company. It's really not bad, decent pay, full benefits, long term growth opportunities, and I have carved out a niche there over a year and a half, learned lots of industry skills. At the same time, my friend began teaching English in China (Xian), having two brothers already married and working there long term. She convinced me to get a visiting visa and stay in her family's building until I can find a job there. They say it's quite easy, and also perfectly legal, to simply go to Hong Kong to apply for a work visa upon finding a contract. Take into account, after paying out all my expenses here, I would be going with only $3000 Cdn to my name, and no idea what I'm doing.

 

So.. it's a bit of a risk. All these thoughts are flying through my head. Is this a good career choice? Is it safe? Will I really be able to find a job there? Will I enjoy myself? Will I be able to study Mandarin there? Crunch time is here, and I really only have 48 hours before my boss needs the final decision..

:lol:

 

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I ended up working for a large telecommunications company. It's really not bad, decent pay, full benefits, long term growth opportunities, and I have carved out a niche there over a year and a half, learned lots of industry skills.

 

Assuming this is in your home country (Canada.) Is that correct? Sounds pretty good. Do you really want to throw it away?

 

Is this a good career choice?

 

To just quit and move to China to work as an English teacher? Answer: Nope. No way.

 

Will I really be able to find a job there?

 

With no particular qualifications and no experience? Maybe. Maybe not. Doubt it will be a good job in a good school.

 

Will I be able to study Mandarin there?

 

This is the only question that gets a yes.

 

Will I enjoy myself?

 

Ever been to China before? Some people love it, others hate it. Hard to predict.

------------------------

 

All in all, it sounds like moving would re-unite you with your girlfriend and let you study Chinese while living in China. That's about all. Is that enough? Only you can say.

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Which boss? It's never ever a good idea to let your current boss know you're thinking of leaving, unless perhaps you're angling for a raise. Otherwise you're a marked man.

It all comes down to how happy you are with your current career track. It doesn't sound like you're in bad position.

The main problems are:

A. Teaching English in China will be regarded as a step down from your current position, which has responsibility and potential.

B. After you've gotten China and teaching out of your system a couple of years down the road, it'll be difficult to resume where you were in Canada.

For a lot of people who teach in China, the problem is less the teaching but the What then? And that's where I think you should focus in making your decision.

 

(I'll add in light of the previous comment that your friend obviously would like you to join her, and thus has an incentive to gild the lily a bit about life in China.)

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If your friend hadn't taken the time to convince you, what would you be doing? Sounds to me like you should stay put, take a trip or two out there to check it out, maybe invest in some Chinese tuition, then decide. Also, there have been recent reports that it's not as easy to get the working visa in Hong Kong as it was. If your friend has more recent and more local info, great, otherwise be aware it might not be that simple. 

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Is it safe? Will I really be able to find a job there? Will I enjoy myself? Will I be able to study Mandarin there?

Yes.

Is this a good career choice?

No.

 

If you're unhappy with your current job and have an itch for leaving, you can consider going. If you're generally happy where you are, take a good long holiday in China because it's a great place, and then return. If you'd like to spend more time there and study Chinese/teach English, perhaps you can ask your employer for a period of unpaid leave? Perhaps not yet, since you haven't been there for that long yet, but you can keep this in mind as a possible future option.

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"Good career choice" and "good life choice" aren't necessarily the same thing. At the same time, if you're reasonably happy where you are right now, it might be wise not to make rash decisions that you could end up regretting.

 

I'd second the advice to visit first and get to know the place a bit before making any irreversable decisions.

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I'll add my voice to the chorus. Don't just throw yourself into this. But, if you have already decided you're going, think carefully about setting goals and time limits before you go, and stick to them. Teaching English for a year in China would have quite different consequences for your career compared to teaching for five.

 

Best of luck   

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Thanks for all the responses. I think yes I am interested in it even without her prompting or else I wouldn't feel so conflicted.

 

Just a few details. I have been to China: Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai, and I really enjoyed myself. However, the experience is going to be drastically different from living and teaching there. 

 

The girl's school is an adult professional school willing to offer me a position if I complete an online course there. So it's not exactly a bad school from the sounds of it. 

 

I do eventually want to go to grad school, and thought teaching abroad may give me an indication whether or not I'm cut out for teaching. So it certainly wouldn't be a long term thing. 

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"Are they charging for this online course?"

 

Good question.
 
You don't pay to teach in China! They pay you.
 
And I've never heard of a school requiring you to take their course before you can teach there.
 
Scam alert.
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I wouldn't say "scam alert", I'd say "be on alert for scams". If it's a free course they provide for all potential teachers, I don't see any reason to be suspicious. Maybe it's just an extra stage you have to pass before they're willing to make the investment to fly you out to China, sort out visas and other paperwork, etc. - in that case, it's probably a smart move on their part.

 

As soon as they ask for money, though, that's a red flag. Don't pay them anything.

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I've heard of plenty of schools that require you to complete some initial training (online or face-to-face). Not (necessarily!) a scam, but as Demonic_Duck says, be alert.

 

OP - have you considered finding a short-term contract to try first? That's what I did, I signed up for a 6-week summer course to see if I liked teaching or not. Loved it, signed up for further contracts, ended up staying a few years.

 

And if you intend to be a 'proper' teacher (i.e. you're willing to retrain and earn the right qualifications) then you can make a proper career out of it, so you don't necessarily need to worry about stepping off the career ladder. Done properly, you're just stepping onto a different career ladder. I did this - left behind a 'good' (science) career to teach in China. Now back in the UK, teaching, no regrets, and earning more than I did when working in biotech.

 

Major caveat: in China it's really easy to fall into a going-nowhere english teaching job, where "teaching english" = performing monkey. Go for it, but do your research, be careful, and start with a short-term contract if possible!

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OP, did you end up deciding to try for China? I'm inclined to agree with the posters above who say that this seems like a poor career move: many people who spent half of their 20s teaching in China would dearly love to be able to get a "not bad" job in their home countries offering "decent pay, full benefits, long term growth opportunities" etc., but are suspect to employers. In general, TEFL experience is not looked kindly upon by employers in English-speaking countries. A long-term, active interest in China and Chinese language, however, can be quite an asset, sometimes in surprising ways. In your shoes, I'd think hard about finding other ways to get actively involved with China, with short-term intensive language courses in the country being perhaps a place to start.

 

If you do decide to spend part (or all!?) of your career teaching in China, I strongly suggest the elite (public or private) middle/high school subject teaching route. You have a background in Biology and History, two subjects (esp. the first) for which English-speaking teachers are in demand in high-end Chinese schools. Your salary and advancement prospects over the long-term as an English-speaking science (or other subject) teacher are considerably higher than they would be as an EFL teacher, and the work would likely feel more meaningful and interesting.  Also, teachers at academic schools typically have more relaxed schedules and much longer vacations than language mills or "adult professional schools" or the like. If learning Chinese and engaging with the culture are priorities to you, you don't want to be teaching lots of exhausting generic EFL conversation classes on split shifts and having only 10 days of vacation a year.

 

Note that you will need to get a teaching certificate at some point, sooner the better, if you want to pursue this route.

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