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My year in China and why I'm doing another

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Around March time in your academic year in China, your school or agent will typically ask you to stay or look to relocate you if you so wish. It was one of the easiest decisions I ever faced as to whether I wanted to stay in China or not.

Beside the freedom you get to travel and the everyday adventure of living in a new culture, you get a lot of job satisfaction as a language teacher. Don’t be mistaken, teaching isn’t for everyone. Some people find it very difficult and some simply find being away from home too hard. It is a big step to move half way around the world but the biggest risks always yield the biggest rewards.

One of the difficulties I found was the language barrier whilst teaching. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to act something out or say it slowly, the students won’t have a clue. This can be frustrating in the beginning especially if it’s a key point of your lesson. Toward the end of it though you will begin to laugh about this type of thing more often.

Even these people take away so much experience and tons of memories. Every day in your job you’re faced with children with who want to learn from you and find you fascinating; they want to be able to converse with you, learn your culture and share theirs.

Children are children. They will frustrate you at times but there are times when they will amaze you. The laidback attitude toward your class means the children, given time as they are usually shy at first, feel very comfortable expressing their personality in your class. When the children who are quiet come out of their shell, down to your teaching, it is incredibly gratifying. This job satisfaction is something which is missing from the 9-5 rat race graduates are faced with. All too often people are expected to land on their feet after university with a high paying job when the reality is these jobs don’t exist.

But sometimes we find what we don’t want to do. I knew I never wanted to work in retail ever again when I left University. I know some people who left China saying they wouldn’t want to teach again although they were so grateful they did it. As well as this, having it on their CV stands out so much so that 20% of grad jobs suddenly becomes much more attainable. Employers value people who can take risks and work in new environments.

As touched on earlier, the ability to travel with this opportunity is something which makes it stand out too. Being based in South East Asia means flights to places like Bali, Vietnam,Thailand and Malaysia are very affordable and convenient enough to do on a long weekend. In one year you could easily expect to visit 4 countries which would be otherwise impossible and usually take a year of hard saving.

Whilst I continue to build experience on my CV and travel the world, I’m enjoying learning a new language and finding out about a new culture. You can send money to your English bank account every month too, to dispel the myth that it’s a gap year thing that will leave you broke and is a waste of time after uni.

Much like any job you’ll find problems and stuff you would change, but you being responsible for a student finding a passion in your class is pretty cool, and coupled with the ability to see the world and meet like minded people whilst doing so means like me, many people will do a second year and possibly more.

Written for The Fewer Things by Billy Odonovan - Check out Billy's adventure on his Instagram page @odonovanbilly


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