My decision to move to China to take up a role as a TEFL teacher came around January 2017 and to many it seemed a crazy idea.
My friends responses tended to vary from delight and excitement to puzzled faces with one friend simply replying “you’re a strange boy Barney” (I assume he was referring to my plans to move away) and indeed such responses are understandable. However for me it made absolute sense as opposed to being in England where I was merely floating, lacking any sense of direction, working in a job which was at best boring and otherwise frankly spirit crushing. I was discontent and eager to take some kind of step for fear of seeing my twenties pass without achievement or enjoyment. Therefore I decided to move abroad to teach English where I could earn decent money and continue my process of figuring out where to take my life, all whilst been in a country completely alien to me.
If I was going to float why not do it China? Besides all the things to see and all the experiences to be had I knew it was an opportunity to learn and be challenged and even open new paths thus helping me navigate my way forward. I was interested in going to Asia and had considered Japan and Korea but eventually I decided on China (Shanghai to be specific) a place I knew little about despite its significant presence in the world and somewhere sure to be vastly different to anywhere I have experienced in my 23 years on earth. 4 months in and I can confidently say it was the right decision and I am now strongly considering staying on for another year. My short time here has consisted of an array of new experiences, a lot of fun and some real challenges (which are to be embraced).
Shanghai is a crazy and exciting city, like no other city I’ve ever been to. It has a futuristic vibe and an international feel with western comforts available should you ever want them. Yet it is still very much China at heart allowing one to really experience this enigmatic and fascinating nation. Moreover Shanghai is probably a good place to ease yourself into China and to use as base to travel around the rest of the country and Asia in general. China is a vast land and the 10 months here is sure to offer opportunities to explore. Within a couple of hours you can be out of the Shanghai metropolis relaxing in one of the many quaint ancient water towns that surround the downtown area. The contrast between these mini Chinese Venice’s and downtown Shanghai offers a small glimpse into how China varies throughout.
Further a field I have already been to Guilin (google it, it’s incredible) , Hong Kong, Hangzhou and have a trip to Vietnam planned for my 4 week winter break. All of these places are just a hop, skip and jump from Shanghai be it by taxi, train or plane. When you are not travelling you will be earning money teaching young school students, which is a unique experience itself and allows you continue to learn and develop employable skills all whilst having fun and travelling. I could go on and on talking about my time here so far and I’m only half way through the 10 months! So come and find out for yourself, I guarantee it’s a decision you wont regret.
Written for The Fewer Things by Barney Goatley - Check out Barney's adventure on his Instagram page @barnog