Garry from CIPTC – A Northern English Man in A Southern Chinese City

Hello, my name is Garry. I am 24 years old, and I am from Newcastle, United Kingdom.

I would like to tell you my story!

I am currently sitting in a café, on my lunch break, after a busy (but fun) morning of teaching. Today I have been teaching the students about weather! But let’s start from the beginning.

Just over a year ago, I graduated from university with a Masters Degree in Journalism. Finding a job in that field is particularly difficult for a graduate right now. So I was lost. I had moved back home with my family and was craving something more for the next few years of my life.

I began to apply for jobs EVERYWHERE around the world. I told myself that I would take the first opportunity that presented itself to me. That’s when I heard from CIPTC. Now, let me be clear, I have always been a cautious guy. So getting onto a plane (just 3 months after my job offer) with not much knowledge of Shenzhen, the company, or teaching, was both intimidating and frightening beyond words.

The first two weeks was rough for me. I had never even been to Asia before. I missed my family more than I had ever done in my entire life. But I decided to wait it out, as I knew I’d regret not giving this crazy place a chance. And wow! Things improved very quickly. Soon, I befriended a great group of people who were in exactly the same position as me. We were all experiencing new things together and soon it became clear that I was far from alone. I had a company who were always at the other end of the phone, and a group of friends who could support me and offer some home comforts.

Now before I talk about teaching. I’d like to talk about the city, Shenzhen. I can guarantee that you will have never been anywhere like this in your life. Shenzhen bids all the culture and traditions of china, but also oozes cosmopolitan life. The city is filled with young and determined professionals, as well as families and elders who still hold traditional Chinese values. The skyline is bursting with skyscrapers, apartment blocks and shopping malls. However the scale and density of this unique city means that nature is blooming in every crevasse. There are parks; mountains, lakes, rivers and I even experienced some hot springs earlier this year. The city is without a doubt, beautiful and unique.

When you get allocated a school, things start to become more settled. You finally have a permanent base and a routine. Now, standing in front of 50 kids for the first time can be severely nerve-wracking. But after the first week, it will feel like you have been doing it for years. I think experiences vary from school to school, as all children, areas and age groups can evoke a different style of teaching. But my experience has been so positive. My school has treated me like family. I am the only foreign teacher in a primary school in a small suburb of the city. When I step off the metro every morning, the community knows who I am. The parents, shop owners, the students, all know I am there to teach them English, and make a positive impact on the community.

As a result, they treat me very well. In my first week, I was invited to go hiking with a student’s family; the family could not speak English so the children (who were particularly skilled in English) were the translators for the day. Since then, I have been offered opportunities to get involved with sports teams, Kung Fu, Chinese traditions (such as making fresh tea, mandarin help, and many, many attempts at eating traditional Chinese food) and a range of other unique activities.

I have followed the same routine for the last 8 months and I have loved every single second of what I do. I have never been in a job where I feel like I am making a real impact to people’s lives. The children, the parents and the Chinese people are so welcoming. The kids are so eager to learn English. Now before I finish writing this I want to tell you my favourite story and example of the kindness and innocence the students and families here have to offer…

In china, they don’t really celebrate Christmas. The malls have decorations, Starbucks plays Christmas music, but for the Chinese people, Christmas is just another working day. I was keen to get my students interested and involved in our Christmas holiday. For 2 weeks, in the run up to Christmas I taught every class I had about Santa, reindeer, Christmas dinner, Christmas cards, Christmas trees etc… They loved it.

CIPTC made sure that we had the day off to spend with our friends on Christmas day. It just so happened that Christmas landed on a Friday, so I had three days to enjoy Christmas. I returned to work on the Monday and I have never been so overwhelmed in my entire life. The children had made/bought Christmas cards with their families and brought them to school and left them on my desk. I had almost 100 individual cards with the most amazing messages inside. Some said ‘Hope you can enjoy your Christmas with us in China’, others said ‘Merry xmas’, but the message that touched me the most was from a young girl in grade two. Her message read ‘we know you miss your family. Be happy like me! Happy Christmas!’

These Christmas cards will be the best Christmas present I ever receive I’m sure.

So, it is time for me to go back to work now. I have finished my cappuccino and ate all of my blueberry cheesecake. I could sit here all day and write about the things I have seen and the things that I have experienced but the truth is, everyone has different experiences here. The majority of the stories I here are so positive. It has made me a more confident, humble and all round better human being.

P.S If you are reading this, from the UK or America, take advantage of your favourite foods while you can haha!

Thanks for reading and good luck.

Garry, UK, English Teacher at CIPTC in Shenzhen, China

Credit: CIPTC Shenzhen.

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