1. What makes you come to teach in China?
I came to China because during my time teaching ESL in America, I had the opportunity to teach Chinese business men and women who were taking business classes at the university where I was teaching. I wanted to come and experience their home and have a complete cultural exchange. In addition, the job market for teaching in China is fantastic.
2. What’s your overall experience with ISAC?
Wonderful. I really love the people at ISAC and the support they provide. The help and support they provided me during job search and then when I arrived was so necessary. It really made a difference to have between me and the school who was really looking out for me and had my back. Plus, they are such fun and welcoming people. I just wish I had more time to visit the office, but my school keeps me really busy – which is a good thing!
3. What are the things you like/don’t like about the school/the city?
I love teaching at Hangzhou Normal University – it gives me freedom to create my schedule around what works for me. I still stay quite busy though. I enjoy living on campus and having a built-in sense of community. My students are the BEST. The connections and friendships I have created with them are so cool.
One thing I don’t like is how removed we are from the city. We are a little on the outskirts, and it is inconvenient to go places. However, there is a Metro line that is opening this year right by our campus and that will really change a lot as far as accessibility, so that really won’t be as big of a thing next year.
4. Are there any activities/events at your school?
Oh yeah! Since it is a University, there are a lot of performances, sporting events, competitions, etc. Which you could go to as many as you want! All of the teachers have to have what we call “English Corners” which are casual settings for the students to practice their English. One teacher has a gaming club where they play a DnD type game. Another teacher has a travel club where they go see local Hangzhou sights. I go to the coffee shop on campus and students come and join me and we just sit and talk about whatever they want! It is such a fun thing we get to do.
Another big event on our campus is that we do help with the China Daily 21st Century VIPKid English speaking competition. I have had several opportunities to work this – first in some preliminary competitions as a Question Master, but then this past month, I was able to go to the National Semi Finals that were held here in Hangzhou and I got to be a scoring judge. I get to meet impressive students and educators from all across China. It is really an incredible opportunity that I had no idea I would get to have!
5. Are there any interesting or awkward stories?
One is that I totally didn’t realize that “Air Conditioning” here means both cold air and hot air. So, when my air conditioning was pointed out to me when I first arrived, I thought it was just cold air. I spent the first 3 days with no heat. In December. I was freezing. I finally asked someone if there was somewhere that I could buy a little room heater – that was when I learned that I did in fact have hot air. I was MUCH happier after that!!
6. What’s the most rewarding thing during your time in China?
Absolutely my students and the connections I am making. The people I am privileged to work with are so open and lovely. That is hands down the best thing. Of course, working through those expat problems and figuring things out is also rewarding. The moment I learned how to order delivery to my apartment was so exciting. It’s little things, but it helps to remind me that I am overcoming and growing, and that is a large part of this experience – proving to yourself that you can be successful in a difficult situation.
(Mary is from Michigan; she is currently teaching English and Debate courses at Hangzhou Normal University)