My name is Sheldan and I am from South Africa. After struggling with unscrupulous recruiters I stumbled upon the ISAC program and applied. They got back to me immediately and put me in contact with my current school at which I am very happy. Having traveled extensively in Asia, my move to China from South Africa was not as filled with culture shock as I would have first thought it to be. The transition was smooth as ISAC and my placement school took good care of me.
I now teach at a government junior school and am enjoying it thoroughly, and while the students are enthusiastic they are also extremely energetic meaning that as a former high school teacher my creativity was put to the test both inside and out of the classroom. I would have to say that teaching younger students is a challenge especially for someone who is used to much older students and longer attention spans.
However the students and staff have been the highlight of my time here. The staff have been very supportive and sweet even when they have had their own classes and work to deal with. In addition our school was home to some intern teachers from a local university for two months and in that time we became firm friends.
Our accommodation is provided by the school and, other than a few issues, is quite comfortable. Most of our foreign teachers live in the apartment building but some live outside. This means we have a small community and are able to socialize frequently.
Our school gives the students the opportunity to take part in fun cultural activities such as making “tang yuan” which are glutinous rice balls filled with a red bean filling. Tang yuan are usually eaten during the lantern festival. The students also made Jiao zi which are known as “pot stickers” in the West.
Outside of school I have met some very interesting people but I have met the majority at my school as generally Chinese people feel trepidation at interacting with foreigners due to language and cultural barriers. However, the Chinese friends that I have made have been very interested in “foreigner culture” and enjoy English.
As it has not yet been school holidays I have not had the opportunity to travel in China, however because the public transport systems such as the metro and bus are so well-developed getting around to closer places is a breeze, as long as you know the Chinese name of your destination. So far I have had the opportunity to visit Guangzhou and see my friends there, as well as going to areas closer to us such as Zumiao where there is a most beautiful Buddhist temple and “Foshan Lingnan Tiandi” which is an old district which has been turned into restaurants and shops, most of which (while pricey) are superb.
The food has also been a highlight. Chinese food found in the West (whilst sometimes of good quality) is generally customized around a Western palate and norms of what is and is not edible. Coming to China and experiencing authentic Chinese food has been quite the eye opener. I have eaten amongst other things pigeon, frog and snake all of which I must report truly do taste like chicken. Cantonese food is quite different from Northern and Western styles as the ingredients are far more varied and interesting and the Easterner’s love of Dim Sum for breakfast lunch dinner and any snacks in between cannot be understated.
I can say that teaching in China has been one of my most fulfilling experiences culturally, socially and career wise. It has been a truly amazing experience and I look forward to the things to come.