Making the decision to come to China wasn’t an easy one, I’d always been intrigued by the country but I’d also been nervous due to a lot of horror stories I’d heard. I was working in Korea when I decided to make a change and relocate to China; I wanted to try something different! I knew I needed to do it right and find a reliable organization or school to work with. Luckily for me, I stumbled upon the ISAC website and really liked what I saw. Not only was the website easy to navigate, but the caliber of schools and positions really impressed me. I hadn’t done a lot of research into China at that point, so I simply submitted my CV as a general application and contacted ISAC to let them know I was interested in their schools and willing to look at different options.
That willingness to be open to different types of schools and locations led to multiple interviews with different schools. I really felt that Jett listened to my feedback and comments and focused his search on schools that would mesh well with my personality and skill set. I’m happy to say that we found a school that I’m not only comfortable at, but allows me to grow and develop my teaching and management skills. Additionally, unlike other recruiters or agencies, over the past couple of months ISAC has kept in contact with me making sure that I’m settling in alright and happy with my school and China.
Over the years I’ve taught in multiple schools, in multiple countries, but Nanhai Foreign Language School (NFLS) stands out amongst the rest. Not only is it the biggest school I’ve ever taught at, over 4000 students, but it is one of the most active and welcoming schools I’ve seen.
From day one, both the Chinese and Foreign staff have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcomed. Whether it’s help finding the print room, or invitations to play badminton after school, everyone here is happy to include you in the community. Now, this may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you’re in a new country where you don’t speak the language these little acts of inclusion and kindness go a long way to making you feel at home.
I’ve also come to appreciate the care and consideration NFLS shows its foreign teachers. They make a conscious effort to ensure we’re happy both professionally and personally. We work hard, but it’s easy when the school actively works to ensure we have enough time and support to plan all of our classes. They’re also eager to hear our ideas and input on how to improve the oral English program. It’s a great feeling to know that your voice is being heard and considered. I was also really surprised with the additional activities the school coordinates for the staff, every other week it feels like we’re going out for dinner, walking in a parade, or going on a trip.
It’s not only the size that makes NFLS different from all the other schools I’ve taught at, it’s the energy and non-stop pace of learning. In addition to their regular classes and English, students are expected to learn a second foreign language, an instrument, and participate in both art and sporting activities. In all honesty it’s intense and I’m often left wondering how the students manage it all. That being said, when they all come together for their festivals and galas you can see all their hard work pay off in the smiles on their faces. And it’s not just the students who participate, the foreign staff are encouraged to jump right in, whether that be judging a dubbing competition or rocking a live performance wearing a shark hat!
Working and living in China, I’ve gotten the chance to reestablish that work-life balance that had been missing from my life for the past couple of years. I’m able to do something I enjoy, with people I like, while pursuing my passion of traveling and exploring new places. There are so many opportunities to try new things, whether that be checking out the different neighborhoods in Foshan and Guangzhou, or taking a long weekend to Guilin or Hong Kong. There is honestly never a dull moment. Going somewhere different every weekend, I’ve still only seen a fraction of this region, let alone the country. It can be a little scary at times, traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language, but I’ve found that the people here are super friendly and go above and beyond to make sure you’re ok.
Overall, my time in China has been a really great experience. There have obviously been times of melancholy and homesickness, but those times make the moments of wonder and awe all the more stunning. I’m extremely happy that I chose to trust my gut and took the chance on coming to China. I’m looking forward to what the next few months have in store!
If you’re considering China, trust your gut and keep an open mind, you won’t regret it!
(Updates: July, 2019)
Teresa completed her contract at Nanhai Foreign Language School in Feb, 2019. After a few months teaching in Canada, she has been accepted by Hangzhou Normal University to teach at the Foreign Language Department. She is set to depart in Aug, 2019. We wish her the best of luck in her incoming year in Hangzhou.