How Teaching English in China Became My Career - Video 
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How Teaching English in China Became My Career - Video

How Teaching English in China Became My Career – Video

In this video our grad Laura talks about teaching English in China and Peru, how she got started teaching ESL, her class, and how teaching English in China became her career. Watch the video and see highlights from her Instagram below:

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Read Some of the highlights from the video below:

  1. Where is Laura from?
  2. How did she decide on teaching English in China?
  3. Do you need a background in teaching?
  4. What was her class like?
  5. What is housing like in China?
  6. How long did it take to get a teaching job?
  7. Laura’s advice for people thinking of teaching English abroad
  8. Do you need to know the local language?
  9. Have you been able to travel while teaching English in China?

Q And A:

Where are you from?

“My name is Laura. I’m 34 years old and I am Canadian. I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. I took my Oxford Seminars course in Hamilton and soon after I started working abroad.”

“I had friends who had done Oxford [Seminars courses]. I never really thought it was for me, and I don’t know what changed but one day I woke up and I thought “oh my gosh! All my friends live abroad. What am I doing?!” So I took the Oxford Seminars course, which I loved, and a few weeks later I was teaching English abroad.”

How did you decide on teaching English in China?

“I just had China on my brain. So when I first started interviewing, I was about to accept a job offer and all of my friends said to me “Laura, China’s so far. Are you sure you want to go to China?” And of course I started second guessing myself because of it. When I first started teaching I actually accepted a job in Arequipa, Peru. All of my friends and family said “Laura don’t go that far. It’s [China’s] too far” so I accepted this job offer in Arequipa, Peru and that’s actually where I started my teaching career.”

“So I was in Arequipa for a year. I absolutely loved it, but even when I was leaving Arequipa I still had China on my mind. I don’t know why. I just think if you teach English you should teach English in China. So as soon as I came home from Peru, within a few weeks I started interviewing for China. I swore to my family and friends that I was only going to be teaching English in China for one year and a year and a half later I’m still here.”

That’s pretty adventurous, living on 3 different continents.

“I’ve traveled quite a bit, even before I started teaching… so to me a place is a place. I can land [and] no matter where I am and I can always make it feel like home. Right now I just feel at home in China. I have to leave China soon but it’s so hard to leave once you start traveling. I mean I want to go home and see my friends and my family but I know for sure I’m not going to stay at home.”

Did you have a background in teaching before you took the Oxford Seminars course?

“No, absolutely not. I studied business and makeup. For 10 years I was a makeup artist. I had no idea that being a teacher would be my career. And I say it’s my career now because it’s honestly what I’m going to be doing until I can’t travel anymore.”

So you’ve found your calling?

“Absolutely! 100%!”

What is your class like?

“For my first year I lived in the South of China and I taught in a high school. This year I’m working in a training center, which is a totally different environment, and I’m working with little kids. I’m [mostly] teaching kindergarten… So my students range between 2.5 and 10 years old. My school is brand new. I’m actually the only foreign teacher in my school. So right now I teach 8 classes a week. I teach kindergarten and then I teach my older kids separately.”

Is it challenging when you don’t speak your kids’ language?

“It’s so different teaching high school. The kids are older, they’ve studied English…so you make an instant connection with them…But with little kids you’re right. They don’t speak English and I’m teaching them basic English but you make that connection with them. When I first started, my students kind of looked at me like “who’s this girl?” I work in a very small city for China so a lot of our students haven’t seen a lot of foreigners before. So when I came in the students were very shy and they only spoke Chinese. But 5 months later my students literally run in and it’s so cute hearing them say “LAURA! HI!” In 5 months I see a huge change in them. They can say “hi, how are you?” I can ask them what day it is today and they say “Laura, it’s Wednesday.” It’s the best job I’ve ever had. It’s so rewarding.”

What is your housing like there?


“I’m living in Lianyungang. The closest big city is Nanjing, and the closest big city that people [outside of China] may know would be Shanghai. It’s a 40 minute flight. [Lianyungang is] a beautiful city. It’s very clean. The people are friendly. It’s very different than the south of China… I was close to Hong Kong. The south of China is very tropical. It’s very hot. But here it’s very different. The more North you go it makes such a difference. My city is beautiful. My apartment is surrounded by mountains so when I sit on my balcony I have a beautiful view. I have an amazing apartment. If you check out my Instagram, I’ve posted a few videos of my apartment. My apartment is beautiful. My school pays for it. I got really lucky. My school also pays for my internet and my TV. I actually live in a 2 bedroom apartment…I have two big bedrooms, quite a big kitchen, a living area, a western style bathroom.”

Are holiday traditions in China different from what we know in North America?

“Okay let me tell you: in China, all throughout China, there are 4 Valentines days! I don’t know why. There’s also a “Singles Day” which they celebrate. There are lots of holidays. Our next big holiday is coming up. It’s the second week of February. It’s Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival. So that’s a 2 week celebration. There are quite a few celebrations: there’s Dragon Boat Festival, there’s Lantern Festival. There are a lot of different holidays that we celebrate here in China.”

How did you create your teaching curriculum?

“When you take the Oxford Seminar, I had an amazing teacher… he was so great with us. He taught us how to lesson plan. That was probably the biggest thing that I worried about. I mean, teaching, I love people. I love being social so I wasn’t worried about that, but creating lesson plans definitely I worried about a little bit. But you do all of that in your Oxford Seminars [course] and you actually present your final lesson at the end of the course. So it’s something that you gradually work through every weekend. And every weekend your lesson plans get better. So when I started teaching, I’ve always had to lesson plan here but for me now, it’s so easy. When I first started teaching obviously I had to practice and I was worried about making an amazing lesson plan, but now it just comes naturally.”

How long did it take to get your first job?

“I finished my in-class course on a Sunday, and maybe Wednesday afternoon I started my online component and I didn’t waste any time. Once I finished my online component I was in touch with Job Placement Service and I started interviewing right away. I would say probably from the time I was done my online component to interviewing it was maybe 3 weeks. I did everything quite quickly. My mindset was once I did my online component and once I started interviewing I actually quit my job… my mindset was that I was going to accept a job, buy a plane ticket, and leave.”

So within a month of receiving your certification you were in Peru?

“Yeah! When I landed in Peru, my boss picked me up from the airport and he literally handed me some textbooks and said “Laura you’re going to start teaching today. Is that okay?” and I said “Yeah! That’s fine!”

How did you pick Oxford Seminars for your TESOL Certification?

“Like I said, I’ve actually had a few of my friends take the Oxford Seminars program, so the way it came about actually, my best friend, she was attending university and she actually just saw a poster posted in her school, and she said to me “Laura I’m going to take this program and I’m going to teach English abroad.” It wasn’t until maybe a few years later, that I thought about doing the same thing… I just knew of Oxford, and I knew my friends had done it, and it was close to my house.”

Had you ever traveled before?

“Yeah I had actually traveled quite a bit just backpacking when I was younger. I had backpacked a lot of Southeast Asia. But even when I was in Southeast Asia a lot of schools approached us, my friend and I, asking, “Can you teach? Are you qualified to teach?” But I wasn’t qualified; I was just backpacking at the time. So even when I came home I thought “There are so many opportunities. I really need to get qualified to teach.”

What advice would you give to somebody thinking about teaching English abroad?

“My advice is to just take that chance and teach abroad. My life has changed so much since I decided to do this. I’ve personally changed as a person because of this experience. There’s really no looking back for me at this point… This really has become my career…Just do it. It’s the most rewarding, once in a lifetime experience. I had a great job when I was at home, but when you’re at home you get stuck in this routine and that’s life. You know what’s coming the next day.”

“When you’re living abroad you don’t know who you’re going to meet the next day and you make such an impact. I teach really little kids right now but just having them run into school every day and giving you a big hug, and yelling your name, and when I taught in high school I taught the same students Monday to Friday, 9-5 and…I saw them grow. All my students were going to study abroad, and when we had our graduation party it touches you because you’re just thinking; “Wow! These students are now going abroad and I’ve trained them! I’ve got them ready for this for one full year!”…It just becomes part of your life!”

Did you have to start to learn the local language when you arrived?

“No, I don’t speak any Chinese…I speak basic things [like] “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “how much is that?” “How are you?” I can get in a taxi and get somewhere; I can go to a restaurant and order food. No, I don’t speak the language but I don’t have any problems… But I do have a lot of foreign friends here that do speak fluent Chinese.”

Have you been able to travel while teaching English in China?

“China is great for vacation… I would say every 3 months there’s usually some sort of holiday or festival going on. My next big holiday is going to be Chinese New Year. So I’m going to have 3 weeks off over Chinese New year. It’s amazing. You can’t get that anywhere else!”

“My best friend… came last year for Chinese New Year and she’s going to come again this year and we’re going to Thailand and Cambodia this year. Last year we went to Vietnam and we traveled around China.”

“Then right after Chinese New Year…[is] Dragon Boat Festival. So I think we’ll have maybe 3 or 4 days off. The great thing about China is that maybe every 2 or 3 months you’ll have a long weekend or 3 to 4 days off.”

Are you able to save money?

“Yeah! I’m so lucky. I’ve been able to save so much money in China. And I think that’s also another reason why it’s so hard for me to leave. With your school paying your apartment, and my school pays my monthly bills [as well], my only costs really are personal expenses.”

What’s the shopping like?

“I live in a small town and for a small town it’s not bad. I have H&M. I have Zara. Yeah, it’s livable, but because I’m so close to Shanghai, I usually go to Shanghai for the weekend or for two days to do my shopping. Shanghai has absolutely everything.”

“I’m quite happy here shopping and I have a social life, so I meet with my friends maybe 2 to 3 times a week. We’ll have dinner and catch up. So it’s nice.”

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