How did you choose China as a teaching destination?
I travelled to Dongguan, China in autumn 2016 for an internship at an international company. As a way of “giving back” to the company, I offered to teach those employees who were less proficient in English. My contact person at the company was very enthusiastic and helped to organize the classes prior to my arrival. Therefore, I did not teach at a language school or amongst other teachers. This made it a unique, challenging, and absolutely unforgettable experience.
How did you like teaching adults?
It was my first time teaching English to adults (I taught at a high school in Tanzania for several weeks), so I had to take on quite a bit of responsibility and exude all the confidence I could muster up. The English level of my students was much lower than what I had prepared to deal with. One of my three groups was a seven-student beginners class. Considering I speak no Chinese, I relied mostly on my miming skills to convey my ideas to the students. After my first day teaching each of my three groups for an hour, I was exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure of how to continue.
One of Johanna’s English groups after their last lesson
What happened next?
Over the five weeks I spent in Dongguan, I adjusted the lesson plans and activities to my students’ level and – voila! – it became easier with every lesson. Approaching the lessons with ease and humor helped my students and me immensely. While most were hesitant to answer questions in the first lessons, my students were engaged and full of jokes and laughter by my second week at the company. Creating a light atmosphere from day one made my lessons more enjoyable for me, too. I never stressed about activities not turning out the way I had hoped. Instead, I used my students’ feedback to adjust future classes.
A weekend hike in one of Dongguan’s inner-city parks with Johanna, her colleagues, and their kids
Do you get to do a lot of traveling? What have been some of the highlights?
Through my internship I was able to travel much more than I had expected or even hoped for. I was invited to visit a sister company in Singapore for a couple of days, spent a weekend in Hong Kong and saw the highlights of Guangzhou. My colleagues were extremely welcoming and invited me to dinner and other weekend outings on a regular basis. This helped me adjust to living in China. I was constantly surrounded by lovely people!
Johanna visiting a traditional Chinese village
What was hard to adjust about living in China?
The company I worked for had an employee dormitory on campus, which is where I lived. Although this ensured me the shortest possible commute to my desk, it did make me somewhat bunkered in. There was no way to access public transportation from the company. If I were to choose another spot to teach English, I would place emphasis on my independence and ability to get around after work.
The view from Johanna’s dormitory window onto the company’s own basketball court
How was your overall experience, and how did the TEFL course help you?
My time in Dongguan was fantastic. I learned more about the Chinese culture and lifestyle than I could have ever read in a textbook. The TEFL course made me feel prepared to teach adults. Although the course is more appropriate for teaching intermediate to advanced adults, the theory behind teaching still helped me immensely. Living and teaching in a foreign country, even for just a few weeks, is something I can recommend to anyone who is looking for a challenge and a rewarding experience. I would do it again in a second! Teaching English brought me so much closer to my colleagues than the usual intern tasks would have.
Can you picture yourself living abroad like Johanna? Contact a TEFL Advisor to learn about your options!