I graduated from UCD (Ireland) in September 2014, having studied a joint major in French & Greek/Roman Civilization – with absolutely no idea about what to do or where to go next. In 2012/13 I did an Erasmus year in France, and it was this time that I got the travel bug. However, I decided I wanted to venture outside Europe. I wanted a radical change, so I started researching TEFL jobs in Asia. I was particularly set on South Korea, but all the sites I looked into demanded a lot in terms of TEFL, teaching experience, and essay writing. The company fees were very expensive, and the companies themselves seemed quite impersonal.
Gradually I became totally disheartened, and relented my search. It was only after one day, logging onto Facebook, a guy I know, who’s fairly well travelled advertised Andrew’s company The China Teaching Experience, as a kind of new, up and coming independent company. I thought what the hell I’ll email and see what happens. I didn’t want to tell any of my family and friends because I’d already hyped them up on South Korea. A couple of days later, around the beginning of November, Andrew had scheduled me in for my Skype Interview. Obviously I was a little bit nervous, but mostly I was really interested about what he could tell me. Contrary to other major TEFL sites it appealed to me how personable Andrew and his company seemed. I really felt like I was not “just a number”. How many companies, will offer you a skype interview with the director before you’ve even agreed to the job? All of the other TEFL sites, had different kinds of steps and processes that you needed to go through before you even get any solid information from them. The Skype interview was a breeze, Andrew really makes you feel at ease. It was generally quite casual, he asked me questions about my degree, my year abroad in France, why I wanted to come to Asia. In all honesty, I knew pretty much nothing about China, except that it was communist, and that there was the one child policy – as everyone knew of course. Andrew, knew China inside out, from the education system to the best places to travel. He was able to answer any question I fired at him. By the time we had reached the end of the “interview”, I was ready to seal the deal.
As soon as I had sent my fees, and essay application, both which were about three quarters less than the amount requested by other big TEFL companies, I started researching China. At the time the options of availability were Beijing, Shanghai, Guizhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen. At first I chose Chongqing, as I liked the sound of the craziness, what with it being the most populated city in China. By February 2015, Andrew had organised a skype interview with a school. The interview went well, but in truth, I wasn’t pushed on the school. I told Andrew, and without further ado, he began organising other interviews. In mid Feb, I had a bit of a freak out, because I realised, as ditsy as it sounds, that Chongqing was quite far from the coast. Having grown up on the coast, I’ve never really ventured too far from it. Hastily, and slightly embarrassed, I emailed Andrew, asking for a change to Shenzhen. To my surprise, he completely understood, having grown up on the (Irish) coast himself!
It just so happened, because Shenzhen is a new, wealthy, business savvy city, the schools there decided that they wanted more experienced English teachers and so everybody who applied to Shenzhen was rejected. By this time I was in contact over Facebook with the other applicants – thanks to Andrew, who emailed the list of names and the cities they were going to so we could all get acquainted – and we had no doubts whatsoever that Andrew, would solve this problem. A few days later, he offered us Foshan, a city not so far from Shenzhen. I was hesitant, as I was still to-ing and fro-ing about Chongqing, researching every day, writing pros and cons etc. In the end I told Andrew to choose for me, because I just couldn’t make up my mind, and I felt I could trust him to make the right decision – which he did, in choosing Foshan. Okay so maybe Chongqing is brilliant, I’m yet to venture out, but I definitely have a sweet deal out here in Foshan. There isn’t one day where I think that I wish that I chose Chongqing.
All through the year, right up until the TEFL exam in April Andrew always made sure to stay in contact, sending group emails of reassurance, information about the procedures in getting all of our official documents, and quirky facts about China. The TEFL was a doddle, obviously it’s a bit tedious sometimes, but Andrew, helps you through every step of the way. The good thing about the TEFL course being specific to China, is that it gives you information about Chinese people, culture, education, etiquette and language, which makes it a lot more interesting, but, don’t think for one second that this limits you to China. Once you begin the first teaching English job abroad it opens many other doors for you whether it be teaching English in Asia or a European country. The processing of the official documents, for me anyway, was easy enough. Again Andrew walked us through step by step, setting deadlines for the likes of jabs, medical forms, police clearing forms, degree certificate and school contract. In fact by the summer time, I was in daily contact with numerous teachers from my host school. The visa was probably the most difficult part of the application, but again Andrew, sent emails around with strict, easy to follow instructions, and the morning before heading to the visa office I quickly sent it to him to have one last look.
The Induction Camp in Beijing was the first chance everybody got to meet, and a great idea, not one that was available from most other TEFL companies. Here I made really close friends, not only with the people going to Foshan, also those heading to other cities. Everybody gelled really well, Andrew became not just our adviser, but a very good friend.
Right now, it is March 7th, and 25*C. I’m in my lush apartment in Foshan, having just received a text message from the head English teacher Ms. Tao telling me that on account of it being Women’s Day in China, her, some other women teachers and I will be ditching school tomorrow, to be whisked off in secrecy to a hot spring and fancy dinner!
So if you haven’t signed up already, get on it! Speak to Andrew, he will soon get you on the road to one of the best experiences of your life!