Danielle J is a 2009 TEFL Professional Online graduate teaching in Guangzhou, China.
"You may call me D.J. – I got my little monsters, I mean children to call me that. I am an English teacher in Guangzhou, China which is the third largest city in China and has a population of thirteen million people. It is colossal and according to other Chinese is one of the more Western cities in China. It has beautiful places, parks, mountains and many shopping malls. It’s not bad once you understand the rhythm of the city. It reminds me of Bogota but many fifty times bigger. I have taught strictly Latin Americans and the change from there to the East has been interesting and difficult to say the least.
How is life in China?
Life in China has always been the same, or rather it makes its changes whether I am seeing it or not. My perspective about China is better, especially now that I am making friends from the local population and finding places that have familiar reminders of belonging.
It is said that there are different levels of Culture shock – I will describe the sentiments in the following lines.
The initial amazement of 'Wow! I am in China! This is amazing!' this is probably in the first fifteen hours when you just come of the plane – you have jet lag and you do not know what you are talking about.
The reality, 'Jue madre, I am in China and the Chinese that I tried to learn beforehand is absolutely insignificant. Ok, I just have to be patient.' Added to this revelation, you are probably more dismayed when you see that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and most of the other cool websites that you visited are blocked since China does not want their people exposed to means of freedom of expression (as time passes you will learn that China has their own facebook but it is in Chinese and you would have to make Chinese friends in order to want to use it).
'I hate this country! Only two weeks and I hate this place!' Applying for residence and dealing with the 'real' China: bureaucracy, squatting toilets, spitting everywhere you go, general hygiene problems and people obviously staring at you because most have never travelled and do not know how to react. At first you laugh but after two weeks of at least fifty people staring it becomes tiresome and frustrating. And do not forget that you can no longer find the products you usually use unless you got to special foreign goods stores – You never know the beauty of those stores until you try and find bagels or real shortbread cookies in regular stores!
'I am an idiot! What made me think I could even live in this place?' Food poisoning probably hits you every couple days when you try the food, which you are terrified of as you do not know what the meat is – and if you got your meal you had to guess what you were getting as the menus are in Chinese.
One and a half months later or two months later when you finally meet other foreigners who have survived all this and been living in Guangzhou China for three to seven years, you then begin to have patience and can see that all countries when you first move there, more or less have similar problems and life in China might not be so bad. Plus they tell you all the places to go to get the foods that you used to know.
Hey, I think I could like China.
I am at that last stage. The first two months are always the hardest especially if it is in a place where you do not know the language. But as a friend told me, 'All cultures are the same just that the order of the elements are different,' and China is no different. You just have to take it for what it is - there are good things and bad things and you just have to learn and take it one day at a time."
Nate S is a 2010 TEFL Professional Online graduate who taught in China.
"My desire to teach abroad spawned from my passion for cultural exchange and travel. During undergrad, I spent a few weeks in Germany, another week in Ireland, and about a month or so in Russia. I loved being abroad but it wasn’t enough for me. I enjoyed traveling and meeting new people but I never really felt like I had truly soaked up the culture of those places. I was determined to go away for an extended period, but this time, it would be to learn the intricacies of a culture, country, and people completely different from my own. I chose to teach English in China.
So... how DO I get 50 students to practice speaking in 90 minutes? Don't know.. Well, how do I create an effective lesson plan that will appeal to advanced speakers without alienating beginners? Thoughts? One more, slightly off topic - Why does everyone keep calling me 'laowai?' These questions permeated my thoughts as I arrived and began teaching. Suffice it to say, I intially struggled with the process but never let my determination waver. I quickly got to know my students and immediately began to see how communication could impact a person's life. My relationship grew with my students and I loved being able to come to class to teach and at the end of the semester I received an Outstanding Teacher Award - no big deal. :)
If I could just say one thing about my experience it would be that you truly get of something what you put in. I was a sponge for the culture and the activites of daily life so much so that I find myself feeling nostalgic for a life outside of my American way of living.
China was amazing and overwhelming, beautiful and stoic, whimiscal and frustrating, humbling and jawdropping... it was my home for a year and I wouldn't trade that experience for anything."