7 Reasons to Teach ESL in China

It’s a life-changing experience when you teach ESL in China. I had no background in education, very little idea about what ESL entailed and zero clue about China as a country. All I knew was that moving to China to teach English was bound to open up some very interesting new doors. Looking back on the entire 13 months that I spent there, I realised way more reasons why teaching in China was the right decision than at the time I decided to do it. If you’ve been toying with the idea, need a change or want to deepen your understanding of China, here are seven reasons why you should teach there.

The Career Growth

Whether you want to be a teacher or not, becoming an ESL instructor can do wonders for your career. While it will give you real life experience in managing a classroom, writing lesson plans and effectively communicating, the benefits present themselves even deeper. The experience of living and working in another country itself will look incredible on your resume. Potential employers may see your ability to take a risk, adapt, be adventurous and independent as an asset to them and their business.

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

The Self Growth

China can be an extremely challenging country to live in as a foreigner. The language and cultural barriers run deep, and life in general may have a different pace than what you are used to. While the challenges are unavoidable, China has a way of making you tougher, more resilient and in tune with yourself. If you want to understand yourself a little better, see what you’re made of and how capable you are of adapting, teaching ESL in China is a good way to do it.

The Job Perks

OK, while it all depends on the particular job that you land, on average, the perks are pretty good. Many ESL teaching programs offer whole or partial flight reimbursement, free accommodation and health care. The schools often take their teachers on trips to different destinations around China and provide free language classes and teacher training workshops. The teachers typically travel a long way to work in China so the schools provide as much as they can to make it worth their while.

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

The Chance to Travel

China is a vast country and trying to see it all just on a visit can be nearly impossible. By actually living there, you will have the chance to take your time and explore even the furthest corners. Take advantage of every weekend and holiday to get out there and see another new city or natural attraction. And, because China is so close to so many other countries like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan, you can be hopping around to dream destinations every month.

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

The Food

Real, authentic, Chinese food is better than I ever expected. From the spicy Sichuan cuisine to the street food, eating is a huge part of the experience. I shopped in fresh fruit markets, had fried noodles that I saw being hand-pulled on site and ate skewered vegetables and tofu that were seasoned and grilled right on the street. Eating was an everyday cultural event that changed the way I looked at the Chinese food I grew up eating.

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

The Language

Immersion is one of the best ways to get a grasp on another language. In China, particularly in the smaller cities, English can be hard to come by. Where I was living, I couldn’t order a meal, get home from the bar or buy a train ticket without speaking Chinese. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would understand a single word of Mandarin, but by the time my contract was up, I was translating for new teachers and my visitors.

The Networking

Being a foreigner in China, there aren’t that many of you, giving you the chance to network within a small group. I had plenty of teachers to meet who helped me with learning more about my career and progress. I met people from all over the world, learned about other cultures and fostered friendships that have allowed me to visit people in their home countries. I’ve found out about other jobs and opportunities from the people I met both in China and after I left as well. Tutoring jobs, movie extra work and modelling gigs have all come to me while living in China just because the networking opportunities were so fantastic.

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

Photo Source: Lives Abroad

The benefits seem pretty good right? Are you ready to start your teaching career in China?

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.