Taught English in China: summer 2013
Current Job Title: Communications Coordinator, university
Before that: Fundraising and Communications Officer, homelessness charity
Careers after the placement
Our teachers gain lots of skills through their work in China, like communication skills, leadership ability and experience with public speaking.
Prospective employers value initiative, and the ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone and thrive.
It means that you have lots of careers options upon completing the programme.
A number of our recent teachers pursued a career in teaching, while others now work in finance, the civil service or for NGO’s.
Whilst I was at university I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I did know that when I graduated I wanted to have a short break before getting into work and make the most of it too.
I was already interested in China having met lots of people from there during my postgraduate course, many of whom I now count amongst my best friends. A separate interest I had was to get some experience of teaching English as a foreign language and travelling – and where better to do that in a country like China?
The whole process with Teach English in China is really great as it keeps you informed and motivated (especially if you have to save up like I did!) and it was also a great prospect to talk about when applying for jobs.
Between finishing university and going to China, I came across what I felt was the perfect job for me at the time – fundraising and communications for a charity. I went through a difficult recruitment process – with an assessment centre including a group interview, a series of tests, and then a panel interview. After making it through this round, I was then asked back for a presentation and another interview.
The fact I was going to China at the time really did help. It is something really fun to do with friends/family if possible, but having decided to go out on my own it made me feel much braver and like it was a real challenge that I needed and wanted to prepare for. So I was daunted but excited to go to China, and it gave me the confidence to go for and get what was my first job – a job which would require me to move to London on my own and make a success of it. I knew if I could succeed in getting to China and teach and travel, I could do anything!
It was also an interesting talking point and made me stand out on my application and in interview. I was lucky enough to secure the job whilst I was in China and my new employer was willing to wait two months for me to return as they felt I was the right person for the job.
Coming back I was able to draw on my experience abroad to inform my work as well which was great. When I was in Haining (near-ish Shanghai) I taught 16-18 year old High School students with five lessons per day over six days of the week which is quite full on – but really does prepare you for the world of work!
The students I taught generally had a good standard of English, but it did vary a lot within the class. This was challenging but in a really great way because it makes you think about how you communicate.
You learn simple things like making yourself understood the first time by speaking clearly and thinking of what you say before you say it, to more complex skills like being able to stand in front of a room and present ideas and get people interested and involved. Although I realised that perhaps teaching itself wasn’t for me, the whole experience made me realise the career path I’d be embarking on, namely communications, was right for me because I enjoy interacting with people and keeping them engaged in different ways – just as you do in a classroom.
Through teaching English in China I added to my communications skill set and creativity and it really set me up for the work I was doing, including thinking about audiences when doing communications work and using the most effective ways of presenting ideas and concepts for fundraising bids etc. Although I would say I was already quite confident, the experience did help me increase this too.
If you get the chance, make sure to travel before, during or after as well – China really is a beautiful country and it’s great to see all the sights, try out speaking Mandarin (even if it’s just the basics), and generally immerse yourself in a different culture. Although some things in China can be very different from where you’re from and sometimes difficult to see or experience, it’s so important because it enables you to challenge and present your own views but also challenge and accept other people’s. This is obviously a vital part of life in general, but also working life, and so having this ability also helps boost your career prospects!
Using myself as an example, this experience is something that is great for your CV and future career path, whether or not you do anything directly related. It’s also great if you want to work internationally or you go into an internationally focused role or industry/sector which requires engagement with people from lots of different places and/or cultures.
My current work for a university definitely fits into the latter description, and working for the careers service for said university I can definitely say teaching in China is something that makes you stand out to employers and more employable because of the skills you develop, and is also a great talking point in interviews. I knew all of the above already but it was confirmed the other day, when having been in my current job for nearly a year, the Acting Director said he remembered I’d taught in China from my CV!
I didn’t apply for any internships whilst I was at university and this one came after I finished my postgraduate studies but it really showed me that these kinds of experiences are relevant and enjoyable even when you’re not a student anymore. It’s a unique and alternative kind of internship that’s given me more than I could have expected. I really love my current job, I still want to do communications as much as I did a couple of years ago, and I don’t think I would be on this career path or doing this work without my experience with the Teach English In China programme.
In summary, this will always be one of the best experiences of my life, not just because I improved my employability and got to travel a bit, but because it’s something to remember, talk about, and cherish – and something that makes you feel like you can do anything!