The benefits of being an English teacher with EF is that your job will have regular days off, annual leave and national holidays to explore. Your days off will give you the perfect opportunity to explore some new hobbies and find new things to do in China. Not only will it make your stay in China much more fun and memorable. It will also increase the chances of you meeting local people who share the same interests as you and have meaningful interactions with them. Learning a new skill also means you have something to show off to your friends and family back home!
One obvious skill you can pick up here is Chinese. There is no better and faster way of learning a language than being completely immersed in the language environment, so why not take advantage of it while you are here? Learning Chinese may seem daunting and impossible at first, especially considering its seemingly (and actually) complicated characters, as well as tones. The bright side, though, is that Chinese grammar is very simple.
As you may already know, studying a new language is very good for the brain. Studies have discovered that while English language perception utilizes only the left side of the brain, Chinese language requires the additional use of the right temporal lobe, most likely in order to distinguish the tones of the words. Moreover, it was shown that the practice of writing Chinese characters activates neural activity in the spatial memory of the brain. Learning a new language, in general,can also push back the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Another benefit to studying a new language is that it helps you become a better English teacher. If you think about it, that's really a lot to gain and very little to lose!
So, that being said, where and how can you go about studying Chinese? While there are many Mandarin schools targeted at foreigners in the larger cities, you can also find students or working professionals who are willing to offer one-to-one classes at an affordable rate. Depending on where you live, there may also be people from other countries who can teach you other languages you are interested in. For example, I had a Japanese friend who lived in Shanghai and was willing to tutor me Japanese for a while.
Aside from learning new languages, there are hundreds of other things to do in China. As China's economy continues to develop, there is an increasing trend and interest towards do-it-yourself classes, and many cities are witnessing the opening up of myriads of small private studios offering pottery, baking, oil painting, flower arrangement, etc. classes at very affordable rates. Ask your local friends for recommendations. Or simply go on www.dianping.com (the China equivalent of Groupon), select your city and type in “DIY” and see what's available.
Virtual online classes are also becoming increasingly popular here. Many shops on Taobao and WeChat sell pre-packaged materials along with instructions for all sorts of handicrafts including making leathered goods, dolls, bags, clothes, etc. Most of these instructions are in Chinese, and it can be the perfect opportunity for you to partner with a local friend and do some language and cultural exchange while learning a new skill. Good luck and enjoy exploring new hobbies in China!
In China, you'll always find things to do and new hobbies to acquire. You can try your hand at almost anything from extremesports to relaxing calligraphy. If you're ready to start a new adventure, apply now. If you want to find out more about activities in China, check out our teacher events page.