When it came to making the decision to move industries from hospitality management to teaching English in China, I looked at how it would impact my career and I must say… I am thrilled with the result. Not only did teaching English abroad with EF enhance my career, but I saw it enhance the careers of my fellow teachers. I’ve narrowed it to seven ways (that’s a lucky number, right?) of how:
You are eligible to teach English with a bachelor’s degree – and it doesn’t have to be in Education. Teachers at EF come from a myriad of background of studies. You name the major and it’s likely we’ve seen it! Because our teachers come from diverse backgrounds of study, we focus heavily on training to prepare you for the job.
I saw this training very early in my EF journey when I started taking the TEFL course shortly after accepting the position. I had never taught in a classroom and the course walked me through what to expect and different teaching strategies I could use. (And yes, I was the girl with a notebook out taking avid notes.)
Once I arrived, I had the comfort of orientation with other new teachers as we practiced teaching and had more hands-on training. Most of us were new to teaching, so I didn’t feel like the only newbie. We practiced together, gave feedback, and quickly started to improve.
Over the remaining year at EF, I continuously had the opportunity to improve. During our weekly meetings at our center, the teachers would take turns discussing and practicing lessons that we found challenging. I was also able to take Teaching Knowledge Tests and attend several teacher training workshops with teachers from across my whole city.
I could see my progress from my first interview for the position until my last day on the job and can attest that I was a much better teacher than I was when I started.
The skills you will develop teaching English are not limited to just teaching. You will likewise learn many transferable skills that will help not only if you continue in the industry, but to other industries as well.
The biggest transferable skill you will learn is how to present yourself. This may sound simple, but when you teach you are getting up in front of a group of people (students) you don’t initially know and learning how to understand your audience (class) and tailor your message (lesson) to your audience (class). While I must admit I started a little shy at times with new classes, I quickly developed the confidence to stand in front of any group and quickly build rapport. This is a skill I will need whether I’m in front of a classroom of students or in any future presentation.
It’s not just your class you will present to. Weekly during center meetings, you will oftentimes rotate who will present, so you gain practice speaking in front of colleagues. This seemed the most daunting to me, even though I worked every day and enjoyed my co-workers. It helped me to gain not only confidence in front of my students, but also with colleagues. As you can imagine, you will likewise experience this in the future in any field of work.
One last transferable skill that I really saw I and my colleagues learned was managing a schedule and meeting deadlines. For many of my colleagues, this was the first full-time job after university graduation. It was where many began to first communicate with other teachers and ensure that lesson planning ensured all topics covered and that students were prepared for their exams.
While living abroad is very exciting, it isn’t always easy. You will grow as an individual as you work through life in a country likely quite new to you. Every day and every week builds on each other and as you stick with it, you will see that soon life becomes easier. I think back to my first night in Beijing as I went out to a corner store to buy food with some of the new teachers in my arrival group. Everything felt so new and foreign. Fast-forward two weeks ahead as orientation was concluding and I was confidently taking the metro with a handful of household items from Walmart (yes, China has Walmart!) to move into my apartment.
As I was thinking about how life in China shaped me as an individual, I thought to a Ted Talk I had heard. It’s one of the Top 25 Ted Talks of all time and is titled Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Living abroad demonstrates this very trait of grit, or the ability live abroad and follow through on commitments. Employers in every industry want to see that you can work through challenges that may emerge and continue to push through. Living in China as an English teacher helps build that strength of character employers look for.
Today’s workforce is diverse, no matter the industry. While teaching with EF, daily I worked with a diverse group of co-workers. We were diverse in our nationalities, educational backgrounds, upbringing, and working in a cultural new to many of us. The diversity of our center was probably my favorite part of my time teaching with EF.
One experience I cherish was a citywide teacher training workshop. My co-worker and I were talking about hobbies we had outside work and were able to present a workshop to teachers across the city. During the workshop, people could participate in workshops on a myriad of topics that fellow teachers presented.
EF offered opportunities to network with other teachers in the same city, the entire country, and working at the headquarters office. Monthly several activities were hosted in the city that included trying new restaurants, doing tai chi, aerial yoga, and pottery-making. I personally met some now friends while attending the aerial yoga event that I wouldn’t have otherwise. (Not to mention I would have no idea where to look for that!)
Other opportunities to network were outside structure events – such as meeting people at a bookstore that hosted events that both expats and local people attended. It was refreshing to seek out ways to connect with others with similar interests that were likewise living abroad. Some included travel – both EF sponsored (a girl from my center went to Inner Mongolia with EF!) and other tour groups. During fall festival when I had family visiting me from home, I was able to find a tour group that had a permit to camp on the Great Wall. Talk about a life-changing experience! I am still in contact with the tour guide from that group and look forward to more ideas for places to explore when I return to China!
China is an incredible country to not just learn about from the news and books, but to truly experience. With China on the rise globally, it is perhaps the most important country to really understand. Many industries are both reliant and dependent on China in a production and consumer aspect.
An incredible skill set to offer any potential employer is fluency in another language. I remember signing up for several of the EF-sponsored Chinese courses before I arrived to China. I was grateful for the peace of mind to know some basic phrases for that first dinner-adventure out into the city on my first night in Beijing… even if I froze in the moment and struggled through. Because you are living in China, there are plenty of experiences to practice Chinese—whether you dedicate to studying it and becoming conversationally fluent or if you could navigate the basic phrases.
During any job interview, your potential employer wants to see you are capable of learning new things. With any job, there will be something you don’t know and will have to learn. This applies to both the specific skill of teaching over the course of the year as well as transferable skills such as presentation and time management. You become an invaluable asset to any future employer as you work through challenges of living abroad. The connections you build through your diverse workplace, in events, and on your off-hours during your time will build an incredible network for future opportunities. Showing to an employer that you have firsthand experience living in China is a competitive edge moving forward to any industry, especially offering any level of Chinese proficiency. I hope your time as an EF teacher is as incredible as mine was.