Ian Bonanno

So, you're thinking about teaching abroad? Well, you may be surprised by one or two things when you actually get to your new country of residence. In order to prepare you for what to expect, I've written a short list of things that surprised me. I hope it helps!

1. The World Comes to You (At Least in China)

If you decide to teach with EF in China, and you end up in a big enough city, you could be as surprised as I was to discover the world comes to you in China. I live in Shanghai now so I can speak to my personal experiences here, but I have heard from teachers in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou about how international those cities are today. First, let's start with the fact that you will most likely work with a mix of Yankees, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and South Africans, plus your local Chinese colleagues. Right there you've got a health mix of countries at your work place! You can add to this mix Europeans, South Americans, and Africans from all over the world. If you are outgoing and social enough, then all you need to do is head down to a foreign themed bar, and it'll be like drinking at the United Nations.

2. Learning To Local Language Can Be Hard

I put in a lot of effort to learn Chinese and talk with locals, but if that isn't your thing then China and EF have you covered. Basically everyone in China below a certain age has some English skill, and EF does a lot to create a fun environment for teachers. You will go out and socialize with other foreign teachers at your school, and you will quickly meet other foreigners living abroad in China. It is surprisingly easy to go from home, where I live with Americans and Brits, to work, where I work with Americans, Brits, and South Africans, to bars, where I am surrounded by other expats. Eventually, when I really sat down and considered my daily routine, I realized I wasn't speaking ANY Chinese while living in China. Maybe you won't be as shocked as I was, and maybe this makes China seem even more inviting, but for me it was a big surprise.

3. You're Never Really “Done With School”

Whether you are a fresh college graduate eager to begin real-life, or someone who already graduated and has work experience, you've probably told yourself “I'm finally done with school!” Well, teaching abroad means going back to school literally and figuratively. First of all, you'll literally be working in a school with kids, teens, or adults! Secondly, you'll figuratively be going back to school because EF provides tons of training and support. I was surprised with the high level of trainings I received before ever entering a classroom, and even after all that support EF made sure I got my fill of trainings to help me perfect my teaching skills. Depending on who you are, the training and support EF provides can feel like a real shock, especially if your last job wasn't too supportive.

4. You Get Really Good At Video Calls

I talk to my parents all the time, and other family members too. This requires a mix of Skype and FaceTime, but in China a super popular messaging app called WeChat also has a video call feature. Now that I am in China, I not only Skype my parents, and FaceTime my sister, but I use WeChat to video call my new friends in Shanghai! I will also use WeChat to video call friends I've made in other cities around China. The internet and cell service is so strong here, I don't really hesitate to video call instead of a normal voice call. Coming from America where simply voice calling is becoming rarer and rarer, this was an interesting transition to make.

5. Home Is Farther Than You Think

Having just mentioned how I can video call like a champ, I do want to stress how far away your home can seem when you actually get here. I was always super in touch with the news in America, but after I got to China all of that melted away. On a day to day basis it is easy not to think about home unless you really try, and it is even easier to just tune out the news. My friends from home constantly mention current events to me over Facebook or text, and most of the time I have no idea what's going on in America.

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