Erica Fairchild

People back home are always asking me what it's like to live in China and what I do each day. You'd think they want to hear about my two-day hike along the Great Wall, my trips to the beaches of Hong Kong and culinary tour of Chengdu but nope! They want the real day – what a normal day is like in China for a teacher.

How does my day start?

It starts with my alarm (the one that I hit snooze on about 50 times before actually getting out bed). Once I'm up, I head to the corner store and buy some breakfast. Sometimes I get baozi, a type of dumpling, but other times I get a jianbing, a crepe-type pancake. It's a delicious way to start my day and it's so cheap - breakfast costs me a grand total of 50 cents (USD)!

Before work

Next, I'll go to the gym for a quick work out. China is a surprisingly friendly place for exercise outdoors, too. There are running tracks along the rivers and bike lanes on the streets. I then make my way back to the apartment to get ready for work. I usually have some extra time to check my emails and read the news from home as work doesn't start until noon!

My commute

Getting to work is a 30-minute door-to-door journey on the metro, which is quick and easy-to-use. Chinese public transportation is ten times better than anything back in the States. Plus, I don't travel at rush hour, so I always get a seat.

I've read so many books about China during my commute. Whether it's one by a Chinese-American chef returning to the Middle Kingdom to explore her cultural roots, or a local author reliving his youth from the 1960s and 1970s of China. These are moments I value because it helps me contextualise my teacher journey here.

Starting work

The warm smiles that greet me as I walk into the school happen every day without fail. From the students to the reception staff, everyone waves hello and asks me how I am. Within minutes, I'm excited and ready to work. By the time I sit down, I've already answered a few questions from students working at the computer lab, taken a quick look at my schedule and grabbed a coffee.

Since our plans are pre-made, it's up to me to determine the flow of the class, and what extras, if any, I'll be using. Sometimes our lessons are broad and allow for me to include a game of my own devising or build around my personal experiences. For example, if talking about sports, I'll speak about my time as a competitive swimmer or my favourite football movie. Other times there isn't much room for deviation (i.e. when talking about the perfect tenses). I like that there's a mixture as it keeps things interesting in class.

I'll teach 5-6 classes per day. The students aren't the same in every class, so I might end up teaching the same lesson twice or even three times a week – which is awesome because I get to improve my lesson each time.

After work

After classes, I usually go to my local pub for a drink with the friends I've met since moving here. Some even arrived the same day as me! A few are expats; others are locals and a few are even people who have moved to Shanghai from their rural hometowns in China. There's always something going on after dark. If it's a Tuesday night, you'll catch me at Pub Trivia, if it's a Friday night I'll be on the dance floor somewhere! And I always set aside a night to catch up on the TV shows I'm missing from back home – hello, Scandal!

I'm home early enough so that I can get a good rest and start all over again the next day. China is so great; I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!

Sound interesting? Why not read my other post, 10 reasons why you should drop everything and move to China.

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