After a tedious breakup with my old teaching job, I got my new Chinese residence permit and I’m finally legit. Now I can legally say that I teach ESL at a college in Rizhao, and I love it. Although changing jobs was a logistical nightmare, here are 7 reasons why the grass is greener on the other side.
College ESL students want to learn
Sure I have a few students that don’t seem to care about anything I say, but a majority of my students are able to follow along and seem to genuinely enjoy practicing english. Even my poorer-at-english students wake up when we talk about American culture. They love hearing about America and it’s customs, slang and traditions. Like it’s some magical faraway wonderland.
Cool fact: The Chinese word for America, 美国 (Měiguó) literally translates to “beautiful country.”
One thing I really appreciate about college students: when they don’t want to learn, at least they’re quiet. It drove me nuts to teach young kids who didn’t want to learn because they wouldn’t shut up. I’m too impatient to deal with gremlins latching onto my legs while I’m trying to teach.
The teaching schedule
I teach 2 classes per day, 3 days per week. Each class lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes. No office hours. That’s 10 hours per week and it’s considered a full-time job. When I’m not in class, I have plenty of time to plan lessons, read, write and explore China. In other words, it’s the perfect job for a lazy bum like me.
Teaching a total of 10 hours per week, my monthly income is still higher than the Chinese national average, plus I get accommodation from the school pro bono. I’m not boasting; I just want to shed some light on the unfair wage advantage foreigners have in Asia.
As english-speakers, our value in the job market grows significantly when we migrate to Asian countries purely because of our mastery of a language that we had no choice but to adopt since we could stand on our own two feet. In China we’re dubbed “foreign experts,” which is a deceivingly cool official title. If you speak english fluently, you have a highly coveted, marketable skill. Don’t take that for granted.
Living on campus
Only a 3-minute walk from bedroom to classroom, my apartment is a cozy little bachelor pad with a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. It’s everything a lǎowài could want in China. What’s more, the apartment, water, electricity and wifi are free—although the wifi is slower than a grandma wearing a pair of cement shoes.
My old job at the language center—that I despised—provided me with an incredible apartment. It was probably the nicest place I’ve ever dwelt. I was sad to leave that spacious, well-heated apartment in the heart of Rizhao city to move to an on-campus apartment here, but it was worth it tenfold to leave a job I didn’t enjoy.
Abounding street food
Because of the heavy student population in this area, restaurant nooks and street vendors stack the streets in colorful zigzags, selling food at stupidly affordable prices. I’m a street food fiend, so all this cheap deliciousness available everywhere only makes my habit worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.
I just wrote a story about my omnipresent struggle: trying to decide which is better, Thai food or Chinese food. To assist myself in making a decision, I conduct very important taste research on a daily basis by sampling a variety of Chinese delicacies available in and around campus. If I see an unfamiliar food, I eat it. For scientific research purposes.
Interesting ESL discussions
In my previous work at a high school in Thailand, I was essentially just an ESL gameshow host. Once I came to China and worked at a private language school, it was all about repeating “apples are red” a dozen times to semi-deaf ears.
Now I teach college students and, I’ll be honest, it’s the best ESL gig out there. The classes are interesting, relatable, and I like hearing the opinions of my students during discussions. The students are developed young adults, not early teens weathering puberty or toddlers squeezing my leg and screaming.
A chance to practice Chinese
When I teach, I have a fleet of young translators in front of me ready to assist my Chinese language development. If, at any point during a discussion, I’m interested in a particular phrase being spoken, I can ask my students to translate the phrase into Chinese and BOOM—I just learned something new.
When I’m out and I see my students, they’re always excited to help me buy food, translate a message and keep me company. They are just as eager to learn english as I am to learn Chinese, so it’s a nice balance of benefit. The point is, I can actually have a decent conversation with my students.
College ESL students are relatable
Some might argue that, since I’m only 4 to 5 years older than the students, it might be difficult to earn their respect. I think that’s the opposite in this case. I don’t treat them like students; I treat them like peers, as if I’m just a guy who wants to be their friend and it just so happens that I also speak fluent english.
The students in my class let me know when they are bored, when they feel nervous and when they enjoy a topic of discussion or role play. I try to make it a creative classroom environment wherein the student is free to express their opinion without fear of making mistakes.
It’s my opinion that the Chinese education system employs too much rote memorization in the classroom, so I’ve taken it upon myself to offer these students a lively, western, monkey-ish classroom environment. I’ll let you know how it goes.