I Went to China and You Can Too!
My life before China.
In the year 2006, I was dually enrolled at Seminole State College(SSC) and the University of Central Florida(UCF). I was in my last semester for the Registered Nursing program(RN) at SSC while working on a bachelor's degree in nursing. That was the semester that began a series of events would change my life.
That was a time in my life that I have to remind myself to learn from and not regret. I made a lot of mistakes and went through a lot of pain. I ran away from a five year relationship, because of fear. I turned my back on friends to justify my own mistakes. I experienced losing a dearly loved one for the third time in my life. Finally, I ruined a career path that could have been very successful, because of politics. However, these are stories for another time.
I decided to change my major in college to Anthropology and put the past behind me.
The great Idea!
In the winter of 2008, my brother asked me "how would you like to go to China?". I laughed and said "Hah! that would be great if I was rich!" He said "I have a friend that lives there and she says all we need to do is get a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and we can get jobs there!" The more he talked about it, the more it sounded interesting, spontaneous, and fun. I thought about it all spring and then decided that I was going to do it!
That summer, I took the ATIAC (Advanced TESOL online certification. Once I finished my summer classes and my TESOL course, I began putting my resume online at the various TESOL websites (ESL cafe, Serious Teachers, and others). My boyfriend(now husband) and I decided that we wanted to go to Shenzhen, China. It seemed like our best choice since my brother's friend lived there, and it was close to Hong Kong. I also created a personal page on Shenzhen Stuff and Shenzhen Party and began networking for English teaching jobs. I got a lot of great advice and even many job offers. The need for English teachers is so great in China that job offers were pouring in! We were also being coached by my brother's friend, who was already working in China, on what offers were too low and what to look for. We were to look for jobs that offered business visas or work visas. An offer of twenty hours or less was considered part time and anything over 20 hours a week was considered full time. We were not to accept less than 150 RMB (24 US dollars) per hour for full time work and no less than 200 RMB (32 US dollars) per hour for part time work. We made some friends in China and saved information on many job prospects.
We bought plane tickets to China, almost impulsively, that summer; It was as if we didn't want to be able to "chicken out". We didn't have time to wait for a Chinese visa, therefore we went to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, one doesn't need a Chinese visa and you're allowed to stay up to 90 days as an American tourist.
Looking back on what I learned:
- Shenzhen was a great choice, because you can only stay in mainland China for up to thirty days on a tourist visa (which is what we were able to get). On the 30th day, you must exit. However, you can return the same day. Also, a tourist visa allows you to do some "consultation work" and personal tutoring. If you get a full time job make sure they can attain a work visa or even a business visa for you and then you only have to leave the country every 60 days in most cases. Just in case, you should ask for the specifics on the visa.
- Couchsurfing is a great way to meet people in Shenzhen, China! It serves as a way to keep up to date on events with expatriate friends, because Facebook is banned in China.
- It is important to know how much the average expatriate makes from teaching English in China, because one could be cheated by greedy job "agents" or "agencies". A chinese agent or job agency may be able to place you in a new teaching position quickly. However, they handle your payments and they usually charge 50 percent or more of each and every hour that you work! Steer clear of them! It's better to find the job yourself on the TESOL websites or use the Shenzhen social networking sites to meet, seek job leads and advice from people already working in your target location.
In Hong Kong!
In August of 2009, my boyfriend and I took a plane to Hong Kong. We found someone that spoke English and asked them how to get to the Chung King Mansion inTsim Sha Tsui. He helped us find a bus that took us directly there. We decided to stay on the 11th floor at the Chung King Mansion, because Miss Kam the lady that runs the "International Guest house" saw us "looking lost" on the first floor and told us that she had a spare room.
That first night was pretty crazy. We were a bit nervous about being in a whole new country, and we were intimidated by the language barrier. Our heads were also still full of all the silly things people said to us before we left. "don't eat the food there!", "you know they eat dog there?!". After sitting around for what seemed hours, we got hungry enough to venture out and realized it wasn't as scary as we thought. We walked around Kowloon Park, which was beautiful! Then we found a Mall and ate in their food court. It was delicious!
The next day we went to apply for our visas at the visa office downtown. Afterwards, we walked around and found that Hong Kong is very similar to New York City. Except, that around every corner there is an Indian man trying to sell you "copy watch", and "tailored suits". Things are very expensive in Hong Kong(compared to mainland China), but you can find just about anything. From designer clothes to gyros.
Looking back on what I learned:
- According to the online research that we did in them months prior to the trip and, specifically, Wikipedia, the Chung king Mansion "is a building located at 36–44 Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. The building is well known as nearly the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong." Look at what other people had to say here. It's considered a hostel and it's pretty intense because of all the people wanting to "help" you. If I was to do it again, I would have packed light so that I could keep a better eye on my stuff and move through the crowds easier. Not that we ever had a problem, it's just a big city with a lot of people and we had to walk a lot. Also, I wouldn't recommend staying there alone, especially if you are a girl.
- If you decide to get a visa when you get to Hong Kong, go to the Dynasty Express Company in the Tung Shun Hing Comm Center on 20-22 Granville Road, Room 902. They can get your visa, they speak English, they are fast, and friendly.
Chung king Mansion Crazyness!
Finally in Mainland China!
We picked up our visas and took the subway to Shenzhen. We were able to find a hotel in Shenzhen where we could stay for 1900 RMB (305 US dollars) per month on the website Shenzhen Party. We'd had the foresight to copy the address and showed it to taxi driver.
Shenzhen is a culture shock! Almost no one speaks English and we relied heavily on our English-Chinese dictionary.
There are many people that live and work in Shenzhen from rural villages and many of them have never even seen a foreigner. Most people are very friendly and curious about "foreigners". However, it is quite a weird feeling to walk down a street and notice that most people are staring at you.
Tony had befriended a Chinese guy that lived in Shenzhen. They met on the social networking site Shenzhen Stuff . He helped us with everything! We became more than friends over the two years that we were there, In fact, he is my son's godfather.
I had been corresponding with a couple of employers before we flew to China. Once we got to Shenzhen, we set up meetings with them and began working relatively quickly. Eventually, my brother also came to China.
We lived there for 2 years! Working and having fun with the great friends that we met along the way. The people are awesome and the culture is beautiful. It seems like everybody wants to talk to you and know about where you are from. The customs are ancient and interesting. I loved the outdoor dance, and martial arts classes that you see happening at all the many public parks. The shopping is awesome, because ... everything is made there! Also, the cost of items and services is super cheap. You can get your hair shampooed and blown dry, a full body massage for an hour, and a suction cup sesssion(removes toxins from your body) for less than 20 bucks. The food is healthy, fresh, very delicious, and at a low cost. The nice thing about China is that a healthy meal will cost you next to nothing while Mcdonald's food is expensive! We loved to go to the Muslim and the Hong Kong style restaurants, because they gave you so much food for less than 2 dollars a meal! We're talking about a huge bowl of fresh meat, veggies and rice or noodles. The cost of living is extremely low compared to your potential income. It must be experienced to be appreciated.
Towards the end of our time there, I felt like a new person and it felt like I was meant to go to the other side of the world where "people walk upside down" to change the direction of my life. Looking back it was an adventure that I wouldn't trade for the world, especially since my son was born there!
If you are considering teaching in China, I would advise you to be quick about it so that you don't "chicken out"! There are other ways to go there and if you need any advice, message me :)
Looking back on what I learned
- I learned that body language aids communication just as much as the spoken language if not more.
- I learned that personal space is a joke and nonexistent on a Shenzhen bus or train.
- Every price is negotiable in China.
- Every adventure begins with a single step.
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