A summer internship opportunity led Jana to a career as an international English teacher in China. Discover what she does in a typical day and how you can teach English abroad
How did you get your job?
All students on the International Business and Management degree programme at my university needed to complete a study, work or volunteer abroad placement before graduating. I had been studying Chinese, so I chose to do a summer internship in the country during my junior year. After that summer, I knew I had to go back to China.
EF English First was the first company that offered me a position, and my adventure abroad began.
What's a typical day as an international English teacher like?
The day begins at 8 or 9am. Unlike most jobs, I don't have to rush to work as my working day doesn't start until 2pm. My mornings consist of errands, going to the gym, tidying the house, or exploring Shanghai. The hours between 2 and 5pm are dedicated to lesson planning or team meetings, and between the hours of 5 to 8:30pm I teach two or three classes of three-to-six year olds.
Saturday's and Sunday's are the busiest days for a English as a second language (ESL) teacher, so I start work at 10am and finish at 6pm. There's usually a two hour morning class, followed by a communal lunch with other local and international teachers. In the afternoon, I have Life Club (a class outside of the school) and another two hour class.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My days off are Tuesday and Wednesday. I like to travel and as most people are at work on these days, trains are less crowded and cities more spacious.
What are the challenges?
It's challenging to work in a place which houses many different nationalities; American, Chinese, British, Canadian, etc.
There are also different departments in the same school so communicating between the nationalities and departments can be tough at times.
How has your role developed?
When I came into teaching I didn't have a strong background of ESL experience. I attended training and immersed myself in the opportunities the company provided and I was eventually given specialised roles within my school. I now mentor new teachers.
Are there career advancement opportunities?
EF English First offers a 'Next Steps' programme. You can teach in a different city and participate in a city rotation. There are opportunities to become a senior teacher or director of studies.
Additionally, there are openings in HQ, such as international recruiters or positions in marketing and training.
How do I get into teaching English as a foreign language?
- Research ESL companies thoroughly. If you're looking to teach English in China there are many companies you can sign a contract with. However, you're packing up your life for a year or more, so you need to do your homework and ask questions. I found that EF was a company that guided me every step of the way, from application to arrival. Moving to a new country can be intimidating and scary, but I was put at ease by my recruiter's instructions.
- While at university try to participate in study or work abroad experiences during your summer breaks. There's so much to gain from travelling abroad at a young age.
- If you're certain that you'd like to teach English as a foreign language, complete your online TEFL certification. Additionally, look into higher-level certifications before starting your adventure abroad to increase your salary.