An Interview with Aaron at Giraffe English in Wuhan, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
AH: By the time I was thinking about what I wanted to do after graduating college with a degree in English, I had already done quite a bit of traveling. I loved the experience of being abroad so much that I wanted to go and live in another country for a long period of time. I saw an ad online… something about teaching English abroad. This sounded like the perfect thing for me!
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
AH: If I had to give only one piece of advice, it would be: do NOT look only at the salary. That is not the most important thing at all. You really need to find a supportive and friendly environment, one that you can grow in. If you can find a place to work that feels like home, that is worth more than all the money in the world.
GS: You are teaching in Wuhan at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
AH: Wuhan is an enormous city, and one that continues to change before my very eyes. I have been here for 5 years and seen the metro go from 2 lines to 8 lines. I have seen entire districts pop up (or disappear) nearly over-night. I love witnessing this change. It is a very special thing. I love the food; I love the location (very central in China, convenient for travel). There is also a thriving music scene here, which is very important to me.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in your city
AH: On a week-day, I don’t need to be at work until 4:30, which leaves the entire morning free. I usually take the mornings to go running or explore a new area. After I get to work, I have enough time to print off my lesson plans and gather what I need for class. I’m always so happy to see my kids! The weekends are the busiest days…we have classes all day. It’s not as tiring as you might think – the kids always give me the energy I need.
GS: Tell us about the living cost/apartment in your city
AH: The cost-of-living in Wuhan is quite low compared to some of the other big cities, like Shanghai or Beijing. Rent is probably 1/3 of what you’d find in Shanghai or Beijing. Taxis also start at about half the price as in Shanghai or Beijing. While salaries are about the same as in Shanghai or Beijing, the cost-of-living really is significantly lower, which means that you can actually save much more!
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
AH: Giraffe has its own resources and publishes its own textbooks, and these are what give our classes structure. We are free to be creative in our classes when it comes to developing activities and planning for classes, but we need to follow the Giraffe curriculum. We have lots of toys and flashcards that we can use in class. I never lack for anything!
GS: Tell us about the restaurants and local food in your city
AH: Food in Wuhan tends to be pretty spicy…but if that isn’t your thing, you can find food that is more to your taste. There is a wide variety of Western food as well, though that tends to be little more expensive!
GS: Tell us about traveling in your city. China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
AH: I love traveling in China so much. Wuhan is very central and a transportation hub, with high-speed train connections to everywhere! You can be most anywhere within 5 hours. An enormous international airport just opened and also provides lots of connections. I recently went to Guilin (5 hours by bullet train) and Yangshuo. It was so beautiful and peaceful to rent a bike and ride out into the rice fields!
GS: Tell us about transportation in your city
AH: You can get anywhere you need using the metro or bus system. We now have 8 metro lines, with new ones opening up every year! It is easy and cheap. You can also grab a taxi…they are cheap and plentiful!
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
AH: It is really hard to choose. I have had some of my classes for 3 years, which means I’ve been a witness to the incredible growth the kids go through between 3 and 6. Actually, I’ve grown together with my classes, both as a teacher and as a person. I really can’t choose…they are all so special!
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
AH: I love seeing my kids develop their English skills, communication skills, and just generally grow up. It’s a very special experience. I also love that, as a teacher, there is always something else to learn about education. I also love being around the type of people that enjoy teaching English to kids…they are usually young at heart and just as enthusiastic as I am.