An Interview with Nicolette at Meicheng Education in Xian, China
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
NH: I was born in a country where being a teacher is seen as a low level job with a low salary, but in fact, it is a lot of work and long working hours. I heard from friends and social media that teaching English pays a very good salary and that being an English teacher is a respected career in China. I did research, saved enough money over a period of 8 months and finally got on the plane to China.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
NH: Find a reliable recruiter that does not take commission from your salary on a monthly basis. Search for cities that you want to work in; weather is a very important factor for that decision, so do your research properly. Read through your contract very thoroughly, as there can be some points that are very unrealistic (e.g. being 10 minutes late for work, 50% of your salary will be deducted). Working visa’s take time – my visa took about 2 months. Save enough money to survive the process.
GS: You are teaching in Xianyang at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
NH: I am teaching in Xianyang, Shaanxi Province. The city is smaller than most cities, which I like because I can sleep without the noise of trucks and police sirens. Everything you need is near you (supermarket, malls etc.) Xi’an is very close (30 minutes via subway) – which is a very big city, with a lot of attractions. I like the people in Xianyang because they are humble and treat you like you are very special (or maybe they treat me special because I have blue eyes and blonde hair in China).
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in Xianyang.
NH: The day I have the most classes is on a Sunday – so I will talk about my typical Sunday.
We start working at 09:00. I have a demonstration class at 09:30 to show parents what our classes are like before they sign a contract for their children to go to our school. The demonstration class finishes at 11:00. I have an hour to prepare or write lessons before we have lunch at 12:00 to 14:00.
14:30 I have another demonstration class until 16:00. My first class starts at 16:30 for students between the ages of 3 to 4. This class is an hour long. After that I have an hour dinner break and then I prepare for my last class. My last class starts at 19:15 to 20:15 for students between the ages of 3 to 4. After that I go home.
GS: Tell us about the living cost/apartment in Xianyang.
NH: A decent 2 bedroom apartment starts at 1600 RMB per month in my city. Water and electricity is about 500 RMB per month. Our apartment is very comfortable. Both bedrooms have a big queen size bed. We have a lot of cupboard space which is rare in China. Our kitchen is very small; only one person can fit in it. We have a lovely, spacious dining- and living room. I really like the apartment that we live in.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
NH: My school has everything that you need. You can make any flashcard that you want. There are a lot of props relevant to our classes and we are allowed to order any prop we need online.
GS: Tell us about the restaurants and local food in Xianyang.
NH: The food was a problem at first, because some of the local dishes are very strange to me. I have found a lot of restaurants that serve food that I really enjoy like rice and noodle dishes. When I saw the meat here, I wanted to become a vegetarian, but after a while you get use to it.
GS: Tell us about the salary for English teachers in your city.
NH: The salary is very good compared to the living cost. You can save 5,000 RMB easily every month and still live like a king – buying anything you want.
GS: Tell us about traveling in your city. China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
NH: Xi’an is very close to us and so are the Terra-cotta warriors and horses. There is a lot of history about the Qin Dynasty and the emperor who ruled and buried terra-cotta warriors to keep him safe in the afterlife. I found this very interesting. The history in China is so amazing if you like history.
GS: Tell us about the transportation in your city.
NH: I take the bus to school every day or take a Didi (Chinese Uber). The bus is very cheap – only 1.60 RMB and the Didi costs about 10 RMB to my school. It is about 4 km to get to my school from my apartment. Walking is something that you will do a lot of in China. There are bicycles that you can rent, but I can’t ride a bicycle. I have taken the subway a lot to go to Xi’an and it is very fast and convenient and also very cheap. I will be taking the bullet train to another city in two weeks time.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite class at the moment?
NH: My favorite class is the second class that I started teaching when I arrived at my school. They are between the ages of 4 and 8 and they are very clever. I can play games with them, which actually makes me laugh. I find that this class is more fun than work, but they actually learn English – that is what TEFL is all about!
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
NH: I like teaching English in China at my school, because this doesn’t feel like a ‘job’, but more like a constant game. I don’t feel like I have to get up and go to work and look at the clock until I can go home. I feel like my school is my home and a place where I can be myself. I feel like the best version of myself since I started teaching English.