An Interview with Patrick Chmielewski at World International English
GS: So, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into English teaching?
WI: Shortly after graduating college, I decided to pursue a 27 month term volunteering with the Peace Corps. It was especially appealing because of the level of social and cultural integration Peace Corps volunteers are required to achieve in order to work effectively. The recruitment process is fairly competitive, so I decided to boost my chances of getting accepted by getting some volunteer experience under my belt. I volunteered with a local NGO in Durham, North Carolina to teach English to refugees that had just arrived in the U.S. My experience volunteering in Durham as well as my experience in Ethiopia teaching with the Peace Corps were incredible, and I found that I enjoyed the lifestyle of traveling and teaching. Upon finishing the term with the Peace Corps, I was eager to begin teaching at the next location.
GS: What advice do you have for people about the recruitment and interview process when looking for jobs teaching in China?
WI: Although the entire process of seeking out a new job opportunity abroad can be exciting, it’s important to realistically decide what you’re looking for in terms of characteristics of the city you’re considering, working hours, how often you’d like to visit home, etc. It’s also important to look over several other positions and places similar to that which you’re considering so that you can get an idea for what is generally offered. Keeping this in mind, if you have a reasonable request, don’t be afraid to ask!
GS: You are teaching in Jiashan at the moment, can you tell us about your impressions of the city? What do you like most about living there?
WI: Jiashan is a small town for Chinese standards, but personally feels like a mid-sized city. Demographically speaking, a considerably large percentage of the population is from other cities and provinces in China, so you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. Perhaps the thing I like most about Jiashan is its proximity to the cities of Hangzhou and Shanghai and the ease with which one can travel to them via high speed train.
GS: Talk us through a typical day teaching English in your city
WI: I typically work from 1pm-9pm. Upon arrival, I have an hour to prepare two classes. The first class is usually an English Corner, which is a conversation-focused class guided by a Powerpoint. An interesting discussion topic always makes for an excellent and entertaining English Corner. At 4pm I have a couple hours to prepare my three evening classes. At around 5pm, I’ll order something to eat that affordably and conveniently arrives at the school. After putting things away and chatting with students, I’m usually out of the school by 9:15pm.
GS: Can you tell us about your favourite class at the moment?
WI: WORLD offers one-on-one classes, and I’ve found that I typically enjoy these the most. The first reason is that neither I nor the center’s curriculum determines the topic or type of class – the student does. Sometimes I have to prepare for something I’ve never done, and I welcome the challenge. Furthermore, it gives both the teacher and student the opportunity to extensively study one specific area more than a regular class would typically allow.
GS: What are the teaching resources like there?
WI: There are a multitude of resources at my disposal in addition to the extensive curriculum already provided. There are IELTS practice books for both the teacher and student, materials for business English, and many more. The school definitely has what I need to prepare engaging and interactive classes.
GS: What do you like most about teaching English?
WI: Without a doubt, teaching is so appealing because of the opportunity it provides to not only travel, but really integrate into a culture and perhaps even learn a language as well. The interesting people that I meet and often befriend remind me of why I chose to begin this journey in the first place.
GS: Tell us about the restaurants and local food in your city
WI: There are many restaurants within a 10-15 minutes’ walk from the school. The cheapest food will typically be the noodles or rice dishes which you can find for around 10-15 RMB. I especially enjoy the dumplings here, for which I pay about 20RMB. The variety of food available is quite astonishing, so I try to take advantage of this by eating new foods often. Whether you like seafood or spicy food, there are many options, and these too feel “cheap” whenever I eat out. As much as I love things like pizza, steak, and burgers, I’ve found that it’s not so delicious here.
In addition, be prepared to pay more for western food. Japanese food is common, but when I’m craving Italian, Mexican, Indian, or Thai food I have to go to Shanghai. For these reasons, I generally stick to the Chinese food. Jiashan’s local specialties include smoked bullfrog, a special meat dumpling known as shaomai, a sticky rice dumpling known as zongzi, as well as a turtle stew.
GS: Tell us about the living costs and rent in your city
WI: Coming from the U.S., I was pleasantly surprised by the low cost of renting an apartment in Jiashan. The prince range is about 1,300 – 1,800 RMB per month. I send quarterly payments electronically via APP.
GS: Tell us about the transportation in your city
WI: Jiashan is well-equipped with a convenient bus system, bicycle rental, taxis, and ride hailing services similar to Uber. The high speed train station in Jiashan allows you to travel from city to city at tremendous speeds. If that’s not enough, e-bikes are more than affordable and are a popular choice for other foreign teachers in the city.
GS: China is full of surprises and unexpected adventures, tell us about one you have had recently.
WI: For the mid-autumn festival, my friend invited me to his family’s home in the countryside. It was nice to explore such a rural environment and see the country from a different perspective. The friendliness and hospitality of my friend’s extended family renewed my appreciation for the various cultures and lifestyles among which I’m living.