First Impressions - Max Romanovich

I decided to come to China roughly around the time I finished reading the e-mail describing the opportunity. I’ve wanted to learn the language for a long time, and see the wonder that is Chinese architecture, the fusion of the majestic history with the magnificent modernism and the consequences of impossibly quick development and growth. This was clearly on display in the first City I arrived in: Beijing.

Personally I like winter holidays and snow, maybe because of my heritage, I don’t know, but if you love your hot sunny weather, you will be extremely pleased with it here. When we got off the plane and started making our way to the hotel, it was midnight, but it was still about 30-35C with around 80% humidity. Every day was wonderfully sunny and beautiful, so if you decide to go, I highly recommend only packing light T-shirts for your time in Beijing.

The Chinese people I’ve met have definitely not been lazy, nor did they have expectations of laziness from others. I unwittingly booked a flight which arrived at 11:30pm the day we were instructed to arrive, it turned out we would be teaching the next morning, leaving the hotel at 8am. So having tactically napped on the plane I wasn’t too jetlagged when I woke up. Each person was randomly assigned a school they would be teaching at, and off they went. I can’t say anything about the other schools, but the one I arrived at was breathtaking and absolutely colossal, housing around 5000 students and their teachers.

It was a group of 9 foreigners including myself, which later became 10. Upon arrival we were taken to an assembly hall, where we were given a warm welcome by the staff and students we would be teaching. There was a slight issue with the timetable initially because 2 people that were also supposed to teach did not arrive on time, so their schedule got distributed between us. So right after that we were simply asked to teach, those without any mandarin need not fret, the children’s English in Beijing was very impressive, almost all understood the instructions in English, and if there was something amiss, their regular English language teacher was acting as a teaching assistant to help interpret anything and generally help out with class management, not that it was really required as they were all exceptionally well behaved, although I did have one student fall asleep in one of my classes, I assume it might have been the riveting material.

The two weeks teaching at the school flew by; I never expected teaching to be as enjoyable as it was there. We were supposed to have a game of football Foreigners vs. a Chinese team but that was cancelled due to a downpour, but that didn’t stop us from insisting there should be a game still, after going door to door to get people interested, enough gathered, so one of the volunteers with TEIC agreed to take us to the football grounds where we all played for a good 90 minutes, it was chucking it down but she never complained while waiting all that time for us. Everyone involved in the programme was like that, always willing to help, exceptionally nice and a pleasure to be around, I don’t know what we would have done without our volunteers.

You shouldn’t expect as much from students outside the major cities as you did from your students in Beijing in terms of current English ability, but it isn’t too difficult to teach English without using mandarin even when the students have almost no English, pictures, gestures and google translate do wonders.

I’m not going to lie of course, it has not been perfect, Chinese roads terrify me to this day. Motorbikes and scooters use the pedestrian path as if it’s a road, double yellow lines mean almost nothing, people take offense if you put on a seatbelt in their car(they assume you think they’re a poor driver) and traffic doesn’t stop for pedestrians even on zebra crossings and/or green lights. For the first couple of weeks before crossing a large road I would simply wait for a Chinese person to start crossing it and just keep the same line as they did, they always saw gaps which I did not.

Another downside is the lack of advance notice, timetables, schedules and even holiday times are not made until the very last minute, which makes planning a very difficult task. This can simply teach you to think on your feet and go with the flow. So if you like making plans in advance, the only recommendation I can make is that you make a lot of backups for that plan.

But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives tenfold; the food, the culture and the people are definitely worth staying here for. I don’t regret my decision to come to China for a moment, and if I am able to, I’d like to stay here for possibly another year or more to get a better grasp of the language. I’ve been here only 2 months but I already have some amazing tales to tell. So If you have a passion for teaching, exploration, bizarre and wonderful new experiences or broadening your own horizons, I highly recommend doing this yourself.

If you have any questions feel free to hit me up at yep get a qq number, everyone here uses one.