First Impressions - Stuart Johnson

I have been in China for two months now and have enjoyed every minute. I live in Huzhou, a small city in Zhejiang Province, about an hour away from the capital Hangzhou. We are surrounded by mountains and have a beautiful lake on the North side of town, but enjoy all the advantages of a modern city. I live in a large apartment near the centre, furnished with everything from fridge freezers to cable television; the latter being particularly important for keeping up with the major sporting events back home!

The food here is excellent (particularly the dumplings which I can't live without) and the people warm and friendly. People often stare which is off-putting, but you soon get used to it: you are considered a little exotic and people are interested in learning about who you are and where you are from. My understanding of Chinese on arrival was limited, but has since improved - I have lessons everyday at my school - and I now feel comfortable ordering food and having basic conversations. The language barrier should not put anyone off coming to China: a lot of people here want to practice their English and it is sometimes difficult to show off my Chinese when I go out! In my spare time there is plenty to do: shopping, catching the latest movies at the local cinema (Hollywood is big in China) or enjoying the local night-life. I have certainly never felt bored during my time here!

Teaching so far has been a joy. I teach around 18 classes a week, with ages ranging from 10 to 16 years old. Children here are so excited to be taught by a foreigner that they are enthusiastic and attentive, both positive attributes teachers look for in the ideal student. I often have to sign thirty 'autographs' on entering the classroom, which I won't lie, makes me feel very important! Prior to coming to China I had no teaching experience, but I have received lots of support from fellow teachers at our school, so have settled into my new role nicely. I am often the first foreign person the kids have ever seen so my main objective in class is to practice oral English. This gives you a lot of scope for lesson planning, which can produce some surprising results: my best class so far has been discussing the intricate differences between video games in the UK and China. Teaching is a constant challenge that has taken me outside my comfort zone, which I know will stand me in good stead when I return home.

Living in China is exciting, sometimes bizarre, but ultimately great. The school have looked after me every step of the way and the kindness of the people here should not be underestimated. I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing now and the positive impression China has left on me will stay with me for a long time. Thank-you TEIC.

If anyone has any questions about teaching in China, don't hesitate to contact me: