Joe Davies and Laura Bibby

Our names are Joe Davies and Laura Bibby and we are a couple who decided to join the TEIC programme whilst studying for our final year at university. We have been in China teaching for 9 months now and are having the time of our lives! We have always been fascinated with China but never really thought we would be given the opportunity to experience it first hand. Whilst researching for graduate jobs online we came across the TEIC advertisement and it almost seemed too good to be true.

After extensive research, including other similar programmes we felt that TEIC was far superior. Professor Thomas was very helpful and reassuring and willing to answer any questions or concerns we had very promptly. As we are a couple he also managed to find us a placement at the same university living together which was ideal.

We were placed in a medium sized city (over 1 million people in the urban area) called Xuzhou in Jiangsu province. We love this city as it is directly in the middle of the major Beijing to Shanghai train line with the other East to West line also running through the city. One of the main reasons for travelling to China was to travel and experience the culture and diversity of the region and we feel this city has allowed us to do this with ease. Not only is this city a good transportation hub but it has many historical sites, a beautiful lake and a good balance of modern and traditional Chinese culture.

We asked to teach at a university and we were given a position as a teacher at China University of Mining and Technology which is a good university with a very good reputation. We teach English major students aged between 18-22, first, second and third year students. All our students are fantastic people with very high levels of respect, they are eager to learn and are a joy to teach. Many of our students we can happily call our friends. There are about 30 students in each class and classes last about 1 hour and 45 minutes each. We teach no more than 16 class hours a week. One of the joys of the TEIC programme is that there is no previous training required, only a degree. However upon arriving at the university we were told we would be teaching English writing, English Oral and English Culture. To be honest the English writing classes have been a challenge as we are expected to teach very technical aspects of English writing. With no prior training in this field this obviously takes up much of our free time as opposed to teachers who just teach oral English.

Everything so far had gone perfectly, the TEIC application, the initial visa application, arriving in China, our accommodation and the teaching position itself. However we did encounter some problems regarding our visa extension. We applied for a 3 month visa in England of which the school then take to the government and exchange it for a residency permit lasting for the whole year. Ideally this should be done earlier rather than later and unfortunately our visa was left to expire and was only sent off to be extended the day it expired. This was very worrying for us because if the government did not extend the visa we would have had to leave the country and pay a very large fine per day. We found it very difficult to find out any information regarding this situation (3 of us all on the TEIC programme were involved) in China and in general our representatives from the university did not see it as a problem. This is one of the major cultural differences. We must emphasise that throughout this difficult period Professor Phil Thomas was absolutely fantastic, he did everything he could to assist us wherever possible. He even helped us when he was out of the country (not in the UK). We are very grateful to him and we must emphasise that sometimes in China things doe not go smoothly, however if you come here via the TEIC programme the support network is there and that can prove invaluable. Hopefully this was a very rare case but we just wanted to highlight how beneficial it was for us to be with the programme.

Another fantastic aspect of teaching in China is the paid winter vacation. This year we were very fortunate and we received 10 weeks paid holiday. One of the main reasons that we personally joined the programme, was to travel around China and we had an amazing experience during our time off. We spent over a month travelling around China and saw some truly wonderful things. We left our city and headed to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors and then to Chengdu for the spicy hotpot and the pandas. Next was Leshan and the Giant Buddha before travelling to Chongqing where we boarded a cruise ship to sail along the Yangtze River for 4 days stopping in Yichang. We then headed south through Hunan to a quaint town called Fenghuang, before climbing up some remarkable rice terraces in Longsheng. Guilin was next and a cruise down the Li river amongst some of the most remarkable mountainous countryside you could imagine. The backpacking Mecca of Yangshuo followed before crossing the border into Macau and Hong Kong and then finally flying home to Xuzhou. We had the time of our lives on this trip and we are grateful to TEIC for giving us this opportunity.

To give potential candidates some perspective, we only used money earned from teaching in China to fund our trip, we travelled for over a month and even flew home (to Xuzhou) because we came in well under budget and still had money left over. We also try and travel over the weekends and have visited many places closer to home such as Beijing, Qingdao, Qufu, Lianyungang, Jinan, Anhui province and Hangzhou to name but a few. We live what we feel is a very good lifestyle over here and want for nothing, we rarely cook as it is so cheap to eat out in restaurants. We have made many friends over here some also on the TEIC programme, others from many countries worldwide. We have also managed to learn to speak Mandarin which is a fantastic skill to possess. It is entirely up to the individual how you live your life over here but by teaching in China, the possibilities are endless.

In summary if you are even thinking about coming to teach in China we highly recommend it. It is the best thing we have ever done. We only ever intended for this to be a one year deal to travel and experience a different culture before settling down and beginning a career back home in England. However we have already decided to stay for a second year and after that who knows? We know many people who have been here several years so surely that must be a good sign! Of course we miss our families terribly and sometimes the cultural differences can be – lets say “frustrating”, however other than that we genuinely cannot think of anything else that is negative about teaching in China. Once again we cannot thank Professor Phil Thomas enough for his support and for giving us this opportunity, sometimes we imagine what we would be doing now if we were not in China and we both agree that it could not compare to what we are doing now. If anybody would like any information about teaching in China, the TEIC programme or anything else at all we would be happy to help you. We realise what a difficult decision it is to make and think it is very important to speak to somebody who is out here. We will be happy to help you, just ask professor Thomas for our email addresses and we will get back to you as soon as possible.