Meet Holly, who began her TEFL career on the China internship, during which time she was teaching English in China. Read on to find out why globe-trotting Holly decided on travelling to China to teach English abroad and why she’s pleasantly surprised by the music scene in Guanzhuang.
Hi Holly! Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Windsor, UK; however, I moved away from the UK when I was about 6 months old and moved to Saudi Arabia. After about 2 years my family and I moved to Bangkok and stayed there for around 6 years, then we moved to Bahrain, in the Middle East, and stayed there for nearly 10 years. So yes, I am British but I have been fortunate enough to live in a bunch of places
Where are you now?
At this very moment I sat at my desk and I work in Guanzhuang, in Beijing in China.
Why did you decide to look at teaching English?
Well, I looked into teaching English as I wanted to travel again. Then I really thought about my options: travel and lie on a beach and run out of money pretty swiftly or experience it first hand and work in a county. As much as I would love to be lying on a beach, I actually much prefer this experience. I’m waking up every morning in the biggest city in the world and everyday I get to experience something new. Whether it is trying to overcome the public spitting (this happens in restaurants!), learning Mandarin or visiting one of the many beautiful temples. I’d be lying to you if I said that everything I was doing here was cultural because the nightlife here is fantastic. Any kind of club (the music scene here is huge: House, RnB, Drum and Bass they even love a cheeky bit of dubstep) or bar are literally on your doorstep here in Beijing. One of the main hotspots here, for us anyway, is San Li Tun. We meet up here nearly every weekend and the bars are cheap, street food is great and the people are fantastic. You will meet your usual expats but also fantastic locals eager to party with you and they are a good laugh.
What attracted you to the China internship in particular?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel most of South East Asia and I love it, but when it came to China I was perplexed. I had never visited it nor had I heard much from friends or family members about it. China seemed alien to me, so when the opportunity arose to either go back to somewhere I had been or to this foreign place, I leaped at the opportunity to have a completely new experience. The fact I had never been to China made me excited yet nervous about the whole experience and I am so glad that I made the decision to come here.
What age students are you teaching?
I’m teaching 3-4 year olds and also 4-5 year olds. They are amazing, their brains are like little sponges so they are taking in everything and it is amazing to see how fast they are progressing over such a short period of time. For example, when I came here a month ago some of them didn’t even know their English names; some didn’t even have English names, now they can write their names and also write ‘I am …. I have ten fingers’.
How are you finding the experience of teaching?
The teaching experience has been great so far the only thing I struggle with day to day is the school food. That is kind of my fault though, I don’t eat tomatoes (only if they are whole, and they love tomatoes and egg here), fish and mushrooms. Unfortunately these are some of the cheapest foods so they get used everyday.
What is the cost of living like in China?
Living in China is extremely cheap. As long as you aren’t an absolute prude about what you eat. I personally, do not eat any fish, mushrooms or whole tomatoes (weird I know) and I would say these are probably the most used ingredients in Chinese cooking, but I would say I am getting by just fine. Once you have gotten over the fact a lot of the food doesn’t look great you’ll be fine. (All the food taste fabulous it’s just the initial shock to your eyes) Sara and I (my roommate) do a weekly shop and a lot of the time it lasts about 2 weeks, our total comes to 150 RMB every week.
At the moment, I do have enough money to keep me afloat for a while but I have also taken up some private tuition which pays really well over here so no, I’m not going to struggle on the money front and honestly, I don’t think a lot of people out here do when they are teaching/working.
What do you do in your spare time?
We socialise mostly on the weekends but sometimes in the week we go out to dinner with other teachers and rarely we head off to a club in the week, the hangover is just too painful to deal with when you are dealing with little children the next day. Most weekends we head into Beijing grab some dinner then head out to a bar (there are so many to choose from) then we head out to a club. Most clubs are open until 6am so you can even get the subway home if you don’t want to splash out 3 pounds on a cab. I live with a girl Sara and then we have Emma who lives down the road, we all work together so we are with each other 24-7, so, on the weekends we hang out with other ESL teachers that we met through our TTC training but we have also met quite a lot of people here who are just expats. The expat community over here is huge and you will never fall short of making friends over here. If you head over to San Li Tun you will make a new circle of friends every night.