Alumni Spotlight: Jess Odendaal


Jess is a Molecular and Cell Biologist who found her way into teaching and she couldn't be happier. Originally from South Africa, she is enjoying life in China. While learning Chinese is proving to be a challenge, it is also an enjoyable experience. She hopes to have the opportunity to explore more of China in the future and put her Chinese to good use.

Why did you choose this program?

Deciding to move halfway across the world is a big decision, so before coming to China, I did A LOT of research on different TEFL courses and employers. A scarily large number of scams cropped up and made me doubt whether or not it was wise to actually come here.

As my interest was waning, I stumbled upon an article which listed Teaching Nomad as a highly reliable recruiter for teachers in China. I read some of their reviews (not many at that stage as it was still a fairly new company), and was a bit skeptical as the reviews all seemed a little too good.

Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I wrote to them. Within a day, I had a response and everything just fell into place from there. Turns out that those reviews were an excellent reflection of the company!

Everything was handled so professionally and efficiently that I never questioned my decision in choosing Teaching Nomad and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

It's tough to list all the things that they assisted me with (because it is a very long list) but I will list the basics - airport pickup, accommodation organization for the duration of the course, SIM card assistance, bank account assistance, general day to day advice/assistance, and more.

There isn't much that they won't do to help you!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I'd have known how little I had to fear coming on this program. I was so nervous before I came to China (new country, new language, new culture, new course), but within a day of arriving, the TN staff had already put me much more at ease and I realized that there really wasn't much to worry about.

I would recommend learning some basic Chinese - greetings, numbers, and names of foods - before coming to China because it will make your life much, much easier (even in Shanghai, English doesn't tend to get you very far).

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Life is pretty fast-paced on this course but it's more than doable and good fun. You spend a few hours a day with an experienced trainer covering course content and lesson planning for your observed teaching practice sessions. In this time, you also work together with your fellow trainees to complete tasks and give each other support in lesson planning.

Evenings are usually spent teaching or observing your fellow trainees teach. There is a big emphasis on giving each other feedback which definitely helps in the learning process.

Another nice feature of this course is that one gets the opportunity to teach in some low income primary schools through a charity program that Teaching Nomad works with.

Teaching and observing at these schools taught me a lot and gave me some fresh perspective on many things. I enjoyed this part of the course so much that I still attend the 'Volunteer Tuesdays' (as they have affectionately been named) whenever I can.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that I had made a horrible decision to leave my intended career path behind and that China wasn't a good choice of country to relocate to.
Luckily, I really love teaching and I really love China!

Initially the plan was to stay for just a year but I have no intention of leaving for the foreseeable future. I have also decided to invest some time and effort into learning Chinese which is proving to be a great experience.