Why did you choose this program?
When I started looking into teaching abroad, I really had no idea where to even start. I did a Google search, and it was honestly overwhelming with the different options. Did I want to do a traditional classroom setting? What about online learning? What are the price differences? Which will allow me the option to continue working?
I clicked on the link for ITA and decided to sign up to get more information as a starting reference point. I got an email from Shay shortly after. I ultimately made the decision to go with ITA because they listened to what I was looking for and what I needed and helped me figure out the best option for me. They were with me every step of the way.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I have not used ITA for job placement yet. However, I currently work for a recruiting agency in Hangzhou, China. They recruit teachers and place them in public schools. They organized my work permit and residence permit – pretty much everything.
I had to organize my flight to China as well as get all the paperwork together on the American end, which did include the actual visa. When I got to China, the company had someone waiting to pick me up to take me to a hotel. They assisted me with getting a phone, bank account, apartment, medical check – everything I needed to start my life abroad.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Just enjoy it! I came to China not knowing anyone, and 9 months later, I have amazing friends from all over the world. It is really hard living in another country especially if you are alone and it is your first time abroad. However, it will only be as amazing as you allow it to be. You can choose to sit and be miserable because you don't speak the language, don't know the culture, and don't know anyone. It is very easy to get into that mood.
The other option you have is to embrace everything that is thrown your way. Chinese people are so willing to talk to foreigners and help you learn their language and culture. You just have to be willing to learn. So take chances, eat that food that looks totally inedible (don't ask what it is first...trust me, you probably don't want to know!), and just have fun. This is your adventure so make the most of it!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Since I am a kindergarten teacher here, I have to be to work by 8 AM Monday-Friday. I teach from 9 AM-11 AM, teaching four 30-minute classes. I then have lunch that the school provides followed by another class. That class is a different age group than what I normally teach.
My normal classes are ages 6-7 while my 11:30 class is ages 5-6. The cool thing about kindergarten is that the kids have nap time from 12-2:30 so I have free time to do whatever. I usually hang out in the office and get some reading done or make lesson plans.
At 2:30 PM, I teach an art class for my students where they like to teach my Chinese as well. Once that class is done, I have to stay at the school until 5PM when I usually go out to dinner with my other foreign teacher colleagues. After dinner, I spend my nights either taking a walk in the park or relaxing in my apartment and catching up with friends and family back home.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
One of my biggest fears was the fact that I was going to another country to live. The only words I knew how to say were "hello" and "thank you". I didn't have any idea of the culture; I didn't know what to expect at all. I am a very shy person so talking to people I don't know is very challenging to me; doing just that when we don't speak the same language is terrifying. Thankfully, I met people, I got out of my comfort zone, I started to learn some more words, and most importantly, I stopped criticizing myself for not knowing more.
China is a completely different ball game than America. The people are so friendly, the language is beautiful, and the culture is wonderful. I have some of the best friends who are so willing to help me learn the language and share the culture with me. I absolutely love this country. I have also shared my experiences with my friends back home, and all of the ones who asked me, "Why China?!" are now asking me when they can come visit!