Why did you choose this program?
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but in this case, clichés don't apply. When I was shopping around for an agency to find an English teaching job in China, Wook Talent had the best looking, most professionally written website I could find. This attracted me to their services.
Once I had a telephone interview with them, I knew I had found the right people for me! They are as professional as they look and often go above and beyond what you would expect from a placement agency.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
They basically took care of everything. Getting ready to go work in China can be quite intimidating, but Wook was there at every step of the way. Despite the 12 hour difference between Montreal and Shanghai, we spoke frequently and they were always there to ensure I didn't feel insecure or panicked.
They supported me at every step of the visa acquiring process. I always knew exactly what I had to do and when. They helped me have my work contract amended when I believed it was necessary to do so. They even told me what apps I should install on my phone in order to be functional as soon as I arrived in China, and now that I am here they give me access to something that is absolutely essential in China: VPN.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The only thing I did not know ahead of time and wish I had known is how difficult it is to get money out of China. I have some financial obligations in Canada and at the moment it is very hard to fulfill them. Again, Wook is helping me with that, but if I have one piece of advice for anyone coming to China is to keep no financial obligations in your home country whatsoever. Getting money out of China involves some crazy gymnastics that even Cirque du Soleil artists would struggle with!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Every weekday, I arrive at school at 7:20 am and have breakfast there (the kindergarten feeds its teachers). After that, I have about 20 minutes to get ready for the day.
At 8:00, the kids start trickling in until 9:00. At 9:00, we dance and then do the daily outdoor exercise, which I have to prepare, coach and supervise with the help of my two assistant teachers. At 10:00, it's time for our daily English lesson.
From 10:30 to 11:30, I observe the children and take notes for their parents as they take part in semi-guided Freeplay. At 11:30, the kids eat their lunch, we go for a walk and get them ready for nap time at 12:30. I eat lunch and have my office hours while they sleep until 2:30 pm. By that time, the Chinese teacher has arrived and I help her for an hour as she takes over for the rest of the day.
I leave school at 3:30 pm, usually satisfied, as the kids are absolutely adorable and I love them.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I am no spring chicken! I decided to become a kindergarten teacher after a 25-year career as a television host, actor, writer, researcher, and multi-media project manager. So my greatest fear was not China or going abroad, but being able to keep up with the kids, especially since I have never had any of my own!
The first two months were intense, and I must admit I was exhausted every single day after work. Keeping fit physically and mentally got me through it, and I'm adjusting. This being said, even though I didn't fear going abroad, adjusting to living in a completely different culture from your own is also very exhausting. Again, keeping fit and staying positive seems to be the secret!
Is there any other advice for prospective travelers?
I spent a lot, and I really mean a lot, of time preparing for this trip. I did research, I watched vloggers who have been living in China for many years to get some insight, I read books on Chinese mentality and culture, etc., etc. Now, with hindsight, I won't say this was time wasted, but I certainly could have done less. Why? Because nothing can prepare you for China!
Trying to get ready to come to China by doing research is like trying to prepare for your first sexual experience by reading books! You feel like you're ready, and when the time comes... you're not. So don't over-prepare, just go with the flow once you're there.