Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Bennett


Why did you decide to teach abroad with Aston Recruiting in China?

I’d lived abroad in Germany for a year during university and with graduation looming I was sure that I didn’t want to go down a graduate scheme route. A friend from university had taught with Aston and had recommended the programme to me. She said that I was the only friend she knew who could cope with living in China so I looked at the Aston website myself and decided that they offered a good package for foreign teachers. Although on the surface their salaries are lower than some larger companies, what stuck out for me was the rent free apartment for foreign teachers, which meant that it was one less thing to worry about. Also, the different contract options were attractive, depending on how many hours you wanted to work. This is great for anyone applying because you can balance a work and travel aspect of your time with Aston if you so wish.

When I was put in contact with a school manager, the process was simple and easy. Any questions that I asked, no matter how small or silly, were also answered very well and this made me clear in my mind that it was a company I was willing to work for.

What made this teaching experience so unique and special?

The students in China have been very friendly and enthusiastic, which has made teaching a pleasure. Of course there are difficult times, but that can be said about any job. I’ve had the opportunity and the time to travel around different parts of China, something that I would probably never had done had I not come to work out here.

Living abroad in such a unique country has also given me a great opportunity to try and learn a new language. Although Mandarin seems difficult at first, once you use it every day you do begin to pick it up quite easily.

What has been especially great is that I’ve had really supportive and friendly managers who have given me the opportunity to develop many work related skills whilst in China. They’ve allowed me to take on an assistant manager role, which gives me more responsibility in the day to day running of the school, whilst also passing on things that I’ve learned through teaching to other teachers as well. I’ve also had the opportunity to work in two very different locations that are not highly populated with Westerners, which is something that I value immensely.

How has this experience impacted your future?

I cannot stress how fantastic the experience of living in another country is. It broadens your mind and offers opportunities you will never get at home. Whilst I do not plan to work as a teacher once I have finished in China, I will take many of the skills I’ve developed out here into whatever job I decided to do next, be it flexibility, teamwork, patience or organisational skills. I plan to continue working abroad after leaving China because I’ve seen that there are a whole host of opportunities available in the world, you just need that first little leap into the unknown to see it.

On a personal level, living abroad also makes you value your home country a lot more, which some people may find hard to believe. You understand a lot more about yourself too, what you can cope with. You may also find yourself changing your mind – I was only meant to stay in China for 6 months, but by the time I leave here it will be a whole 2 years since I first stepped into the Middle Kingdom, 2 years which have flown by.

What is one piece of advice you would give someone considering teaching abroad in China?

Whilst there are many positives to teaching in China, the major negative is the fact that for most people coming here, it is far away from home. You need to be sure that you can cope with the distance and also fund yourself to get out here. I always make sure that I have enough money for an emergency flight home if the need arises.

Make sure you do your research thoroughly. Know your school and what to expect when you walk in there. Get pictures of it, and where you’ll be living so that there are no surprises on arrival. Different schools and franchises also have different attitudes to teaching and their teachers, so understand where you stand in the scheme of things. The same goes for curriculums, as they can differ in locations, and also age ranges that you teach. Research the areas of any potential schools. If you want somewhere busier and end up somewhere quieter because you didn’t research the city, there is only one person to blame. Make sure the schools explains what is expected of you, and also what you expect of the school. Do not suffer in silence whilst something needs to be done – ask!

I would not think twice about applying again and urging people to apply themselves. If anyone does have any questions, please feel free to contact me via my website at Adventures of Bennett.