Why did you decide to get TEFL certified with ImmerQi in China?
Greg: I decided to get TEFL certified with ImmerQi in China because, as opposed to getting certified in my own country, it allowed me to experience the country before starting out as a teacher. In a way it had made that final confirmation as to whether or not it was really what I wanted to do, and if I was ready to commit to a longer term; living and working in another country.
After doing some searching online ImmerQi seemed to stand out as being a well regarded international organization, with great support and reasonable prices in comparison to some other programs. The ImmerQi team was really great as, in between teacher training, they provided us with plenty of opportunities to experience the culture through calligraphy workshops, mandarin lessons, tai chi classes and tours of some of Beijing's top tourist sights including: The Great Wall, Tianfu Square, the Bird's Nest and Water Cube. They also gave us some free time to explore and do some things on our own accord.
Did you teach abroad? How has the TEFL course impacted your life?
Greg: Yes I taught abroad. I had come to China through ImmerQi as part of a joint program; undergoing teacher training in Beijing/Harbin and then having the peace of mind of receiving a guaranteed job placement at an accredited government school upon completion.
I really don't think I could have had a better start to the teaching semester if I hadn't undergone my TEFL training. We had received practical teaching practice sessions throughout the training and to be completely honest, I was a bag of nerves. However each time we went through the next practice run I became that little bit more confident with myself; standing in front of a class full of eager learners.
It made my first day at school so much easier. The teacher trainers had also shared some very critical points of what to do, how to act, and how to respond to different scenarios in the classroom; using case studies as well as situations that they themselves had encountered in their own early days of being a teacher. Thanks to the training, I had stepped into the world of teaching for the first time; feeling prepared, confident and ready to take on the challenges and rewards of being a teacher.
What is one piece of advice for those who are considering this TEFL course and teaching abroad?
Greg: To all those considering taking that big first step to undergo training and begin your new life teaching abroad, I would encourage you to contact the TEFL providers and have any preliminary questions you may have answered. Also if you have any friends who have been abroad for an extended amount of time, ask and see what their experiences were like.
I would also urge you to ask yourself if you're up for the task. Realistically, working and living abroad in a country so different from your own can be one of the most difficult and challenging times in your life, but it can also be the most rewarding where your mind can be opened up to the world, where some great friendships can be made, and where you will gain a range of skills that can only make you more successful in both your personal and professional life.
Once you're here, ask the teacher trainers as many questions as possible to get as much out of the sessions as you can. This way you will turn up to your first teaching placement with a strong foundation in the art of educating; knowing that your trainers have passed everything they know and have experienced down to you. So in a drastic summary, my advice here is to ask lots of questions when considering this journey of a lifetime!
What was the highlight of your experience?
Greg: I must say my entire time being here in China has been incredible. Every aspect of my day to day life here has exceeded my expectations. The traveling, the friendships made, the amazing food and culture and of course, the anticipation of what lies ahead!
However I would have to say that the highlight of my time here in China has been the teaching. My initial reason behind coming to China was to improve my Mandarin skills and travel the country, whilst teaching on the side to fund my expenses. But over the months I have really grown fond of my students, colleagues and the atmosphere of my school as a whole.
When you come to your first school in China, you are definitely treated like quite the important guest. Always greeted by smiles and hello's on the school grounds. The students want to know everything about you, and will often invite you to play with them during lunch time, and in the classroom they definitely work with you to make the lesson easy to be fun!
Don't get me wrong, not every day is perfect in the classroom. Sometimes it can actually be really stressful, but then there's every other day where you feel like there's no other place you'd rather be!
Anything else you would like to share?
Greg: Where other interns were placed in apartments with one another, I had the chance to experience living with a host Chinese family for my teaching semester. At first I felt a bit out of my comfort zone, but then I remembered that I wanted to come to China with the desire to become a more confident and self-reliant person. So, optimistically thinking, this experience gave me the opportunity to witness what home life is like from a Chinese perspective, as well as enhance my mandarin skills exponentially; the only person able to speak a tiny fraction of English being the family's 8 year old son.
I took the time to start up a basketball club with my students at school, as well as help out the school coach to train the school's soccer team. I also participated in a competition to see which school could perform the best Tai Chi performance. Outside of school I found a nearby dance studio. Here I made some great friends who took me around Chengdu and made me feel like a true local.
Another experience was when I got a request from the Chinese Government to appear in their short film promoting international education, and got to make friends with people from many different countries! So I'd say to take the initiative and try to get involved with as many things as possibly, both within your school and in the local community. During your time here I strongly suggest you become a yes man!.. or woman, and I think then you will find yourself having a much more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.