Alumni Spotlight: Stefani Sheffield

Stefani Sheffield was a primary school teacher in California for two years before she moved to China. She enjoys bicycling, public transportation, literature, blogging and learning to garden on the 16th floor. She received her MA in Teaching through the University of Southern California.

china, bike, phoenix

Why did you decide to find a teaching job through Teaching Nomad?

Stefani: It was December and I was about 3 months away from finishing my MA in Teaching. My partner and I decided to seek adventure by moving out of the country for a year or two when I was done. We had some countries we were interested in, but we were willing to go anywhere in the world.

China kept coming up. Pay for English speaking teachers is good, the cost of living is low, and the country itself is very interesting, both in terms of its economic future and its rich history. We settled on China and came across the Teaching Nomad website. I received a reply to my inquiry very quickly and so the ball started rolling.

What made this teach abroad experience unique and special?

Stefani: Everything about living in China has been unique and special for us. We had both moved around a bit before we made the decision to leave the country, but this is our first time living abroad. It is a bit nuts to decide to live abroad in a country where you don't speak or read the language. Luckily, we have had an amazing support team since arriving two months ago.

For me, my placement school has been immensely supportive and has helped with everything from finding our apartment to deciding what to do on the weekend. Some great experiences include playing a Chinese card game with friends, developing a way to play softball with three people and one bat and glove, shopping for art at the painter's alley in Xujiahui, and exchanging Moon Cakes with our Chinese neighbors. Now we're looking forward to exploring beyond Shanghai!

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc.)

china, qibao, brewery

Stefani: When we first set out to go abroad, we were only certain we wanted to go for a year, so we sought jobs with 1-year contracts. Now that we're here, we know we want to stay in China for at least two years and we're playing with the idea of continuing to teach in other countries after that. Not because leaving home and moving to a foreign country has been easy, but because, now that we've gotten through the transition, we are having a lot of fun!

I also know the experience of being immersed in a new language is improving the way I relate to the language learners I teach. Immersing yourself in any new culture also changes the way you relate to your own culture and gives a wider perspective of history and world events. I am loving learning about China and I look forward to bringing that knowledge into my classrooms in the future.

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

Stefani: Learn some Mandarin. It will allow you to do so much more than if you are limited to spaces where you have a translator. You will also meet many interesting people during your time in China. Being able to chat with your vegetable seller or the business woman on the train will enhance your experience in China. That said, if you don't speak Mandarin, don't let that keep you from making the leap. Embrace the opportunity and ask lots of questions.