Alumni Spotlight: Paula Marcu


Paula is a graduate of Philology and has been teaching English since 2007. She has taught all ages (3-65) and for all purposes (business, academic, general, exams, etc.) and considers teaching English a dream job. She has been to 13 countries so far and is passionate about traveling and learning new languages. She intends to continue teaching in China for the foreseeable future and explore all the neighboring countries.

Why did you decide to teach abroad through Gold Star TEFL?

I had worked abroad before, but never in Asia, so in early 2013 I decided to start looking for a teaching job in China.

Some friends recommended me to check Dave`s ESL café website for jobs in Asia, but even if I found many offers, the recruiting agencies were mainly Chinese and many of the schools were no name Chinese language centers that couldn`t provide me with a work visa.

I was growing frustrated with the lack of quality of the interviewers and of their job offers, when one day I came across Gold Star TEFL and everything changed overnight.

Jim, the interviewer, knew what he was talking about, and understood perfectly the dilemmas of a new comer to China, he had contacts with big name language schools across Asia and I received several good offers and signed for a job within days.

Soon after, I was ready to go! I worked in Shijiazhuang, a city close to Beijing for one year, and then moved to Shanghai to a new position that Gold Star helped me find, so now I`m teaching university students and I love it, both the job and the city!

What made this teach abroad experience unique and special?

I worked and lived for a year in a large city in northern China with only a few other foreigners and a majority of locals who couldn`t speak English, so I had to learn basic Chinese to survive: to order food in a restaurant or buy it from street vendors, to take a taxi, to buy bus or train tickets, to understand what my 3 year old students were asking for (like going to the toilet or drinking water). I had to learn to eat with chopsticks and forget about forks and knives most days and to learn to appreciate local Chinese specialties and either forget about cheese, sour cream, olives or decent bread, or try to order them online on expats food websites.

I taught the most adorable 3-6 year olds in the universe, but also had to learn how to deal with discipline issues with older students and with their parents, in such a different language and culture. I made Chinese friends I hope I will keep for many years to come and visited some of the most popular tourist attractions in northern China. I learned how to stay safe in a chaotic traffic and cover my face with a filter masque in really polluted days. And above all, I understood that I wanted to stay in China longer than a year.

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

During my first year I worked with more than 40 Chinese staff at my local language center, with more than 15 foreign teachers and with more than 120 Chinese students and their parents, so I learned a lot about the Chinese working environment, education system, society and culture. I made friends with some Chinese and foreigners, I traveled with them on holidays, I experienced new things and gained wonderful memories.

Professionally, I worked with new teaching technology, I gained new certifications, I got promoted, I tried new things like participating in marketing events and social events and qualified for a job in Shanghai that would not have been accessible to me previously.

Academically, I learned the basics of Chinese, by taking classes with a Chinese tutor once a week for a year and I intend to continue learning and get a Chinese language certificate in the future.

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

I would advise new comers to China to talk, if possible, to some foreign teacher (other than their job interviewer) who already works in the language center that the new comer intends to join or in the city they intend to move in, before signing the work contract, in order to get more up-to-day information about daily life and daily work there, and thus avoid unnecessary complications.

For instance, if you have some respiratory problem like asthma, don`t go north as air pollution will probably worsen it, or if your skin color is dark, don`t go to a small town where the locals have never seen a black foreigner before, or any foreigner for the matter, stick to the major cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai where locals have been exposed to many foreigners for a long time.

And ask all the questions you could possibly think of during the interview and after, before signing the contract, as it will reduce the chances of a misfit.