Ameson Year in China

Ameson Education & Cultural Exchange Foundation


Founded in 1998, the Ameson Education & Cultural Exchange Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the advancement of cultural and educational exchange. Our work centers around three main areas: connecting the global education community, improving the quality of education at all levels through multiple programs, and forging new paths in international education. As the 21st century unfolds, Sino-American relations continue to grow in importance. At Ameson, we believe that lasting stability can be achieved through dialogue and exchange. We are seeking future leaders to fulfill that mission.



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Yes, I recommend this program

As someone who had dreamt of going to China since childhood, I nearly jumped at the chance to work with Ameson. Their Year in China program offered me the opportunity to explore a culture I had spent 4 years studying. I figured, if I'm going to China, I might as well be paid to be there. Ameson facilitated that dream. The staff in the Shanghai office was extremely supportive and always had a timely response. I've made lasting friendships with my cohort who, even though some are in China and some are spread across the US, still stay in contact with me on a regular basis. Moving to another country when you don't know the language is an extremely liberating experience that allows for self-discovery. Whenever someone was feeling homesick or had a "China Day," there was a support system of 70+ other foreigners going through the same thing and an office full of supportive nationals to help in any way they could. Helping the future of China learn English was just the icing on the cake, so to speak.
I HIGHLY recommend the Ameson Year in China program to anyone who wants to explore Asia and get paid while doing it. Ameson's program definitely gets five stars for all of their hard work and dedication to making maytime in China one of the best experiences of my life!

What would you improve about this program?
I can honestly say the program has exceeded my expectations and I do not have any recommendations for improvement.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I graduated from university and was looking for something fun and different to do for a year. I wanted to travel, interact and help people, and learn something new. I think Ameson Year in China program gave me all of that and so much more. I came in with few expectations on what my year would look like. I ended the year being incredibly close to all of the Ameson staff as they were in constant contact with me for any issues I faced at my school. Working with Ameson I also had a cohort of 70+ other English teachers in the area so I was able to find great small villages to visit and travel around to different locations while always knowing locals and having a place to sleep. There were always different trips planned by Ameson or local teachers or fellow AYC-ers. I loved my ability to develop and create my own path in China. Ameson worked hard to make sure my time was excellent and they succeed in advocating any issues on my behalf.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I took part in AYC in it's first year and had an incredible time living in a small city in China. I've continued working with Ameson and am very happy to be part of an international team dedicated to bridging the large cultural gap by focusing on positive cultural exchange. The big draw for me was no program fee. I was trained, received the TEFL certificate, and given a job right out of college. Everything I did that year has helped me find work back in the US and keep my options open to further time abroad.

I didn't want to be a teacher, but I wanted to spend time abroad and learn more about a culture and language very different from my own. Because of the schedule, I had enough time to really immerse myself in anything that interested me. That being said, I think this is also an excellent opportunity for people interested in education in that you get a very immersive experience in a Chinese school and you're welcomed into a community as a full-on, professional teacher. The fact that you receive a TEFL certificate for free is pretty amazing and unheard of, at least that is what I found in my extensive research of other programs that do a similar thing. I also spent the year working pretty hard on improving my Mandarin which was fantastic. Especially because I was placed in a smaller city, I had ample opportunity to speak and study Chinese. The local teachers and students at my school all supported and helped me along the way and Ameson was a great backup support if I ever needed them.

Highly recommend AYC, I think it really is one of the best options for recent college grads looking for some adventure and a good start to career goals. Oh and I also had a TON of time to travel and the salary I was receiving was enough to support all of it.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I joined AYC in its inaugural year upon graduating from college. Traveling to China (and living and working there for a year) was made easy by having support teams in both DC and Shanghai as well as a network of fellow ambassadors. I was attracted to AYC by the mission of promoting cultural exchange along with having a relatively light work load, which gave me time to explore, learn Mandarin, and work on music. Many of my fellow ambassadors used their time outside of class to prepare for grad school and work on interesting personal projects.

I found the teachers and administrators at my school in Shanghai to be helpful, patient, and fair. They definitely expected professionalism, but they also knew how to incorporate fun and camaraderie in the workplace.

The students were outstanding. They consistently impressed me. I learned that despite my own trepidation about teaching, I actually had a lot to offer them. I challenged them on a daily basis, and they certainly challenged me. I never asked for it, but AYC does offer curriculum and teaching support.

My living situation was initially shocking, but I'm now grateful for being disillusioned of my 'first-world' standards. I quickly learned that my apartment was of a quality coveted by many Chinese people who have achieved greater academic/professional standing than I have. I didn't even have to deal with my landlord or monthly payments, which freed up even more time and money to pursue my real goals and make the most of my time in Shanghai.

If you'd like to get set up in China and have the time to explore, engage with your community, write a blog, work on projects, prepare for grad school, make interesting friends, etc., then AYC is an excellent choice. I'm a pretty independent guy, but it was great knowing that I had ample support coming from Ameson's large offices in Shanghai and Washington, D.C. I want to thank the Ameson Foundation for investing so much in this program and for facilitating my entry into the international non-profit sector.

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Yes, I recommend this program

As an alumna from the first inaugural year of AYC, there were a lot of communication issues throughout the process and failed promises. I found my experience to be positive and authentic working in a relatively small primary art school in Zhejiang province. My city was the perfect mix of real China with oases of Western culture and food. Ameson at least provides a variety of locations to be placed. It's important to note that there are no program fees and your flight is reimbursed at the end of the program. Ameson has been receptive in it's feedback and criticisms. After the mishaps of the first year, Ameson only has ways to go up and improve.

What would you improve about this program?
In the first year, many promises weren't met (i.e. Mandarin language courses, 25 hour work weeks, planned group excursions). Looking at the reformed website, the program reflects a more honest interpretation.

Communication was also something that need major improvement. Ameson is meant to act as a liaison between you and your school, and there seemed to be major disconnects. Again, something I'd suspect Ameson to work on since it was one of the biggest critiques from the first years.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

Ameson made the process simple and easy to complete. Many other programs that offered teaching positions in China did not offer the same holistic approach to the teacher's life as Ameson. They provided me with the training for a TFEL certificate in Shanghai, ensured my health and safety was taken care of, and provided complimentary Chinese language lessons.

I felt that Ameson provided the most freedom and safety when in China, knowing I did not have to worry about going to a hospital alone or figuring out residency permits by myself.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Ameson provides you with as many resources as you want. I had issues with health and Ameson was there for me to speak to the local government, hospitals, and teachers in the area to make sure that my issues were handled quickly and as stress-free as possible.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be ready to be open to experiences. I found the most fun I had was visiting small villages where fellow Ameson teachers were living. My friends and I made it a goal to go to one new restaurant a week. I personally joined a Tai Chi group and learned Tai Chi without ever speaking with my master.

The more you put yourself out of your comfort zone initially, the more comfortable you will become after.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Since there are rarely more than two Ameson teachers at any school the schedules can look very different. Ameson will not let a school schedule someone for more than 20 hours of work a week. Some Ameson teachers fulfilled this, while some worked less. I taught twelve classes every other week and on the off weeks, only six classes.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was safety and being alone in a new country. Due to health issues, I requested Ameson to make sure that I was placed in a city large enough to have modern medicine available and that posed no issue over my year.

Ameson placed about nine other teachers directly within my city and more in cities only a few hours away. I felt that I always had someone to be with since there were so many Ameson teachers around, some who were in their second year of teaching in the city.

Where does Ameson place teachers?

I had little to no expectations for where I was going to live so I allowed Ameson to place me anywhere. They placed me in a small city that I had never heard of nor was it on a map. I fell in love with the city and ended up wishing I had been placed in an even smaller village!

I think Ameson was great for me as someone who loves adventure and exploring through discomfort.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Jilli Leonard

Job Title
Program Coordinator and Liaison

What is your favorite travel memory?

I made some really sweet friendships with other teachers at my school placement. Despite living in a different city now, I was invited to a friend's hometown in the countryside of Jiangsu Province over the National Holiday weekend.

Eating the local food, meeting her family and friends, and going WAY off the beaten path was precious. It's relationships and trips like these that AYC helps foster; while you can travel and see the sights independently, a deeper, richer, and more intimate China reveals itself when you live here for 10 months.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Living abroad simply changes you for the better. China is challenging, raw, colorful, amusing and amazing. Living here makes you tougher and softer at the same time. It's really magical; kindness doesn't have a language barrier, and some of the generosity I've been shown in China has moved me to tears. Sometimes parts of China are disturbing, challenging, and chaotic.

But they teach you what you care about, and who you are at your core. Letting those situations sculpt you, and showing yourself how brave you are, is kind of magnificent.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Our program, put simply, is meaningful. EAs gain self-confidence and awareness, become more open-minded to new perspectives, are global citizens, learn to navigate cultural differences, make connections personally and professionally... the list goes on.

Living abroad can be really challenging, but it for me was (and is!) abundantly more rewarding.

A current EA told me recently "I'm looking into next year and realizing how special Ameson was to find. It requires so little from you, and it actually makes something out of you. It's the perfect bridge from graduation because there was so much assistance and guidance from the staff and the school, but it also gave me so much experience that I feel ten times more confident applying for jobs for next year."

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

As a previous participant in the program, I was hired to join the Shanghai office staff to act as a cultural bridge between the Chinese staff, DC office, partner schools, and the participants. I'd go on in this current role, because it uniquely fits my gifts, passions, and experiences.

One reason I had such a positive experience as a participant was the community of other participants; we were a great resource for each other, whether it came to exploring the city, practicing Chinese, or working through homesickness.

A big part of my job now is helping foster this network and support across the AYC program; I also train and prepare EAs for 10 months of teaching, walk with them through the cultural adjustment process, provide teaching resources, and assist with conflict resolution as needed. AYC participants and staff are a great resource during your time abroad.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

The AYC is unique because it's not simply a teaching abroad opportunity. As an Educational Ambassador, there is a large emphasis on cultural engagement and a sense of community among participants that is special and rare.

Logistically, the program provides free TEFL training and flight reimbursement upon program completion; this makes AYC a relatively cost-free opportunity to work abroad. China requires 2 years of work experience, but through the program, college graduates can work immediately after school.

Many programs like ours place participants in training centers, while AYC is a total immersion experience; participants are placed in public school among Tier 2 and 3 cities.

Support throughout the program includes free Chinese language lessons online, representatives who advocate for you throughout your time, a school coordinator, teaching resources, a community of EAs within the program, and the alumni network after.

I’m most proud of the team when I see the office staff take down cultural barriers between a participant and their host school, or when everyone comes together to celebrate Christmas in Shanghai; these breakthrough moments of trust, when you can see the fruit of the support and friendship regardless of native country, that I am most proud.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Our role as a non-profit, non-governmental institution is significant. There's a huge emphasis on cultural exchange across the programs, not just AYC specifically. This advancement of cultural and educational exchange as our priority distinguishes us from other businesses' purpose and goals.

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