Teach English in China - Welcome to your new home

Welcome to Your New Home!

Have a closer look at the school’s living arrangement in this video! The video introduces the arrival procedure as well as the apartment arrangement for the school’s foreign teachers.


Working with Chinese Colleagues, by Daniel Ritchey

The first time I stepped into the center at Zhongguancun, the first face I saw was that of Lydia. Having just been remodeled, our center was a whirlwind of construction dust and stacks of books and computers and furniture which needed to be dusted and moved back into the offices and classrooms. Lydia, all 121cm of her, seemed to be in charge of the process. Her bright, beaming smile greeted me that day and she then proceeded to blow my mind with her strength and determination and laughter as we attacked the job of putting the center back together for the new term, my first. Lydia works the front desk at Zhongguancun and that bright, beaming smile greets me every day. She speaks about as much English as I spoke Chinese when I arrived those months ago. We communicate with smiles and laughter and an occasional nod.

Working with our staff of Chinese teachers and administrators is as rewarding for me as the work with my students. The Chinese teachers speak English well, and the team approach we truly have at Zhongguancun has made an incredible difference for this new foreign teacher. I don’t have to pretend to be interested in my Chinese colleagues, and I don’t have to force myself to be kind. I enjoy their company and enjoy working with them. No matter how long I stay in China or where my life takes me after Aihua, I will never forget the experience of working with the team of people we have at Zhongguancun.

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Moving to Beijing, by Brennan Grocholski

Moving to Beijing was quite the change of scenery for me. Previously, everywhere I had lived were small communities so the transition from small town to one the world’s biggest cities was a big change. After arriving and getting situated by the amazing Aihua team, it was time to venture out into the vastness that is Beijing. At first, I was hesitant to go out on my own as I potential of getting lost seemed quite high and I only spoke a few basic words in Chinese. The curiosity of living in a completely new city, country and culture took over quickly and I was out exploring.

I have lived in Beijing for four months now and this city is quite spectacular. There really is everything you could imagine here – from amazing public sporting facilities to some of the best food I have ever eaten. Beijing’s public transportation is also very easy and convenient to access which made the initial transition period to life in the city quite comfortable. One of my biggest concerns about moving to Beijing also turned out to not to be quite true. I thought that the vast majority of Beijing’s public areas were going to be full of people and I would have to walk amongst massive crowds of people – not true. Only once in my time here so far have I been in a huge crowd and that was at Tiananmen Square on a National holiday. For the most part, walking down most streets is no different than being back home, other than getting looked at for being a foreigner.

The most pleasant surprise and my favorite thing about Beijing is the people. The local people here are such kind-hearted people and have gone to great lengths to help me even though there is a huge language barrier. For example, I was biking to work a few months ago and my wallet fell out of my pocket without me knowing it. People on scooters and other bikes were yelling at me for a minute until I pulled over to try and figure out what was going on. Turned out, a lady behind me say my wallet fall out, stopped and picked it up and chased me down to give it back! That is what the majority of my experiences with the locals of Beijing have been like and that is why the people are my favorite part about this city.

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All the Help You’ll Need, by Jack Parker

When preparing to leave for China, thoughts about the teaching environment were constantly racing through my mind: “What if, I won’t be able to teach Chinese children?”; “What if the students are out of control?”; “What if, the class sizes are as profuse as the population in China?”; “What if…”

After arriving in Beijing, I was comforted when I was greeted by the teachers who would be assisting me. These are native Chinese teachers, ones that could communicate in Chinese as well as English. With their experience and translation skills, it’s made managing the classroom easier than I thought. Yes, it does help that the class sizes are much smaller than I originally thought. (My largest class size has ten children and my smallest has only four.) Still, to have someone in my class that can directly relate to the learners is by far the most useful tool I have, working at Aihua.

These Chinese Teachers are more than just helpers: they communicate to parents, regulate the classroom, and assist me when I don’t know what to do. They are such an integral part of Aihua, and yet they are sociable. The work environment is so pleasant with them around. Even if I have a question that is outside of work, they are quick to help me in anyway possible.

I owe a lot to the Chinese Teachers at Aihua, and I try my best to keep in close contact with them outside of work. Aihua is more than just a company, it’s a community of teachers that care about one another.

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Food in Beijing, by Chanel Venter

Beijing is a beautiful city full of delicious local food secrets. In Shijingshan where I live there are a lot of small local cuisine restaurants walking distance away. Kung Pao chicken is one of my favourite dishes full of chicken, onion and a little bit of chillies to spice things up. Beijing is also very famous for their Peking Duck (I must admit I have not tried it myself, but I have heard that it is beyond exquisite). The best food is sold in small local restaurants and you can find them around every corner.

When I got to Beijing I tried to stay away from actual Chinese dishes. I proceeded to find places with western food. Yes, the western food is great here too, but I must admit now being here for a few months my view has changed. Why have western food when you can have Chinese cuisine?

It is easy to get ingredients here for cooking. Yes, it might be a little different to back home but, in the end, it is still easy. My housemate and I make a lot of curries and soups. She is vegetarian. In the beginning, it was quite a struggle for her to find vegetarian dishes but as time passed, we have realized that it is not that difficult to find vegetarian options and cook them too. There are fresh market shops all over Beijing with the best produce.

Please see attached photos of some of the best dishes I have had.

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Living in Rongjingcheng, by Jan Lutter

Rongjingcheng is a take away from the rest of Beijing, so close to the main attractions of the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square, but minus all the costs from staying near the inner city!

Everything that you may miss from home is right here, 10 minute bike ride away is the local mall Wanda Plaza with Carrefour, a French supermarket stocked full with a foreign section of goodies, Pizza Hut, Dominos, KFC, McDonald’s and a huge array of clothing stores in case you think the Chinese clothes sizes are too small for you.

For the local options, right underneath the apartment complexes that you will be staying in, there is a whole row of Chinese cuisine to try out. From vegan Mongolian dishes to a BBQ restaurant I would recommend trying them all out and finding your favourite. If you want to try you hand in cooking there is also a local supermarket 2 minutes away that is full of fresh meat, fruit and veggies that you can make into a local masterpiece.

For entertainment we are surrounded by some local gems only a maximum 10-minute taxi ride away from where you would live. One is the Bajiao Amusement Park, the name of the subway stop you would take to go into the city. It is a must see if you want to have a laugh at some of the Disney copy paste rides and scenes. The garden expo is a short bus ride away with its very own temple with commanding views of the area around us if you’re a natural born photographer. Lugu or Marco Polo bridge is not to far away either, I would recommend entering on the western side to walk over and enter the old fort on the eastern side.

A lot to see and do on this side of Beijing and if your willing to go out for a walk or a cycle you too can find your own gems of Beijing hidden on the western side of this amazing city!

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I Found a New China, I Found a New Home, by Abigail Scott

I Found a New China (South African cockney rhyming slang word which means ‘good mate’ or ‘good friend’), I Found a New Home!

If you’re anything like me, then teaching in China, or anywhere in the world that’s not ‘home,’ is what you need to do next.

My move to China marks my first travel experience abroad. I know, it’s crazy right? For someone like me who thrives on change and making big, sometimes-drastic decisions having moved out of my family home to another province and city pretty early in life, one would’ve thought a trip abroad would be first on my list. Well, when the opportunity came along I thought now is as a good a time as ever. I strongly believe that if you’re going to do anything great with your life, starting small will only make the process that much harder and honestly speaking, I’m getting older, so there’s definitely no time to be taking my time!

I didn’t come here because I’m taking a year off from my life (I wish I could afford to do that). No. I came here because I am a teacher. My name is Abigail Scott and I’m a teacher. It’s what I do, it’s what I love, it’s who I am. I’ve been teaching for the last 4 years and I needed to see if what I had chosen to pursue as a working career back home in South Africa, would be transferrable for me to do anywhere else in the world. When I think about China, I think HUGE! I figured if I could make it happen here, if I could do this solo trip and end up being happy doing what I am truly passionate about, then I could go anywhere else after this experience and be successful… well hopefully.

I’m about to hit the 3-month mark living and teaching in Beijing – you can clap yes! One of the biggest regrets I’ve had so far was researching “Terrible things about China” before arriving. I wasted so much time trying to pre-empt the negatives and now that I’m here, those very things don’t concern me at all! It’s not at all as bad as what Google makes it out to be. China is more ‘normal’ than you may think… with some exceptions!

Yes, they drive on the opposite side of the road in the most chaotic manner I have ever observed. In South Africa, I thought our minibus taxis were crazy but China takes first prize on bad driving. The ‘robots’ (South African term referring to ‘traffic lights’) ALWAYS work here though, come rain or shine. Yes, the concept of western toilets is foreign in China and so we’re subjected to the use of latrines which requires you to know how to squat really well, and never ever really smell great.

Yes, you are constantly pushed and shoved about in and out of lifts, buses, subways, walkways… just about everywhere. Yes, and probably the most unsavory aspect about China and its people, that I have witnessed with my very eyes, ears and on a number of occasions, through feeling a couple of splatters on my skin (eeek)… the Chinese have a revolting habit of spitting! It happens anytime, all the time and anywhere without any prior warning and I have not, and don’t think I ever will get used to it. To be fair though, I’m sure there are some things in your country a Chinese person visiting is going to think are weird too.

Word of advice for those considering travelling or living in China; come to China to appreciate what you didn’t know you loved back home.

I didn’t know how much I would miss my car. The freedom of just being able to get in and go out at my own leisure, was something I didn’t realize I took for granted. I’ve recently purchased a scooter here though and it seems to be slowly easing the yearning for my little vehicle.

I would never have anticipated just how much I would miss a traditional South African ‘braai’ (South African slang word for ‘barbecue’ or ‘grill’). But, thanks to China, or more so Baopals, a site where you can literally find and buy anything, a couple of fellow South Africans that have been living in Beijing for a while managed to get a good braai stand and voila! We were able to have ourselves an authentic rooftop braai with all the lekker goed (South African Afrikaans word which translates in English to ‘superb or fantastic things’) like mielies (South African Afrikaans word for ‘corn’ or ‘maize’), rooste broodjies (South African Afrikaans term referring to ‘roasted bread’), wors (Term for traditional South African sausage), chicken and lekker braai potatoes. We even managed to order Savanna ciders (Popular alcoholic cider beverage widely available and consumed in South Africa)!

The point I’m making is that China, or any foreign place can become your home away from home. All the not-so-nice things just become another part of your daily routine. It’s all up to you to decide what you make of an experience that is in the end, all yours. And as for me? Well, I’ve decided to call this huge, chaotic, smelly and completely foreign China, my new home.

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Working with Children Every Day, by Emma O’Sullivan

Working with children every day is by no means a walk in the park, however, neither is a trudge through a fire swamp! It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm but it can be really rewarding. When the kids react to your energy and start to get excited about learning and participating in class it’s incredibly motivating. Even if you are feeling weary and a little indifferent, those feelings won’t last two minutes in a classroom with eight 5/6 year olds! You have to be familiar with the material you’re teaching, of course, but also, you have to be animated and excited about it! Yes, it can be difficult to fain interest in the fact that ‘It’s a chair!’ but once you see the kid’s faces light up you actually will be delighted that ‘It’s a chair!’. It can be tiring at times, definitely, but I think being tired after a day of teaching young children is a pretty amazing reason to be tired.

You need to patient and flexible when working with young children. Unfortunately, they usually cannot be reasoned with. Logic is not something they are familiar with! If they are upset, they will let you know. If they are hungry, they will let you know. If they are tired, they will let you know! Most of the time they can be distracted, if you look like you’re having fun they will want to join in. If the other children are having fun they will want to join in. You have to be able to quickly adapt to different situations that could arise at any moment. Young children can be unpredictable but as long as you keep your spirits up they will usually follow along. Dealing with these situations every day can be tough, thankfully, they don’t usually happen every day. And all you have to realize is every situation you deal with makes the next one that bit easier to handle.

Working with children every day is many things; it’s rewarding, it’s challenging, it’s tiring, it’s fun, it’s demanding, it’s exciting. However, the one thing it never is, is boring.

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Learning Chinese, by Rory Spittle

Learning Chinese in China is one of the most rewarding things that you can do. At first it seems impossible, incredibly difficult as you are obsessively comparing the language structure to English. Then something clicks. You forget about the constant comparisons as you are actively trying to engage in conversations with locals. There are laughs as you struggle but the people really do appreciate the fact that you are making an effort to communicate to them in their mother tongue.

The free lessons that Aihua offers are a great way to start learning the language and to inspire and motivate yourself to continue learning the language. As the language at first appears difficult it is easy to give up, but once you start interacting with the Chinese people around you it becomes fun. The free lessons are flexible and you have a choice of attending a group lesson with many other foreign teachers, or alternatively you can attend a V.I.P class where you have a solo lesson with the Chinese teacher. These for me are a much better way to learn as you don’t need to worry about the speed that everyone else in your class is learning at. The Chinese teacher makes the classroom a great atmosphere to learn, it is fun and challenging at the same time. Looking back over my year and a bit in China my Chinese has progressed a lot.

From the day I arrived, not being able to say anything but hello to now being able to tell a taxi driver exactly where I want to go, or ordering food or even asking for directions. Learning Chinese is certainly handy and it makes your experience in China that much better as it makes your life easier, and the interactions that come from the conversations are very memorable and fun. I recall trying to ask someone on a train which home town they were from and I mixed up my grammar and didn’t ask correctly, however they knew what I was trying to say and promptly followed by teaching me the correct sentence structure and teaching me some other things. Chinese people are very patient and will help you if you struggle with the language., I think learning Chinese has been a highlight of my time here as it improved my social interactions and allowed me to complete basic tasks such as ordering food when I travel around.

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Living in the “Shan”, by Victoria MacFarlane

What an incredible 7 months it’s been. Back home in England I had lived in a small village my whole life, which had its advantages in offering a quiet and scenic backdrop to my childhood, but the move to Beijing has been liberating and vastly different.

Here in Beijing, I live in Shijingshan District (simplified Chinese: 石景山区), but everyone calls it the Shan. It lies to the west of the urban core of Beijing and is part of the Western Hills area. It’s one of the smaller districts, but is still home to nearly half a million people (huge by my standards!). The western stretch of the easily accessible 5th Ring Road lies in this area, and the Bajiao Amusement Park Station on Line 1 of the Beijing Subway is located really close to the apartments where I (and the other Aihua teachers) live. For me, the Shan is the perfect balance of city living with easy connections, while being far enough out of the city centre to escape some of the madness.

I am also a keen runner, and being a little out of the city means being close to some beautiful mountain trails, as well as a leisure park which has been a great place to run this summer, though I may have to switch to a gym now that the chilly winter is nearly upon us.

In an neighbourhood with your fellow Aihua teachers and in a city containing millions of people, finding a social event to attend is never difficult. Hop on the subway and the potential for a good day or night out is endless. The diversity of Beijing allows you to learn about local cultures and others too, and discover shared interests with someone from a totally different background. Also, I love food and have loved trying all the authentic Chinese food on offer, but often still have a craving for Mediterranean or Mexican food! Beijing offers countless options when it comes to international cuisine. The Shan works as the perfect home base to shuttle into and out of the heart of the city, even if it’s just to get some tacos and burritos. Yum!

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