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Teaching During the Pandemic, by Jan Lutter

When it first hit us that how we taught and interacted with students was changing online, it was defiantly daunting. How do you gain those connections with students? How do you provide for group and individual practice? How do you ensure a well conducted class? We were given plenty of time to prepare for the classes, lots of materials to help engage with the students but for all of us the first week or so was daunting. The biggest positive was that all the students were like us, they wanted to be taught and were nervous about preforming in front of their parents whilst at home. They were always eager to join with us, through all the technical difficulties and muted students but most of all we learnt about each other. Being taught from home you can interact with what was around you, show them household items or pets that are dear to you and gain a better understanding of how their home situations are and how best to prepare and perform in your classes.

Once we got the go ahead to return to in person classes we were delighted! One term of online class had shown us the loss of physical interaction was as important to us as the students. Returning to the centers and seeing our co-teachers again in person was another communication barrier brought down. When they arrived for their lessons they were just as excited as we were to be returning to a familiar environment, just as engaged in their lessons as we were and all happy for our lives to return to normal.

Of course, there are measures we must take to ensure the virus does not return. We must wear a mask during work, use disinfectant on our hands and surfaces between lessons, use a Covid-19 tracing app to make sure we know who is in the center for the classes, but all of this is worth it for us to get back in and teach in person with the students again.

Would I mind going back to teaching online again? Not too much but I would be far happier teaching in person.

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Class after Covid – Part II

Take a look at our one of our post-Covid, foreign teacher team-building events in Beijing.

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Class after Covid – Part I

Take a look at our teachers getting back into our Beijing classrooms post-Covid.

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When I decided to move to China, by Spencer Berning

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When I decided to move to China, one of the most important aspects of this opportunity for me was the chance to learn Mandarin Chinese in Beijing. Previously, I had taken 2 semesters of Mandarin in college, but I didn’t have a chance to practice in the 3 months before I moved to China. After I arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport, I found that I had forgotten more of my Chinese than I realized!

Fortunately, in Beijing there are plenty of opportunities to learn Mandarin. One of the easiest to access is the free Mandarin lessons that Aihua provides to all teachers. These classes are a great place if you’re brand new to learning Mandarin or need a refresher course like I did. The classes meet twice a week and there are several different levels depending on your skill level. It’s great place to learn the basics as it is a very low-pressure environment and you get to learn with your fellow teachers.

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After attending the Aihua Mandarin lessons during the first term, I felt more comfortable that my Mandarin level was back at a level I was comfortable with. I decided that I wanted to push myself further and do more than 2 hours of classes a week. Several other teachers recommended Culture Yard, one of the many great Chinese schools in Beijing. This was a great decision, as I’ve been able to take even more classes at Culture Yard. I decided to take an intensive Mandarin course of the Chinese New Year holiday, doing about 4 hours of classes a day. This was a great opportunity to really immerse myself, as my days were pretty much consumed with learning Mandarin.

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Unfortunately, right in the middle of my classes, Covid-19 began to spread rapidly in China. Due to the virus, Culture Yard was unable to hold classes at their physical location. However, I was able to continue my classes online. I can honestly say I never expected my Chinese learning experience to end up like this, but it’s worked out for the best. Having classes online has saved me the time travelling to a physical location to learn, and I’ve been able to review my notes more.

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Outside of classes, the whole of Beijing is your classroom! Everyone in Beijing speaks Mandarin, though most local people have a bit of an accent that makes their Mandarin sound a bit different from how it is taught in classrooms. While you can survive in Beijing knowing only a handful of phrases, knowing how to communicate on a basic level really opens up a new world of communication. I’ve been able to use my Mandarin to ask for a new exit-entry card, find my lost phone, and many other situations where if I didn’t have speak Mandarin would have had to rely on translation apps. Nothing’s more fulfilling than successfully communicating with someone else and not being greeted by confused stares. Though the more you speak with local Beijingers, the more you might find yourself picking up the local accent, and adding the “-er”(儿) sound to the end of your words!
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Lockdown in Beijing – The before, during and after, by Jamie Yeung

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It’s amazing how things change in a blink of an eye. Back when I first read about the virus in December, I remember I felt a sense of relief that Wuhan was so far from Beijing. I even sat around dinner with some friends laughing at how I wouldn’t be going to any city in Hubei anytime soon. Fast forward a month and it was finally the long awaited Chinese New Year break. My partner, Richard and I packed our suitcases and travelled to the airport for our holiday to Seoul, Korea. It wasn’t until a few days in, when suddenly the severity of this virus reached new levels. Covid-19 was the name officially given to what then appeared to be a ‘deadly’ virus. My emotions were very conflicted at this point. On one hand I was excited to be in a country I had always wanted to visit and also relieved that, at that moment in time, I was away from China. On the other hand, I was scared and anxious. People in Seoul were wearing masks, albeit not everyone was and many still seemed unphased by the news. It was noticeable that the situation was getting serious. Hand sanitizers and face masks were running low if not out of stock.

Initially, our trip to Seoul was for a week, however, towards the end of our stay we grew increasingly skeptical and anxious about returning to Beijing. That and simply, we were not ready to leave Seoul.

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In the end, we went ahead and extended our stay, in fact, not just once, but twice. However, we could not stay in Seoul forever, and frankly, we were worried that the longer we prolonged the inevitable, the harder it would actually be to return to Beijing. Friends had been mentioning how their flights to Beijing were getting cancelled. Fortunately for us, there were still plenty of flights out of Seoul arriving in Beijing. Nearing the end of the holiday, the shops in Seoul began to stock up on face masks and hand sanitizers, just in time for us to head back to Beijing. We gathered a hefty supply, well, as much as our suitcases could carry of masks and hand sanitizers, we were ready. With our face masks on, we headed to the airport, boarded the plane and before we knew it, landed in Beijing.

Our friend picked us up from the airport, it was then when it truly hit me, how quiet the roads of Beijing were. Beijing, the capital city of China, with barely any movement or cars around. We arrived at our apartment complex, greeted by security guards who required all residents to register, providing our identification and details of where we had travelled from.

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Thus, began my two week self-isolation in the apartments, whilst Beijing was in lockdown. I was lucky to have returned when I did. I was still able to leave the complex to do my necessary shopping for groceries, and collect take away deliveries. All that was required when leaving the apartment was a mask to be worn at all times, fever check upon entering the complex and a pass to prove I was a resident at the complex. Other than shopping for necessities, I stayed safe and sound in my apartment. Personally, lockdown was not so bad. I enjoyed recuperating after a long holiday, cooking food and doing puzzles. After all, how often do you truly have an excuse to do absolutely nothing?

Of course, I missed my friends and most certainly missed exploring, the beautiful, Beijing but I am happy to be safe. As well, It was not long before online teaching began. Soon, I got into a routine and life began to seem somewhat normal again. Gradually, shops were beginning to open, and streets got busier with time. Time again flew by…

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Fast forward to April; Spring has sprung, the old and the young are out, children are playing in parks (with masks on of course) and people are back to work. The number of new infected cases are next to none and Beijing feels like Beijing again. Having patience is key to staying positive. Thus far, this experience has shown that it truly gets better with time.
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Christmas with Aihua

Take a look at how Aihua´s foreign teachers celebrate Christmas in this short video.

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Why choose Aihua, by Abigail Scott

Essentially, when you apply for any teaching position in China, they all offer our basic needs, ‘free accommodation, health insurance, flight reimbursement, bonus completion and training.’ All of this is amazing to have if you are moving across the country to start a new life away from everything you know. All of this to have immediately to start off really does make the move sound that much more appealing.

But, what Aihua gives you that a lot of other teaching institutions might not, is an instant community of people from all over the world in the same situation as you, living in close proximity to you. I will be with Aihua for 2 years come 2020 and I am still very good friends with the people I arrived with. These same people met other people who know other people who I have met and somehow in this big city, we have all managed to become friends and have made Beijing seem not so huge and scary after all. Like any other job, you have two days off, some might get two consecutive days and others like me, have a Sunday and Wednesday off. I was asked if I would like these to change but I chose not to. I have been able to travel to other places within China, make one of my days my rest day and the other for exploring what Beijing has to offer. Best of all, going to work does not need to start at 8am, you can enjoy sleeping in and head off to work in the afternoon until the evening, and because your next day of work only starts in the afternoon, meeting up with your friends once work is done is always a possibility. Amazing right?

That’s not the best part… Aihua also gives you two amazing ladies who offer you the support that you didn’t know you would need. You communicate with them once you start applying and finally get to meet them on your first day. They sort your cellphone and banking out, then they let you know that you can reach them if there are any issues. Once there is an issue you have no idea how to solve and you send your first “Tina or Summer message’ you will soon realize that they have answers and solutions for any problem you are faced with. I literally call them my ‘mothers from another country’ and simply can’t imagine my life here without them. Support is something every company offers but it’s not a guarantee. I am honestly telling you that Aihua gives you the best support there is, they support you as if you are family and soon, that’s what Aihua becomes to you. With this, I feel safe and because of them I feel at home.

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Video Blog: A Typical Workday, by Daniel Ritchey

Join our foreign teacher Daniel Ritchey on typical workday in the life of an Aihua teacher in this video blog.

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Aihua is My Home Away from Home, by Danielle Nortje

Aihua is more than just a training center where you work. I have found Aihua to be a second home, where I have friends, family and endless support. When I first arrived everyone was so friendly, welcoming and very helpful. The transition from South Africa to Beijing would not have been the same without the wonderful support Aihua offers. Someone is always there to help you; whether it’s paying for your electricity, learning new teaching skills, buying an electric scooter, figuring out how online shopping works, buying a new laptop or just finding a nice coffee shop. When I have been very ill someone would always go with me to the hospital and ensure that I get what I need to feel better. It’s wonderful to have people that care about you and want to help you in every way they can. You are never alone in Aihua and I am very grateful to be a part of the Aihua family.

The role of being the one that needed the help changed in the middle of the year when a new group of teachers came through from all over the world; Australia, Ireland, UK, South Africa. I then had the opportunity to help them and show them around. Take them to restaurants around the area, show them how didi apps work, what to say when ordering food or drinks (even though my Chinese is very limited), going on a subway adventure and showing them the hutongs, or even just helping them with their lesson plans and giving them ideas and support. In my center JDJ we had two new teachers that joined us and the family just grew and became even better. It’s always wonderful when new people join, we went out for food and celebrated the new arrivals. Aihua encourages us to do team building activities and have a fun day out with the team once a month. I have wonderful work collogues as well as great friendships in Aihua which constantly grow as there are always new people to meet and get to know.

Aihua is a wonderful environment to work in where everyone is looking out for each other and is always cheering each other on. Everyone shares their creative ideas and always discusses different ways to teach new topics. The Aihua team is phenomenal and makes working fun, exciting, energizing and harmonious. The Chinese teaches are wonderful; they always have a smile on their face and they always give their all in every class. The FCS of every center are all hard working, kind and are always there to lend you a helping hand. I have found that working for Aihua has been truly wonderful and has given me the opportunity to meet such extraordinary people.

The children we teach are all so different in so many ways. You get energetic, loud, talkative children as well as shy, quiet, sweet children who need more encouragement to participate. However, they all want to have as much fun as possible and learn English in a fun, carefree way. Being a teacher in Aihua has been such a wonderful experience and I have found that I have grown so much as a person and learnt so much as a teacher. Aihua has become part of my family and is now my home.

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Sports in Beijing, by John Iuga

Feeling a bit frumpy? The Christmas turkey got you wondering why your jeans don’t fit anymore? Adamant that your scales are broken? No one’s judging you…too much. I mean we’ve all done it, a little more pudding, just one more plate of potatoes, just three more slices of cake… but now you’ve over done it and it’s time to get yourself back in shape for the new year (because you’ve made another resolution you’re going to fail). In Beijing that is all to easy to achieve. With incredibly cheap and delicious food available everywhere, it’s harder to go healthy than most places, but thankfully there are plenty of things and places you can go to stop those dumplings from forcing you to buy a bigger pair of pants.

Luckily, Beijing is a good destination for sports lovers alike. Basketball, Football (soccer for you North Americans), Badminton and Ping-Pong are all very popular sports and thanks to a very health conscious society, gyms are very popular and available pretty much everywhere, from the cheap to the incredibly modern. The local university has a campus where anyone can turn up and play basketball, football or go running at the track. On the other hand, if you’re searching for something a bit more serious, then maybe consider joining one of the better organized football teams in Beijing. Anyone can join, from a variety of skill levels – each team having an A and a B team.

For those of you who aren’t into something so energy intensive, but still looking for something to keep the calories at bay (or Insta pics to prove you worked-out) then hiking might be a bit more suitable. Beijing is a great location for hikers as the Great Wall can be easily reached for a one day excursion or even for a weekend trip. Aside from this there are many more beautiful landscapes to explore, such as Huairou town, the glass bridge, and also Tongzhou has a few great areas to visit (all of these are within reach of Beijing).

Still not enough to quench your thirst for swollenness? Still need another medium to pray to the gods of gains? Well luckily there’s a plethora of gain temples on almost every street corner. They range from the cheap to the very excessive and expensive. The cheapest gyms towards the centre of Beijing will cost you around 1800RMB for a full membership (there are rarely any monthly memberships) whereas the more expensive gyms can cost you more than 10,000RMB for just a year. The more expensive gyms come fit with Tron spin classes, hot yoga, swimming pools, extensive gym equipment and a menu of young and fit trainers to push you to your limits.

If you’re thinking of coming to Beijing and you’re worried about keeping your amazing physique, then you’re in a good place. There are plenty of clubs and groups to join and make local and international friends.
Either that, or eat less.

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