Coming to China can be quite scary. For me, the move to a foreign country to take up a career in an entirely new field was a near frightening prospect. However, I decided to do it. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions of my life.

This is, in part thanks to ImmerQi who have been extremely helpful each step of the way. I signed up for 6 months teaching in China experience and from day one, ImmerQi has been more supportive and helpful than I could have imagined.

Upon arrival, they provided accommodation; as well as assistance in things such as setting up a telephone number, getting around the city, basic Mandarin skills and general information about life and culture in China. They also provided a full-time contact who can help you when you need it (and trust me, you need it).

The staff is not only helpful but amazingly funny, entertaining and comforting. My China experience started with a few weeks in Beijing. ImmerQi organized a Great Wall of China tour, the Chaoyang Theatre Circus, and general city tours that are just far better than any travel agent could provide.

All meals, accommodation and daily living needs are provided. During this time, I was provided with lessons on how to be a great English teacher, Tai-Chi classes, calligraphy classes and Mandarin lessons. This helped greatly in preparing me for teaching in China.

For my placement and internship, I ended up at a company in Zhongshan who provided excellent training, working conditions, a brand new apartment and by far the greatest support network I could need. While Zhongshan is thousands of kilometers away from ImmerQi headquarters the staff were still there at any time to help with issues I faced or any questions I had.

Not knowing what student ages, hours or classes I would be teaching, I found myself thrust into kindergarten for my first 6 lessons teaching in China. My first day I was surrounded by eager faced children wondering what type of teacher I am.

So doing what any teacher trying to make very young children listen and laugh, I started singing, dancing and having fun with the kids. Providing the keywords and lessons in a way that is not only fun but makes them learn without even realizing it.

Day 1 was a success, despite 2-3 students crying at first sight of me, possibly due to missing their mothers, possibly due to being the first time seeing a foreigner. Kindergarten is certainly a different experience to teaching at the training centre. You are there to be a clown, to laugh, to run, to jump, to crawl and most importantly; to teach.

Teaching in the Kindergarten is the best part of my week. The children are so heart-warming, loving and emotional. What started with 2-3 children crying upon seeing me, has now developed to a sea of voices shouting: Hello teacher Shannon!!! Whenever I walk past a classroom and multiple students being upset or crying when my lesson is over.

My weekends at the training centre started off nicely. Having gotten over my first-week nerves I was determined to make my training centre classes on weekends as fun as my kindergarten lessons. Starting each lesson with a quick game to review past content I have found to be a great way to get students engaged, awake, and to recite over and over what words they have learned and remember. While the training centre curriculum is a lot more structured, we get to develop our own teaching styles and games to keep the children learning and enjoying the lesson.

The one thing that has amazed me with all of my students is how well and how fast they learn. I can have conversations about day to day events with students as young as my K2 class.

And by the time they reach K5, they can talk to me about many different subjects. My most advanced English class can speak English extremely well. And my youngest student in that class is only 12 years old!

It makes me wish I had been able to pursue a foreign language full time when I was younger. While the internship wages are low compared to finding a job in China on your own, the benefits of the program and the experience you gain far outweigh any alternative.

The 6-month internship provided me the greatest foundation for my teaching career here. It also helped me understand Chinese culture and get over culture shock. It provided such a supported environment that it just leaves you to enjoy your time here and experience something that is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

My experience on the internship was so positive, that I decided to remain in China after it finished and I am currently teaching English in Shanghai. A lot of the friends I met that came with me on this program have spent their final month in China traveling and visiting some of the most amazing places I have ever seen.

I, however, took a position starting straight away in Shanghai. I must say I’m a little envious not having traveled first but I know I will see these places at some point soon. Coming to China to teach English has been one of the best decisions of my life. I would recommend this program to anyone who is serious about teaching or is simply looking to explore everything that China has to offer.

Shannon B, a teaching intern from Teach & Travel China Program Winter 2017 intake, was placed in Zhongshan, China.

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