What were your expectations prior to leaving the UK? How has the experience matched your expectations?
I was both excited and nervous when I made the decision to move to China. I love to travel but to immerse myself in a different culture for a year was hard. I went in without too many preconceptions, just a positive attitude and I am absolutely delighted with my decision and am thoroughly enjoying my time here. The job is better than I expected and I have had brilliant support from both the school and Opportunity China.
What do you like most about China?
I love the food, it’s so delicious in Sichuan province! Chinese people are friendly and approachable despite the language barrier. I love how different it is, and I’ve met some fantastic people here. I also love how cheap it is to live and eat here, and how much scope there is for travelling to different places both within China and Asia in general. There are also a wide range of different activities to get involved with which is great!
What has taken a bit of getting used to?
I did have quite a culture shock when I arrived here just because it is so different to home. The sheer amount of people is quite overwhelming at first, as is the pollution and dirt, for example the spitting in the street and children relieving themselves wherever they like. I also found that people stare at foreigners a lot here which was quite strange at first. It doesn’t take long to get used to it though, and now I enjoy these little quirks! (Apart from maybe the spitting in the street, which will always be disgusting…)
What’s your accommodation like?
I am absolutely delighted with the accommodation. I share an apartment with a guy who works as a teacher with my company, and we have a brand new apartment in an excellent location in Chengdu. At first I was a little worried over the fact that my company chose the apartment for me, but I love it!
How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?
Originally I met people through one of the foreign teachers at my school who has been in Chengdu for a year. Since then I have just met people through socialising and getting to know more and more people. I try to attend the events in Chengdu and through this method I get to know people. The Chinese people at work also introduce me to their Chinese friends so I have made friends through this channel as well. My advice to anyone going to China would be to go to all the events and meet as many people as possible otherwise you would probably get quite lonely!
What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?
I haven’t really made too many cultural faux-pas, people are very kind here and do forgive a lot of the things I surely get wrong! The major differences I have noticed are the way that everything is left to the last minute, which is very hard for someone like me who likes to be organised to cope with!!
How have you accessed the internet?
I got wireless internet installed in my flat, which my Chinese work collegues helped with. I have been in China nearly 3 months now, and I have just bought a VPN which allows me to access restricted websites.
What is your favourite Chinese food?
I absolutely love aubergine in fish sauce, it’s delicious! All of the food in Sichuan province is wonderful (apart from the intestines and internal organs…), especially if you like spicy food! I’m definitely becoming better at the spicy food now.
Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?
So far I have not saved a lot of money but I am hoping to start saving soon. This is my first full time job so at the moment I’m taking full advantage of actually having money and not being a poor student!
What advantages may you have over other graduates when applying for future jobs?
I feel as though I will have an ‘edge’ over other candidates due to my coming to live and work in a foreign country; especially an international powerful country like China. I am starting Mandarin lessons and thus by having another language will also hopefully benefit me in the future. I also will have more life experience than graduates straight out of university.
What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?
Learn Chinese! I came to China not really speaking any and it’s quite a struggle, so if you can learn any I’d definitely recommend it! I wouldn’t come in with many preconceptions, just a positive attitude and you will love it. The best piece of advice would be to do it, it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.
Do you have any feedback on how Opportunity China can improve its service for teachers?
I really can’t fault Opportunity China, they’ve been absolutely fantastic and I am so grateful for them because without them I wouldn’t be here having the best time of my life. Thank you so much!