Lauren Wilcox has a degree in English from the University of Portsmouth, and is teaching at a language centre as part of the 2017 Teach China Graduate Program. Lauren’s been in China for over a year, and over the coming weeks she’ll be sharing some of her China experiences to date, both at school and on her travels.
A Year On…and I’m Staying In China!
So, its officially been a year since I touched down in China. And it’s been a wild year. I’ve travelled to various parts of China, hiked in national parks and wandered on the wall, a wonder of the world ticked off. I’ve developed myself as a teacher, a co-worker, a blogger, a person and a traveller.
I remember landing in China, hauling my two overweight suitcases up six flights of stairs, sitting in a chilly apartment and having a moment to myself, thinking, “This is it. This is the start of an unpredictable year.” I was so set on staying for a year, then moving back to England. But a year on, I haven’t quite finished in China and I’m staying a little longer!
Some things you just never get used to In China
One thing I have never gotten used to while living in China are the constant photographs that people take of you. I could be doing anything from sitting on a bus, to drinking a coffee in a shop and someone will take a picture of me. I’m very pale and blonde though, so I do stick out like a sore thumb. I remember being in Chengdu for Chinese New Year 2018 with some friends and admiring the pandas at the panda sanctuary.
A woman was posing for photographs with the pandas in the background, when all of a-sudden she turned so we were in the background of her photos and started posing as if we were the tourist attraction! This is one of the many strange phenomenon’s that happen when you live in the more authentic Chinese cities.
Good Intentions of Learning Mandarin
After I received my job offer and knew I was moving to China, I had my heart set on learning Chinese and dedicating myself to learning Chinese and taking the HSK test. Fast forward one year and I can proudly say… I haven’t done the test, I had a tutor for a couple of months and learned the basics. I’d like to take it back up, maybe. I can order drinks and navigate myself round town in taxi’s, so I’m not completely helpless. Plus, it’s polite to learn a bit of the language and at least try, I’ve found people are a lot more helpful when you try to communicate with them.
Transferable Skills for My Future Career
This year has also helped steer me in the direction I think I’d like to go on my career path. Like most University students, I spent three years worrying about the job market and not finding a suitable job, relevant to my degree. In reality, I work with people who hold all kinds of degrees and educational certificates, but experiencing different cultures and immersing ourselves in foreign countries are two of the many things we all have in common.
When I first started taking driving lessons, I was told that you really learn to drive when you pass your test. Teaching, I have found, is a lot similar to that. I learned all about different linguists and theorists in my time at University, I learned classroom practice and how to teach, I taught a few classes and was observed and graded. But the moment I was given my first class, was like the moment I was given my first car.
That’s when I really learned how to be a teacher, how to make foreign language learning fascinating for any level. How to mediate fall outs over who gets to use the pink felt tip pen, or who gets the first pick of stickers at the end of the class. These are all things no-one can teach you, because they change from child to child.
I’ve had a couple of classes come and go. If there are no longer enough students in the class then they are dismissed. But a few of my classes have stuck around since I began and it’s been wonderful to grow with them and for them to grow with me. Especially with the younger classes, it’s magical to see how far they’ve come from first stepping in the classroom in early 2018, to now and seeing what they’ve achieved. It makes the job all the more rewarding.
China has been the wildest 12 months of my life. I’m excited to see what the next 6 months have to hold and the adventures I will embark on. But for now, I’m focussed on teaching and seeing as much of amazing and fascinating China I can in the time I have left…