MOVING ABROAD TO TEACH ENGLISH IN BEIJING FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME
Updated: Oct 14
Never in my life did I think I would be living abroad, let alone in China. I'm from Los Angeles, CA, and had been living there my entire life. I only traveled abroad twice most of my life.
Finally, in 2018, my boyfriend and I started traveling abroad together. Traveling made me realize the enormous world out there! That California was, in fact, not the center of the world. My boyfriend and I made trips to Mexico City, Paris, Beijing, and Tokyo (we were on a travel kick). Visiting these amazing cities was an eye-opening experience. Time spent abroad created the vision that we want to live overseas. But how would we do it? I didn't want to live abroad and do nothing. I wanted to be integrated in some way, to feel I have a purpose while living and growing in a completely new place. I didn't feel I had any skills. What would I do in a foreign country?
Then I spoke with a friend in Tokyo who introduced the idea of teaching English abroad. He informed us about how teaching English abroad is a very lucrative and rewarding experience.
I never heard too much about teaching English. It was always a very vague idea. "Is it something like joining the peace corps?" I would ask. After speaking with our friend, it immediately clicked for both my boyfriend and me. We will go teach English and live our best lives abroad.
Once we returned to LA, we started researching the English teaching market. We researched the best cities to teach. Our first choice was Tokyo. After looking more into it, we came to understand that the best place to teach is China. It had the most significant market and the most opportunities.
Before we could move forward, we needed to get our TEFL certification. This started as an obstacle for me. I had never taught before. I didn't even score the highest in my English classes in high school. I was nervous and felt I couldn't do it. We went with an online TEFL course, which was certified. The entire TEFL process took about two months, but we did it! Our final assignment was to create two lesson plans. I had never done this before, and after putting in the work, I was proud to have accomplished this!
Getting my TEFL was a significant accomplishment for me. I think that's one thing I love about the entire process of teaching abroad. You are continually challenging yourself all along the way. Moving to a completely different country is a fantastic accomplishment itself. I ended up learning a lot during my TEFL certification experience. After living in Beijing for over a year now, "I've learned a lot" is an understatement.
The only other certification requirement is a bachelor's degree. Thank goodness I had one, and it was a blessing seeing my bachelor's degree come of use.
Next, we started researching a lot more into the job market. Our first big step was connecting with a recruitment agency. They were a free service and helped us a lot at the beginning of our search. They were happy to answer our questions and find us opportunities.
We began interviewing at a few schools. The interview process was a compelling experience. At first, I was nervous. I was scared they would see that I am not qualified and an English teacher fraud. This was, of course, only my fears talking. It's not that uncommon that it's someone's first time teaching English! Receiving acceptance letters is an amazing experience! We were intrigued by the offers, but we decided to do more research.
While on one of the many online teaching abroad sites, we found a posting for Houhai English. The school we ended up going with! We originally wanted to teach in Shanghai, but Houhai English in Beijing ended up being the best option for us. We were impressed with Houhai because they offered the highest salary, best teaching hours, and great bonuses. We were also in contact directly with the school from the start, and they were great about answering all our questions.
We signed our Houhai contracts. It was official. It was time for us to begin all the necessary checks, like getting our documents authenticated and getting a criminal background check.
Slowly, it was becoming more real. Soon, I had to start thinking about packing. How does one pack up their life and bring it abroad!? I had ultimately come to realize Beijing is a big, modern city. Whatever I would need, I'd be able to get it in Beijing.
We arrived in Beijing in late July 2019, and the school helped us get situated. Everything was overwhelming at first, but soon after, we were able to get adjusted.
Teaching my first classes was a new and thrilling experience. I never had any aspirations to become a teacher. I learned as I went, and teaching started to become something I genuinely enjoy! One of the more inspiring factors was the fact that I was teaching Chinese students. Working with kids who come from such different backgrounds from me continues to be eye-opening. It turns out kids are the same everywhere; Chinese students are not much different than kids in the US. The students have a great sense of humor and have such an incredible drive to learn! This was one thing that made my first-time teaching experience a lot more comfortable.
One of the biggest perks about teaching abroad is that there's been a lot of time for us to travel around China and explore more of Asia! I never thought I would experience Southeast Asia, which has been one of the many travel experiences we've had while living abroad.
I went from being mostly unsure of the direction I was going in life to a world of optimism and opportunity. I feel very thankful to have been able to make a move to Beijing.
Flash-forward one year, I'm living my best Beijing life. We have an amazing apartment, great jobs, new friends from all around the world, all while living in an incredibly fast-growing city.
I would recommend teaching abroad to anyone considering changing their lives and moving out of their comfort zone. It's incredible living out in the world.