Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

Q and A with Sophie (China)

What is your name, age and nationality?

My name is Sophie Digby. I’m 22 years old and I’m from a green naval town near the water called Plymouth.

What is your education level and background?

The highest level of education I have is a BA in Special Educational Needs and Disability Studies from the University of St Mark and St Johns in Plymouth. Previous to this I completed A-levels and GCSEs which all allowed me to go and get my degree. Within my degree I got a few opportunities to teach through Forest School and other assignments but never thought I would have ended up teaching English in China!

Have you traveled abroad previously, and if so where?

I was lucky enough to travel to different parts of Europe on family holidays
when I was younger but these were more pool and beach side holidays. When I
was older I went to New York and Florida as my first proper holiday, this was
where I realized how much I enjoyed traveling. After this I rented an RV and traveled the west coast of America.

My biggest travel adventure before China was backpacking around Thailand and Bali. All of these holidays showed me different types of travel and gave me the ambition post university to work with something in an occupation that allowed me to travel.

What motivated you to teach abroad?

The motivation to teach abroad was from other travel experiences I'd had. I just
wanted to travel and experiences new cultures and to learn. I wanted a job
that allowed that, I wanted to make memories and have stories to tell. I always
wanted to teach so to teach abroad sounded like the perfect job for me! It meant it allowed me enough time to experience living in another country and
learn about their culture whilst making memories.

What did you want to personally achieve with this experience, and have you
succeeded?

I wanted to experience a new culture and learn about a country in which media
and other people’s options had always shaped my opinion for me. I also wanted to learn about myself and to grow as a person especially with my confidence. I have succeeded with this, everyday I’m growing as a person, and in particular my confidence has really improved!

I've gone from being nervous to do presentations at University to running demo lessons and giving presentations in front of all of the other foreign teachers
at my school! I've learnt so much from my friends here who are from all over the world about their own cultures and my Chinese language speaking is progressing really quickly!

Did you apply for the program with a friend or on your own?

I applied completely by myself. This scared me but it was a challenge I wanted and needed to do in order to have the experience, which I wanted.

 I didn't know anyone but  the company I work for put me in touch with a few alumni, before I arrived and they have been great supporters and friends.

Did you know anyone who had taught abroad before you?

I didn't know anyone who had done this before. I remember briefly in University one of my lecturers talking a lot about teaching abroad and the memories and stories she shared were always at the back of my mind. However, I never fully believed I would
have done it until I got on the flight to come over to start my TEFL studies!

What were some of your concerns before you began teaching abroad?

I used to be a very nervous person; my concerns ranged from how I’d deal with
the culture shock to whether I’d make friends or like the food! I was also
concerned about how I’d be able to live in another country where I do not
know  the language, the language itself is so different from any other!

TEFL PROGRAM INFORMATION
What made you decide to do a TEFL course and choose TEFL Heaven?

I decided to do a TEFL course, as I wanted to have a gap year in between my
studies but still have something that allowed me to travel and get paid. I also
wanted to do it to gain experience and have something that looks amazing on
my CV!

 I choose TEFL heaven after researching a variety of different TEFL courses but from the start they were the most professional, supportive and helpful. They answered all the questions I had, put me in contact with people and have supported me ever since, nearly three years later.

What made you choose a face-to-face TEFL course over other options?

I wanted to experience the culture before committing to whether I’d want to
live here or not. This allowed me the four-week period to learn about China
and live in China and to decide whether I could live in China full-time whilst
studying my TEFL. 

Doing the face-to-face TEFL, I felt was a lot better. You get a lot more
teaching time and practice meaning I felt better prepared. Studying in a classroom setting instead of at a computer helped me learn more effectively, I could ask questions as soon as I had them and socially I met a lot of great people who I could also learn from.

Which TEFL program did you do?

I did the 120-hour TEFL face-to-face program in Shanghai, China.

What did you enjoy about your TEFL course?

In general I loved my course. I met some great teachers who I was able to
learn from and gained valuable experience.

I taught at a training school from 6-10 students and I was also given the opportunity to volunteer at a public school that allowed me to teach classes of 20-40 students. I met some beautiful students who wanted to learn and the training felt really rewarding.

How prepared did you feel for your teaching position?

Due to doing the face-to-face training (over an on-line course) it allowed me to feel a lot more supported throughout the training process. Even when it came to teaching and I was very nervous before class I had people there to calm me down and support me. This little push and having all the extra teaching practice allowed me to feel ready to start teaching.

How long were you in Shanghai and how long did you plan to stay?

I completed my TEFL in August 2017 and have been here since. I was only
meant to do this as a gap year but I’m really enjoying this experience and I’m
fortunate with my job to have a lot of travel opportunities and opportunities
within the company that I won’t leave for a couple more years!

How did you secure your English teaching job?

My TEFL course helped me to update and modify my CV, on top of this they
helped me to apply for different jobs within China. They got me my interviews and
helped me to prepare for those interviews.

What did a typical working week look like for you?

A typical working week would mean Monday and Tuesdays off work. I work from 3:00 pm till 8:30 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturday and Sundays I work from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm. On weekdays I get office time and have a maximum of two classes and on weekends there are four periods that could be filled with classes but they are not always filled meaning more office time to prepare and do admin work.

What age group or range did you teach?

I teach students from the age of three to eleven years old. I have twelve different
classes a week and the same classes each week.

What did you most enjoy about teaching your students?

Seeing my student’s progress not just with their English but learning about
their personalities and seeing them grow as little humans! I always feel so
appreciated walking into each class, the students all want to say hello and
show me little things they have brought with them! They give me candy and little
gifts and want to show me all the English they have learnt!

How did you get your work visa?

My company deals with that completely, I had to sign a few documents and
give them my passport. I had to go to the Visa office once but I went with a
member of staff from the foreign affairs department and they translated and
did everything for me, I just needed to turn up!  All costs were also covered by
my company I just needed to get my documents authenticated at home but
received money to compensate those costs.

COUNTRY INSIGHT

What were your monthly expenses?

Rent:
2500 RMB

Food:
1000 RMB

Other bills:
Wi-Fi- free with my phone contract

Social life:
500-1000RMB

Transportation:
100 RMB

Phone:
100RMB

Other costs:
Travel, this depends on where you travel to and how often but I
am still able to travel on my wage comfortably.

Would you say you were able to live comfortably on your monthly salary?

As a foreigner living on China I get paid really really well. The cost of living in
China is cheap and with my wage being good it means I can live comfortably
and even splurge to live a more expensive lifestyle!

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ENGLISH TEACHERS

What advice would you give someone thinking about teaching abroad, and
would you recommend teaching English in China?

My biggest piece of advice is to be open-minded, the hardest part of living in
another country is adapting to their style of living. You need to remember you
are living in their country and to be accepting of cultural differences and trying
to understand why they are different. Pushing yourself out of your comfort
zone is scary for sure but the experiences and memories made are well worth it!

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