Welcome to Part 3 of How Not to Find a Job Teaching English in China. This is my experience moving to China and finding a job, and will probably serve as a warning to anyone thinking about doing the same thing. If you’re new to this site or this series, you’ll find Part 1 here.
After a week of sleeping on Hollie and Brigettes couch, I think they must have resigned themselves to the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere, and Brigette set up a bed for me on her bedroom floor. They let me wallow and do a lot of comfort eating, but also provided great advice on how to find a job.
The fact was, no one forced me to come to China, and I had no one to blame for the situation but myself. It was my choice to sign up with an agency and “wing it”, crossing my fingers that everything would be fine. And now that it wasn’t, I was going to have to put on my big girl panties and deal with it.
The best source of jobs turned out to be The Beijinger classifieds, and I would spend hours trawling the site and sending emails.
Luckily, China is desperate for English teachers. Most agents required a photo, and while being judged solely on the colour of my skin and hair made me grind my teeth, I was desperate enough to exploit the fact that the Chinese want teachers who look stereotypically “Western” (the whiter the better). Finally my inability to tan was good for something, and I was going on multiple interviews each day.
I registered with some companies for one-on-one tutoring, and while the pay wasn’t bad, I was new to the subway system, and the amount of travel made me want to pull my hair out.
I quickly found work at a training school which was an hour and two subway transfers away. They were really good to me though, even going as far as to pay me in advance and offer me a place to live.
Eventually I also found a job at a kindergarten in Datanlu. They told me I would be the teacher for a new class that would be starting in a few weeks, but in the meantime I would be substituting for another class, while the teacher went home.
I loved it.
The school was great, the Chinese teachers were supportive and helpful, the foreign staff were awesome, the class was full of the cutest kids, and it looked like the dog days were over.
When the original teacher returned, I was reluctant to hand the class back. These guys were the coolest kids, and while the job was challenging, I found myself having so much fun everyday.
I needed to start setting up my own classroom though. Furniture and toys were bought, kids were enrolled, and I was told that I would be starting with a relatively small class, and new kids would trickle in throughout the next few months.
These kids were all 2-3 years old, and we had three half-days with the parents watching. Everything went well, and since I had to do my medical test for my visa in the morning, I arrived at lunchtime on Monday, expecting to see my kids taking their naps.
I walked into an empty classroom. They had cancelled my class, and decided to start it in a few months when there were more kids. Apparently the translator had told the principal that I wouldn’t mind, and they would simply send me to another campus.
I was pissed. The lack of communication was ridiculous, considering that I had been in contact with the school all morning as I tried to find the hospital, and they had never once mentioned that they had cancelled my class.
I had a meeting with the principal and the translator and they gave me an ultimatum. They had one position available at the Wangjing West Campus, and they wanted me to take it.
In China you have to pay rent three months in advance. Because I was completely broke, I had to borrow this money off my mum (plus a month of deposit), and was walking around with 16,000RMB in my backpack, about to pay my rent.
This is over 83,000 Baht, and I realised that I needed to make a big decision. I had been screwed from the moment I arrived in China, and I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. Would I pay the rent, and resign myself to staying, or get on the first plane back to Thailand?
I’m not proud of what happened next. I had a complete meltdown and spent half an hour sobbing into my pillow. Why did it have to be so hard? Moving to China was probably the dumbest thing I had ever done.
I wasn’t crying because I was giving up. I was crying because I felt like I was in an abusive relationship with China. It had treated me like absolute shit, I had been screwed on an almost daily basis, and I knew I was going to stay anyway.
Unfortunately, I’m a ridiculously stubborn person. China wasn’t going to beat me.