Once again I can hardly contain my excitement because I get to share yet another inspiring blogger, traveler and teacher! Richelle is practically an expert on teaching in China and has the most amazing resources available to anyone interested in teaching there. China had never really appealed to me personally before, but after interviewing Richelle and doing some exploring on her blog it definitely has made the list for my future travel and teaching plans.
KD: Tell us about yourself - who you are, where you are currently living and teaching, and about your teaching experience.
RG: My name is Richelle and I'm a travel blogger at Adventures Around Asia. I'm originally from Seattle, but I spent the last five years living and working in China. Straight after I graduated college I moved to China to teach English at a high school in the middle of nowhere "Factoryville". I then went on to get my Master's at the University of Nottingham in China while teaching part-time. After that I moved up to Beijing to work as a college counselor, helping Chinese students apply to American universities. After over two years of working as a college counselor, I finally left my position to take my travel blog full-time, although I still work part-time online as a college counselor for Chinese students.
KD: What made you decide to teach abroad?
RG: In my junior year of college, I studied abroad in Beijing and Xi'an and loved every minute of it. I knew I wanted to go back to China and enjoy being an expat without having to complete mountains of Chinese homework every day. When graduation approached I realized I had nothing holding me back: no job, boyfriend, apartment, or furniture. It was the perfect time to hop on a plane and move to China. While many of my friends were struggling to pay rent, or living at home looking for jobs, I had my own apartment, was paying all of my own bills, and had enough money leftover to travel around China, Taiwan and Vietnam!
KD: What’s it like living in your current country?
RG: China definitely isn't the easiest place to live, but it's always an adventure. There are the downsides like internet censorship (which you can fix by downloading a VPN), the pollution, traffic, and noise, but there are also many positives. Firstly, my job as a college counselor was a great opportunity, and I made a US salary while living in China. I loved being able to travel, try new things, and meet new people every day. The food in China is incredible, and I'm in love with spicy Sichuan cuisine. I also love being able to have nice meals delivered to my house for pennies, running across the street to buy dirt-cheap fresh fruit and vegetables, and exploring Beijing's craft beer scene.
KD: What do you love most about teaching where you are?
RG: I love that teaching in China is a prestigious career. As a college counselor, my salary was much higher than that of my friends and roommates working in media and architecture. I had a great salary, a hefty housing stipend, tons of vacation time, and a forgiving schedule. I definitely wouldn't have felt the same way as a college counselor back home in the US.
KD: What’s the most challenging aspect of teaching in this country?
RG: Expectations of the students and parents. There are many cultural differences when it comes to teaching in the US versus China, and sometimes this causes issues. As a college counselor, I had students and parents prioritizing college ranking over universities that best suited them. I counseled students that just wanted to major in architecture or engineering simply because their parents told them to. It's pretty hard to help a student write an essay about why they want to go to Cornell when they don't even know anything about the school or why they're applying besides "It's the easiest Ivy for Chinese students to get into."
KD:What advice do you have for others wanting to teach and travel abroad?
RG: Go now! So many people put off their dreams of teaching abroad and they never happen. There is no perfect time to teach abroad, so if you wait until you're ready, you'll never actually go. For many countries, especially China, you also need to get started early. Certain things like background checks and degree authentification can take months, so start studying for your TEFL and completing the visa steps sooner rather than later.
KD: How can I teach where you are?
RG: Great question! If you're interested in working as a college counselor in China, here is some more information about what kind of qualifications you'll need to have. If you think you're a great fit you can contact me, and I'll send your resume to the HR department of my company.
If you want to teach abroad in China, I also have a ton of resources for you. Firstly, you can check out my new website, Chalkboards & Chopsticks, which focuses solely on teaching abroad in China. Here you can find a Jobs Board where I list a ton of awesome positions I've found through my connections in China.
I also highly suggest signing up for my Free Teach Abroad Mini-Course, where I'll walk you through the process of teaching abroad in China step-by-step!
More about the Author: Richelle is a travel blogger and serial expat who has spent the last five years living in China! She exclusively writes about Asia off the beaten path, exploring places, activities, and cultures most people miss. For more stories and misadventures, be sure to check out her blog Adventures Around Asia.
Thank you for your inspirational insights, Richelle. If you currently teaching abroad or have previously worked in international education please contact me - sharing and learning about teachers experiences globally is a big love of mine.