Okay, so I posted my fundraiser on Facebook (this one: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/teaching-english-in-china–5/x/9369737) and I know a couple people are going to want a lot more detail on WTF I’m doing going all the way to Cambodia and China. Here’s the absolutely crazy story on how decided to go to China.
Last year, for the first time in probably five years, I went to the local pumpkin patch because I wanted to roam the fields and find the Pumpkin King. I was wearing a hat, as has become my signature, and this particular hat is one I picked up while I was studying abroad in Europe. It has buttons and pins all over it that I got while I was overseas and it’s always a point of conversation.
So I’m standing out the checkout with my pumpkins and gourds and one of the ladies comments on my hat, asking where I got it. And since I was the only one there we chatted for a few minutes. She told me her granddaughter had done some traveling as well and went to China for six months to teach. And I was reminded of an Anthropology 101 class I took where a woman came in and told us about how she went to Vietnam for a year and taught English. The woman at the pumpkin patch told me all about the different tours her granddaughter had gone on while she was there. She saw the Great Wall, she saw the preparation for the Olympics, she hiked mountains, and picked up some Mandarin.
The conversation stuck with me all the way home. This woman’s granddaughter went to China for six months, six months!, with room and board paid for by the school and a salary a helluva more than I was making at the time. And she got to go to China. For six months.
So I got home and started racking my memory for what program the woman who had visited our class some four or five years ago had been in and started looking around on today’s Delphi, Google. I found all kinds of great programs for working abroad. I was seriously looking into a summer work program in New Zealand.
The fees though for those programs were always really high, the New Zealand trip would have cost me about $5000 and it was only for three months and I would have to start looking for a job as soon as my feet touched the ground and if I didn’t find one…well…
Then I looked into National Park jobs at coolworks.org, awesome site and I still have my eye on a couple positions by the Grand Canyon. I submitted applications but never heard anything back, so I went back to my search for working abroad. On a catch-all site for working abroad I found several companies that did TEFL—Teaching English as a Foreign Language—certifications. There’s no second degree required for it, if you’re a native English speaker, you can get your TEFL, or TESOL, same thing, different acronym.
I e-mailed several local TEFL programs, but really, outside of getting you certified they didn’t look like they’d be much help on the job front. And if I’m going to spend $1500+ on a certification, I’d like to know I’m going to get more than just access to a database of jobs. I have that with Google.
I found LanguageCorps and was smitten by their program. I looked into all of them, especially the Italy one, but their yearlong China program jumped at me. Ongoing Mandarin lessons, and guaranteed job placement before I even left US soil. And that was just with China, before that I would get my TEFL in Cambodia where a weekend excursion was planned to Angkor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
This was in February or March this year and I fiddled with the idea for another month or so. You know how everything seems like a great idea until you seriously start thinking about the details? It was like that. Since that brief conversation at the pumpkin patch in October I had been gungho on working abroad, traveling, seeing more of the world and doing something.
But I’m not good with kids. I’ve never made an effort to be good with kids because I don’t really like kids. So what the everloving fuck am I doing thinking about going to a different country and teaching kids. So I emailed the company anyway and got back a questionnaire and lo and behold, one of the questions: Which age group do you prefer working with?
And I realized from the questionnaire how flexible this program was. Yes, I’m certain I’ll have guidelines I need to follow and goals to meet, but this is my class. I can teach however I want. I have a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing. I can run my own creative writing class. The whole semester dedicated to character development, plot structure and setting. The final can be a finished project. I can teach a creative writing class. In China. For a year.
And it’s not just China. Once I have my TEFL and a full year of classroom experience I can teach anywhere in the world. I can go to Japan or Finland or Germany or Peru or any other country that has a school where they want English taught. I can go anywhere and everywhere and never teach the same class. Because you can give a hundred people the same opening line and get a hundred different stories every time.
So after some emails and verifications on both our ends that everyone was indeed the real deal, I signed up for a January departure.
I’m teaching a short fiction class.