If you're considering a job teaching English in China, then take some advice from Erik Omernik. Erik has been teaching English in Wuhan, China for three years. Currently, he is finishing up another semester of school before heading home to Wisconsin for a break, then back to China shortly afterwards.
I recently spoke to Erik about his time spent in China and the advice he can offer others who may be looking to get involved in a similar program.
Erik was attending the University of Wisconsin - Platteville in 2005 when he went on a trip to China through the University. It was during that brief taste of the Chinese lifestyle that he knew he would one day return for a much longer period of time. What Erik loved most about China was that the people were so friendly. Only a year later Erik would find himself on his way back to China to work as an English Teacher, where he is today.
Erik Lives in Wuhan, in central China. Wuhan is a large city with an urban population over 6 million people. The city is vibrant and very business centered.
Erik most enjoys the diversity of living abroad and being immersed in the culture. China employs young teachers from around the world, and because of this Erik has made friends with people from Europe, Australia, the Americas and Africa.
During the work week, Erik spends up to 16 Hours at his school teaching students English. Lesson plans include English language games and readings. In China, teachers are very well respected and students are receptive to new learning styles but can often times be shy. Quite a difference from our youths' mentality.
While not at work, Erik is able to enjoy his time off like any local. One place Erik spends his free time is at a bar called The Vox. It is the best place around for live music and the people are great. They have been known to host bands from the USA, Great Britain, Australia, and various other countries from around the world.
When asked how else he spends his free time Erik said if it's possible, he likes to get away from all of the people to relax. China feels so congested with people it is just nice to take time and relax by yourself. As an avid fisherman, Erik enjoys fishing in the many lakes and rivers around Wuhan.
As far as work goes, Erik has been involved in more than just teaching English in the classrooms. In China, they hire Native English speakers for everything from private tutoring to shooting commercials.
Erik was once in a bar at 12:30am when he was asked about being the talent for a video shoot. The catch? It was shooting the next morning at 7:30am. The producer of the video was in need of a western looking person and offered Erik the job. They worked out a deal and only 6 hours later Erik was acting for a Chinese video production.
Business doesn't always work smoothly in China. Erik has seen lots of businesses start and lots of businesses fail. If you do decide to get involved with side work, his advice is to be cautious. Make sure you work out your pay rate ahead of time and to get paid as soon as the work is done.
One cultural aspect of Chinese business is that the Chinese try to do everything so fast and often don't properly plan their business. For this reason, it is important that you get to know the business culture before jumping into things too quick. If you are uncertain of a proposed business opportunity, get references from their clients or co-workers.
As for learning the language, it is possible to get by speaking only English. It is wise to learn a few phrases as that will help you to better negotiate side jobs as well as goods. After 3 years, Erik has passively picked up on phrases and is able to get by pretty well. He has learned the most from taxi drivers, talking about things like fishing and cigarettes.
Overall, Erik's time in China has been an unforgettable experience. He eats great food and meets great people. Having enjoyed his time so much, Erik is planning on staying for another couple years and getting more involved in Chinese business.
If you are an adventurous person than consider working in China. You will meet people from all different backgrounds and experience a lifestyle that is truly unique.
Other teaching resources
How to Teach English in China - Advice on how to land a job teaching English in China
TEFL for non teachers - Teaching English offers another less obvious perk: Time to pursue other interests.
A Lesson in online English credentials - There is a lot to consider when choosing a TEFL course.
American English teacher in China - We interview an American on life in The Peoples Republic of China
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