In which I tell the story of my professional journey in China
Just how did I end up in Zhangzhou? Well my friends, it was coincidence, luck, fate. Whatever you believe in.
When I arrived in China at the end of August 2011 I had a vision of a 6 month teaching contract, ending at the end of February 2012 and then galavanting off to New Zealand.
One month into my contract, I was already feeling that time was flying fast, so spoke to my boss around the beginning of October 2011 and said that I would like to extend my contract to 1 year; I loved the teaching! I was happy, he was happy and it was done, I would be staying in Inner Mongolia until the end of August 2012.
That all changed one day on a lunch break. My boss was working in his office and called me in for a chat:
Boss: “I’m opening a new school in Zhangzhou (though at the time I remember asking him the name a million times and how to spell it) down in Fujian for the new semester and I was wondering if you’d like to be the FT (foreign teacher) there?”
Me: “Where’s Fujian?”
Boss: “Down in the south. It’s much warmer than here.”
Me: “Ok. I’ll do it.”
That was pretty much how the conversation went, although I may have simplified it for memory’s sake. I couldn’t discuss it with anyone else at the time as it wasn’t set in stone. All the important stuff like finding somewhere to rent and all the documentation needed to be done.
Needless to say, Rachel went down to Zhangzhou in January 2012 as school manager and I soon followed. My flight was paid for by work and everything and I arrived at the end of February 2012, after a 2 week bonus holiday awarded to me by my boss for working 15 out of 19 days in January 8am-9pm (my 6 month contract had a week written into it, so this was indeed extra!).
On 21st February 2012 I flew from Ordos to Xiamen and my southern adventure began! For 6 months I was an FT again, however another conversation was had with my boss after around 2 months in Zhangzhou:
Me: “I’m thinking I want to stay another year, you know, until August 2013.”
Boss: “I was going to ask you about that. I’m thinking we could promote you to education manager and in addition to teaching you could give more support to Rachel when I’m not here (he had many other new ventures in the works at that point), as well as training the CTs (Chinese teachers).”
Me: “Sounds good. I’ll do it.“
Look where those two simple “I’ll do it”s have led me.
In March 2013 Rachel moved away to help out with a new venture and I was made, albeit a little unofficially, school manager, after only 1 and a half years. I was not completely alone. This was when Paul moved down to Zhangzhou to help out, as well as manage 3 other school managers in the Inner Mongolia schools.
Paul was very supportive of me, never treading on my toes in light of decisions. I could always approach him if I was unsure about something and needed advice, but generally, I still made the final decision, which more often than not ended up being the same as what Paul would have advised anyway. We worked very well.
I’m 24. I would have had little chance of gaining such a management experience such as this at home in the UK. It has been a massive learning curve, especially in regards to managing Chinese people, but it has also been a very rewarding experience. I’m sad to say that we didn’t break the magic 100 students that all schools aim for in my time there, but we got into the high 80s, so I’m happy with that for a first try.
My professional journey has been wide: I have developed my CV skills, which can only be a good thing, although I need to get practicing with job interviews maybe; I haven’t had one in over 2 years! I have developed confidence in myself that I can make some decisions alone but also not be afraid to ask for guidance with others.
Would I do the same if I had my time again?
Of course. No regrets.
Interested in forging your own career in teaching English? Get in contact! I’ll be publishing the answers to the top 10 questions I get asked about teaching in China very soon too, so watch out for that.
Also, soon to be announced is the collaborative ebook with fellow awesome people, etramping.com!
Can’t wait to hear what you guys think of my journey!
(Thanks to Harley from WindhorseTour who I met in Chengdu and had a great chat with on 5th September. He gave me the inspiration for this post!)