Student stories

Working as an English teacher in Hubei, China

Bobby Eng

World English, Hubei, China

Recreation and health education student Bobby Eng spent four months working as an English teacher in Hubei, China. He wrote the following about his experiences abroad.

1) What was it like traveling abroad for co-op?

I arrived at the Three Gorges Airport with little understanding of what I was about to embark on and even less experience teaching English. What I was really in for was an experience that was full of challenges, learning chances, and “ah-ha” moments. For my fourth and final coop experience, nothing really seemed to excite me until I noticed a job posting in China. Within 10 minutes of sending an application, I received a phone call and before I knew it, I had accepted a job in China - one that pushed me outside of my comfort zone while giving me straws to grasp at.

 2) Did you face any challenges?

Although, China was over 12 hours away by plane, I was still able to adapt and accommodate to the differences that I encountered while I was there. There were a few things that I was not very excited about, but I found that as long as I was armed with enthusiasm, patience, and an attitude of understanding that there would be differences, I was well on my way for success. There were times where I was somewhat stressed (showing up at an airport only to find my flight cancelled, and then almost being arrested), nervous (teaching a filmed lesson for over 5,000 participants), and confused (sitting through a 3 hour staff meeting all in Mandarin), but the amount of growth that I was able to achieve throughout the past four months was key to my professional and personal development.

 3) What were the keys to your success?

There are two things were ultimately integral to my success when I was working in China: attitude and networking. These are two things that I also believe are key to my ongoing improvement as a recreation professional. Approaching work each day with a willingness to put the effort in, be the best we can be, and adapt to fit the situation, things work out. Being a guest in another country and culture, involves many things that are different than at home, but that does not make it wrong.

It also meant I needed to be brave and branch out and share my own ideas. When I was willing to branch out and connect with people around my, and encourage empowerment and user-led orientation, then good things happened. These aspects were key when it came to finding my feet in China and I think that it led to a positive experience for my students and the clients of the school. Years of children’s camp experience and my general tendency to engage in play have allowed me to connect with folks of a variety of ages, backgrounds, values, and much more. Many of the Chinese teachers from the school are planning their trips to Canada – it will be fun to share our culture when they arrive!

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