This week’s China focus comes from Schalk, whom we placed in Xi’an earlier this year. He’s working at one of China’s top IB curriculum schools and having a blast.

Here’s what he had to tell us:

Have you ever worked/ travelled overseas? If no, what was your first day like when you arrived?

I had not travelled overseas before. It was a bit of a shock arriving at the airport and finding out that nobody spoke English. The driver, who was supposed to pick me up, was also a bit late so I had no idea where to go or what to do, but in the end I made it to the hotel safely.

What did you do for the first few days in Xi’an, China?

The first few days we just organised everything that we needed. That included finding our apartments, getting new sim cards and phone numbers, opening bank accounts and then sorting out the internet.

We also met some of the new teachers and did some sightseeing, which was a bit difficult with the language barrier.

What was the school’s orientation programme like?

The orientation program was good. The CP showed us around the school and informed us of our classes, what to expect from the other teachers and the learners. All the other things that we needed to get and to have was also shown to us and the HR department really helped us out a lot to get us settled in.

How is the curriculum different to South Africa?

For me the work is more or less the same, but the level of difficulty of the exams are much higher. The learners really pushing the teacher to be up to date with information and subject knowledge.

How are the kids different?

They are extremely motivated. They do not want to sit around and do nothing. For them the more work they can do the better. And outside the classroom they are very friendly and respectful. They tend to sometimes push the teachers to the limit but that is because they want to find out as much as possible about the work.

What is the culture like?

I find it very relaxed, warm and friendly. Everybody will look at you funny for the first two or three days and after that they want to talk to you (which can be a bit difficult).

What do you do every day after school and on weekends?

SLEEP. Usually after school we would go for dinner or cook at home and then start preparing for the next day’s lessons. Over the weekends I do some sightseeing or just stay at home and relax.

Have you made any new friends?

I’ve made a few friends already, but most of them are new teachers that started at the school with me this year and we tend to stick together and do things together.

What advice do you have for other teachers thinking of teaching overseas or at your school?

  • Make sure you have a VPN before you get here.
  • Make sure that you know more than two words in Chinese.
  • Get a proper navigation app.
  • Bring some medicine, toiletries and even spices from home. There are somethings that you don’t get here.
  • Be ready for an adventure.

Thanks to Schalk for his great advice and for taking the time to chat to us! We wish him all the best on this grand adventure.


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