15 September 2014

How to Move to China (ESL Route)

This is an overview of how Angel and I went from having the initial idea to teaching ESL in ShenZhen within a year's time. That was too long of a title, however, which explains the shorter and vaguer title.

How to Move to China and Teach ESL

Step 1: {August 2013} Decide you want to move to Asia.

Have several initial job and visa ideas fall through. Sister suggests, "Hey, what about teaching ESL in Korea? Lots of people do that!"

I respond, "Well...I don't speak Korean...but my Mandarin is pretty good. It might make more sense to try teaching ESL in China. Does anyone do that?"

Google search turns up CTLC Website among the top results.

Step 2: {Fall} Wonder if CTLC is a real thing or if it is a scam.

Peruse entire website in detail. Decide that this program sounds awesome...but remember that things you read on the internet aren't always true.

I emailed the address provided on the CTLC website to ask for a list of people who had taught with the program before and chose five random people from the list to email and ask questions about the program to. One of the questions was, verbatim: "Does CTLC exist or is it a scam?"

I believe in being direct. The detail and variety of answers I received from my emails convinced me that CTLC was either real or it was the most in-depth, genius scam I've ever come across, and therefore deserved our money.

Step 3: {November, December} Apply, interview, and be accepted into CTLC's teaching program.

*I should note that many people have found ways to just jump into teaching ESL in China without joining a program of any sort, but rather finding a school on their own and developing a contract with the individual school, and that is probably less expensive, but for us, given the fact that we didn't know much about the bureaucratic requirements involved in living and working in China, and the fact that we are not yet totally fluent in Mandarin, we decided that for us, the convenience of going in with an organization that provides TEFL training and negotiates your contract with your school was worth it. CTLC only works with schools in ShenZhen, and we liked the idea of ShenZhen as a homebase, because I wanted to be located in South China and we wanted to be close to major airports.

Step 4: {December} Start getting rid of all of your stuff.

Trust me, start early, it takes a while. If you're just planning on moving abroad for a year, maybe you don't have to get rid of all of your stuff. Our move is permanent for the foreseeable future, so we basically emptied our house. It was a process that we achieved slowly over months, through a combination of bequeathing our belongings to relatives, Craigslist and Facebook sales, many trips to the local thrift store, and one final garage sale.

Step 5: {Spring} Handle all legal, technical, and medical stuff.

Pay CTLC deposit. Gather all paperwork required to get your invitation letters so that you can apply for your visa (that included diplomas, background checks, and a few other pieces of paper for us). Make copies and scans of any and all important documents. We left all actual important documents in the USA but brought notarized copies and scans with us. Make sure you have plenty of years left on your passport and driver's license. Get a power of attorney if you might need one to help you manage finances from overseas. Decide how you are going to manage getting your taxes done while you're far away. Get any vaccines that you want while you still have a job and health insurance (we opted for Tetanus boosters and Typhoid).

Step 6: {Late Spring/Early Summer} Shop for anything you want to make sure you bring with you.

Plenty of clothes if you think you may have trouble finding clothes that fit in China (Angel and I are on the shorter side so this wasn't a big concern for us, however, I love my clothes so I brought as much as I could). High-quality sandals. You can do your research and buy whatever kind of face masks (for air filtration) you decide will be the best for you before you even arrive in China so that you're guaranteed to have a mask when you need one. Pick out your favorite kind of travel money belt--you never know where you might be in a place where one might come in handy.

Step 7: {June/July} Try not to forget all the last-minute really important things you have to do.

Send in your visa application to a visa agent that works with the embassy for your region as soon as you receive your paperwork from CTLC. Decide how you want to change your USD into RMB (we chose to order RMB from our bank before leaving the USA--but there are other options.)

Step 8: {July 23} Get on the plane!

Arrive in Asia slightly disoriented and jump right into training and life as an ESL teacher in China.

This is just a rough outline of what our life has looked like over the past year--seriously, if you have any questions about CTLC or specific requirements for moving to China, you can go ahead and ask! And, clearly, I know that the last step of moving does not end at the airport, but let's not put too much into just one post, shall we?

I have a feeling that a rather large percentage of my readers have lived abroad at some point in their lives, so let's try an informal survey. In the comments, let me know if you've lived in a country where you weren't born, and which ones. If you haven't lived abroad, do you think you'll ever try it, or are you very content where you are?
Sarah said...

After university I lived and worked in Scotland for awhile (I was born/raised in and currently live in the USA). I also had job offers in Germany and Japan and one of my biggest regrets is not taking those job offers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Rachel! I'm fascinated by expats' stories. I'm quite content in NYC for now but I do hope to move to Australia at some point!

Moonofsilver said...

I've never lived in another country, but I totally would! However, I am also quite content at home. I wonder what the future holds :)

Unknown said...

'you might be an evil genius, so here. take all of my money!' love it.

Jennifer Prod said...

"my emails convinced me that CTLC was either real or it was the most in-depth, genius scam I've ever come across, and therefore deserved our money." haha, so funny! i copied this and then realized someone made a similar comment above, but that's probably because this post about your every day life reads like a comedy novel - it's really funny!

Esther said...

Haha, I'm from New Zealand and lived in Australia for about six years (will be going back there). Still waiting to explore beyond the South Pacific!

Cramer Coffee and Jesus said...

Even though it took almost a full year, that's fast! sounds fun :)

Suzanne said...

I'm so delighted you took this opportunity.

I've lived in England, Scotland, Italy and France with a very short stint in Hawaii.


chelsea @ the new wifestyle said...

wow! absolutely love this recap because i've always wondered the process one goes through for teaching ESL in asia so thanks!

also...air filtration masks? tell me more about this. do you wear them all the time? is there like an 'emergency alert' for when you should put them on?

i've never lived outside of the USA but have traveled quite a bit. my husband often talks about living abroad for a while but potentially in costa rica or france

Ali Hval said...

This process sounds so hectic but I'm so glad that you worked through it all until you found what you were looking for--I can't even imagine beginning to think about dashing around and absorbing all this information! Mad props to you for jumping into it straight on and hanging on to what you can!

I've been in the States my entire life and the current state I'm in since my wee kindergarten years... still have yet to travel abroad, which is crazy, I know. Maybe one day. I'd like to do that. I don't feel that I'm content where I am except for at the moment; once I'm done with college, I really would like to do some traveling and see where I end up. Eep.

Bethany Carson said...

Really enjoyed your post! I've never been to any country other than the U.S., but I do find expats' stories fascinating and would like to at least travel abroad someday.

Miss Nutralicious said...

I have never lived abroad in another country, but I did spend 2 years working in Hawaii for the Native Hawaiian healthcare systems. I thought that learning all of the foods and cultural customs was hard there, and it wasn't even a new country! I can't imagine all of the "newness" you are encountering.

Unknown said...

I am from Germany and currently living in Argentina for my year abroad (I study in England). So I already have travelled a bit and I like it, but I look forward to settle down too - in the sense to find a place to call home. I definitely don't want to go back to Germany^^ I guess my next travel plan after Uni is the USA :)

I hope you are having a great time and not too many difficulties learning Chinese^^

Saxon @ Lets Drink Coffee, Darling said...

Haha, its funny how your first reaction to the program is "Is it a scam." Its sad how teaching ESL is really one of those things where it is easy to find programs that don't mind taking all your money, but don't really educate you. I haven't looked into many of the actual job opportunities, but from what I've seen just looking at the programs to become certified is overwhelming and takes a fair amount of research to find a really good one.

I've lived in Kunming, China for a semester. I also lived in Cardiff, Wales for just one month - I guess that would really be considered more of an extended length trip rather than actually 'living' there though. I'm trying to be content at home for now, but there's definitely a travel itch that gets going every now and then. :)

Cynthia said...

This was so interesting! Did you study Mandarin at university, or.... ?
I'm from the U.S. but I have lived abroad in both Germany (4 months) and Czech Republic (almost 2 years). There was just something about living at home (I remember this at least from about age 14 on) that made me feel uneasy, like I wasn't doing what I really wanted to be doing... but I never feel like that here.

Chantel said...

I love this timeline! I got my TESL certificate right after highschool and went on to be an au pair in England but one of the girls I took TESL with went to China to teach for at least a year, maybe two. This is such a great timeline for anyone interested in following this path, and I love that you questioned whether or not that program was a scam because it can be so hard to know at first! You guys have accomplished a lot in a year. :)

Jessi (Two Feet, One World) said...

Haha I love your CLTC reasoning! I'm from New Zealand and currently living in the UK - it has made me want to try living other places too.

Unknown said...

Awesome post! I really enjoyed it! (Learned some good things too, incase I ever want to move to Asia) :D

Ashley B.
Like No Other Fashion

Angela said...

Great tips for sure! I can't even imagine all the logistics to moving to another country!

Kim @ Kimberley's Quests said...

Everything about this is awesome! I have often considered moving to another country (though London or Sydney Australia would top my list) but I'm too much of a homebody at this point in my life! I love hearing and seeing about the adventures of people brave enough to take the leap! I love that you asked straight up, if it was a scam!

Madison @ Wetherills Say I Do said...

My goodness! This is quite the process. I appreciate the detail though, I'd love to teach English abroad someday so this is great to know what the process is really like!

Corlie said...

Gosh, I am properly jealous of how organised you arrived here! We arrived on a bus from Laos utterly clueless and it was so not the way to do it.
So far I've lived in America, England, Vietnam and China. Looks like either Kenya or Australia may be on the cards for the future!

Unknown said...

What an exciting adventure! I can't wait to hear more about this. It sounds like so much fun. Thanks for linking up with Hump Day Happenings this week.

Charlene Maugeri said...

I LOVE your new design! Sorry if it's been up for a while. I've been a little absent in blog land lately. Also, There really is some great advice here for moving anywhere and particularly anywhere out of the country. I'll have to keep all this in mind.

nancy john said...

It often surprises me how unaware instructional professionals can be about the issues and best practices for ESL students.

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Camila said...

Maybe I'm a bit late, but love the redesign! Anyhow, love this post! One of my friends in uni did that once he was done, just got rid of everything and moved across to Korea to teach and he said it was great. I always wonder how people come to this though! I'm prepping my move to the UK right now and Step 5 is killing me! So tough to think about everything and make sure all the legal stuff is taken care of!

Anonymous said...

Great, great post! Even though I'm not teaching ESL, I went through basically the same process (I just went through Marshall University's Teach in China program. Saved so much hassle!

Dani {Adventures of a Pharm Girl} said...

I love this post and I seriously admire you! You just moved to China? Say what?! Wow that is amazing! Good luck with all of your future endeavors! :)
xoxo Dani

Amy @ Amy and the Great World said...

I love seeing how people end up abroad, and teaching ESL! I'm teaching ESL in Prague right now and it was a somewhat easier process...but I'm thinking about Korea or China next so, thanks for the tips :)

Journeys of The Zoo said...

I lived for three years in Mexico and we're planning to move back again in two years (so excited). We still winter there every year.

The first time, I taught English for two years and that definitely helped me learn Spanish (I had to translate all my materials). Being submerged in the language also helped. Very few people in the city spoke any English.

My step-daughter taught English in Korea for two years and she didn't speak a word or Korean.

How are you enjoying China?

Besos, Sarah
Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

nancy john said...

 I appreciate language learning experiences. The fact that i read so much, and so profoundly, demonstrates the high level of your English. 

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