Whether you’re thinking about booking a weekend away, buying a new hoover or choosing a dentist, what people say matters. And, the same goes with teaching abroad. If you’re considering a move to teaching overseas, we wanted to bring you some advice from a real-life teacher, to help guide and inform your decisions.

Teaching abroad: a teacher’s perspective.

At the start of 2021, the Teachanywhere team spoke to one of our fantastic teachers, Carol, to get her story about teaching abroad. Carol currently teaches in Xi’an, China, and our chat with her covers everything from living in a new country, to communicating with locals, to finding an expat community. Keep on reading to find out what she said.

Carol’s story.

Tell me a bit about you/how you got to Xi’an.

I studied in mid west USA and 24 years ago I moved to New Zealand and am a permanent resident there. Both myself and my husband taught in Russia and another school in China before starting at Dehong Xi’an in August 2020.I teach Grade 1 at the moment and I love it! The facilities are amazing - every resource is available to me. The food is also amazing, and I would even go as far as to say that it’s the best food I’ve ever had cooked for me. Lunch is free and breakfast is around 10-15CNY.

Tell me about life in Xi’an 

I’ve travelled all over China and fell in love with Xi’an before I found a job. It’s a vibrant and historical place. The food is amazing including international (Mexican, Italian, French etc). There is lots to do too: the city wall is a great walk and it’s the only city in China with this - fully fortified wall and you can cycle around it. Some key things to know about Xi’an:

Subways are reliable and there’s a new subway station right by the school - it's easy to use and manage

Xi’an has its own airport with good connections - direct flights to lots of Chinese cities - Beijing an hour away, Shanghai 2 hours - it's a really good job for exploring China and other countries are easy to get to as well

Lakes, parks, are all over. Mountains are about an hour away

Bartering is a thing - not in supermarkets etc but smaller vendors will always want to haggle, never pay the first price they say

All communicating in English which is handy. I don’t speak Chinese except for some basic commands - local people are very friendly and there’s a tight-knit community but they are welcoming and love to share their culture. I get by with gestures where required - it's the international experience!

What are the main attractions you would highlight to a visitor/tourist?

The wall, the bell tower/drum tower and Muslim quarter, tang dynasty park - amazing shows and public events, costumes, terracotta warriors, goose pagoda - try the street food!

What’s the wider expat community in Xi’an like?

There is a large community - very international! I have an active social life, regularly meeting up with friends and visiting Irish pubs! Some social groups include music and board games

What Western shops/restaurants etc. are there?

All you could want - McDonalds, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Burger King - there’s a big mall 2 blocks from the school with everything - whiskey bars, brewery, western style grocery store, Nike and Adidas stores, gyms, sports teams, running, golf, swimming, spas massages, global doctors

It's a good location for active people - cinemas including movies in English - the mountains are about an hour away for skiing/snowboarding - activity centres - lots of museums, opera and various shows

Plus, the cost of living is so low! It’s about 10 RMB for a meal - so much cheaper than other Chinese cities.

Tell me about:

The climate
The summer is great - it’s hot and doesn't rain a lot. The winters do get cold but humidity levels are low - great for skiing/snowboard and it's like a winter wonderland.

Pollution is not an issue at all in the summer. In the winter there is pollution which is mainly caused by heating homes - the levels of this have reduced recently with green technology - and you have to work around it however every room has air purification and it’s manageable - you just have ‘indoor days’ with the kids just like if it was raining.

The accommodation
Accommodation is in high rise apartments next to the school - it's basically across the street but not on campus.

I'm amazed with the accommodation - having done international teaching before this is the best apartment I’ve had. It’s really spacious, fully furnished, heated floors - only thing was there was no oven - there's a stovetop/job and a microwave. You can buy an oven very cheaply if you love to bake.

It’s very family friendly - there are all kinds of classes for students to do - Art and play centres, trampolining, indoor pools very close. Families at school did a Christmas Party and Kindergartens are close by - one next to school. There's a good community among teachers and there’s even a Christmas break for Western teachers

If you’re looking to relocate with a dependent child it is a good environment and classes taught in English but you should be aware most students that aren't related to staff are Chinese.

The school

  • Parents are really excited about students coming to the school - very enthusiastic and supportive parents - behaviour is not a problem at all!
  • Special STEM classes
  • Lovely field with full track for athletics, soccer fields, amazing climbing tree (Jungle Gym) swings, slides in  play area.  2 full size basketball courts in a gym.
  • Gym has folding bleachers (seating) and a walkway for observation
  • Big auditorium with LED screen seating 5-600
  • Amazing music facility
  • Big Art area
  • Black room to practise performances
  • TV studio with green screens
  • Purpose built science rooms
  • Primary building is a High rise building with 2 basement levels and 3 floors above
  • Middle and Senior schools currently being built which are bigger

School is understanding of the need for breaks and is caring - in induction it was stressed that they want you to worry about teaching and they take care of everything else. Pay is reliable and you can request the school to do the international transfers for you and a lot of flexibility for this, even allowing you to change preferences month to month.

What next?

Overall, it’s clear to see that Carol has had a fantastic experience teaching abroad, even in such tough times. If you’re feeling inspired by her story, why not kickstart your own adventure?

The team at Teachanywhere is here to help. Speak to your consultant about life in Xi’an if you are interested - if you’re not registered with us yet simply share your CV with us, or get in touch by clicking here. We’d love to help you teach the world, and live the dream.