Want to take a break from "real life" and teach English in China for a year or two? It's easier than you may think.
- Do some research and decide what part of China you would like to live in. It's a big country and this will make your job search much easier? Would you like to live in a large metropolitan area (Beijing, Shanghai), a Chinese city with a lot of history (Xian, Nanjing), a provincial capital (Kunming, Chengdu, Wuhan), a warm place, a cold place, a place close to SE Asia, a place where they speak Mandarin, a place where they speak Cantonese, etc?
- Do you want to work for a private language school, a university, or a high school? There are pros and cons to each. It's probably the hardest to get a job at a high school unless you use some kind of volunteer agency (I don't really recommend these kind of agencies because they usually charge large fees for things that you could set up yourself with a little bit a leg work). Private schools often pay a little more and have smaller classes, but university jobs provide you with housing and perhaps more help with getting your visa, etc.
- Get contact info. Once you've decide on a couple of cities and/or provinces you're interested in and what kind of school you would prefer to teach at, you can begin to do research and find contact info for specific schools/universities. If you want to teach at the university level, a good place to start your search is on Wikipedia. They have a of "universities in Mainland China". Even if Wikipedia doesn't have actual pages related to the university, you can type the name into Google. Many Chinese university have English language websites. For private language schools, it may be a little harder. If you know someone in China, they will be a valuable resource. If you don't, try typing the city name + "English school" and variations of that into Google. You can also try search for ex-pat websites in various cities. (For example: http://gokunming.com, http://www.thatsbj.com, http://www.thatssh.com). These often have job listings. Several Chinese cities even have Craig's List now!
- The easiest and convenenient to search teaching jobs is teaching job source site, e.g. http://www.teachersemployment.org, it offers abundant of teaching positions from universiteis, K-12,kindergartens and training colleges in China, and you freely apply for it as you like or search job criteria
- When you find the web page of a university you are interested in, find an email address and send them a resume and a cover letter. Even if you can't find the email of the correct person, hopefully someone will forward it on. Most universities are always looking to hire foreign teachers, so even if they don't have jobs listed, they still might want to hire you. Of course, if you are able to find actual jobs listed in a classified section online, that's even better because you will have specific contact information for that job!
- Treat this like any other job search. You may have to send your resume to several places before you find the right fit. Don't be hesitant to ask prospective employers a lot of questions about their university, your responsibilities, etc. You are considering moving to a foreign country for this job! Make sure they will help you with all the necessary paperwork (visa, residency permits, medical exams, etc.)
- Buy a plane ticket. The earlier you buy one, the cheaper it will probably be. You will probably have to connect through Hong Kong, Beijing, or Shanghai if you are flying on to a smaller Chinese city. You will probably just want to buy a one way ticket because you might not be sure exactly when you will want to come home. Many schools will arrange to meet you at the airport when you arrive. It's a good idea to arrive at least a week before you start teaching so you will have some time to get settled, get over jet lag, and explore your surroundings.
- Get a visa! The place you are teaching should send you a letter of invitation so that you can get a Z visa (work visa) from a Chinese embassy or consulate in your country. You will also need a visa application(you can find it online at http://www.china-embassy.org), your passport, and a passport picture. The visa will probably cost about $50 or you can pay extra to get one rushed if you wait until the last minute. Once you arrive in China, you will get a residency permit in your passport, which will serve as a multiple entry visa for as long as you are working there, so you will only need a single entry visa.
- Go to China! If you don't speak any Chinese, a Chinese phrasebook will be your best friend until you learn the basic words to communicate with a taxi driver, order food, and other basic necessities. The Rough Guide phrasebook is much better than the LonelyPlanet one. Speaking of Lonely Planet, it wouldn't hurt to have a Lonely Planet China book to help you plan trips and learn about the city where you will be living. Most Chinese cities have some decent American/western restaurants (other than KFC, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut), if you know where to find them! Be aware that most places do not take credit cards, so make sure have enough cash/traveler's checks with you to survive your first month. $1000USD is probably the minimum. $2000USD will provide you with more cushion. Remember that you will want to buy things like pots, towels, bedding, etc. when you first arrive.
- Your life will be less stressful if you can set up a job before you leave home and arrive in China. However, if it comes down to it, you could probably show up on a tourist visa with enough cash to last for a month or so and find a job in that time. You may have to go to Hong Kong (or some other country, Thailand is a popular destination if you live in Southwest China) to switch for a tourist to a work visa, so make sure you will have money for that.
- It's always good to bring a copy of your diploma in case you want to switch jobs and to prove that you have finished your degree.
- You usually don't need a TESOL certificate to teach in China, but it won't hurt to have one, you may get paid more or be able to find a better job. If nothing else, you will be a better teacher once you have completed a certificate!
- Ask for the email address of another foreign teacher at the university or school at which you are considering teaching. Then you can get an insiders perspective about the pros and cons of that specific location.
- It might be a good idea to bring some English teaching books with you because not all schools will provide you with a curriculum.
- It's also a good idea to bring some "cultural" materials with you. Things like American money, restaurant menus, postcards, family photos, etc. can provide some fun visuals to go with your lessons.