Since leaving corporate America behind two years ago, I have been traveling across Europe and Asia in search of happiness and living a more meaningful life.
My now-girlfriend Jess was supportive of my decision to accept the job in China.
We talked about ways to stay in touch and agreed that she could meet me in China after a few months to see if she liked it. In the meantime, she would start working on her TEFL certificate and maybe, if everything worked out, we could both teach overseas together.
The next six weeks were chaotic! I sold a property I owned and a friend was kind enough to look after my dog. I suddenly felt the sense of freedom that comes from making life-changing decisions.
I got my working visa for China, booked my flight for Beijing and arrived at the airport a week before classes started.
After meeting my new boss at the Beijing airport, I explored the area around my hotel. People were louder than back home, street vendors were everywhere, and bikes and scooters zoomed in and out of traffic. China was unlike anything I had ever seen.
My boss showed me how to catch a train in China – the concept of a queue was non-existent! We shoved and dragged our bags through the crowd before hurling ourselves onto the train.
It was a two-and-a-half hour train ride from Beijing to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province. Here we were met by two other teachers, an American and a Canadian, and drove two hours to a town called Jiaxian. This is the place I would call home (or so I thought) for the next 10 months.
Jiaxian was a cultural experience unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Streets were bustling with people, entire families were packed onto small scooters, and strangers would stop to take pictures of us. We were in the undeveloped heartland of China.
I had a look around my new school and moved into a spacious apartment on the Friday before classes began. Teaching schedules were sorted out on Sunday and classes began the next day.
I made my first lesson plan and watched the two other teachers for a couple of days. By Wednesday morning, I found myself in front of 50 energetic Chinese kids. It was my first class! The kids were eager to learn and smiled at me.
Dan's classroom in Jiaxian, Henan province.
Although I was nervous to begin with, I quickly realized that they were just kids and weren’t judging too harshly. Over the next few months, I laughed a lot and found teaching to be the most rewarding job I had ever had.
I settled into China quickly and teaching became easier and more enjoyable as I gained experience on the job.
Jess arrived a few months later and we took on the diversity of China together. She went on to permanently quit her job in Canada and teach alongside me.
It’s now a year and a half later and we’re still teaching at the same school. We absolutely love it here.
Have you had a China experience similar to Dan's? Please comment below.