Inga Dyra

Welcome to China! Greetings and smiles, a shining airport and suddenly you are in the middle of a world which is nothing like what you have seen before. I have survived here for three years already and I am still doing it. Why survived? Well, don't be scared of this word. China is not bad place, but living here requires moral strength.

I came to China after 4 years of studying Chinese in Ukraine. You think, I spoke fluently right after I landed? No. Totally opposite. I was one of the best students in my university, but after coming to China I realized that I knew nothing. I was trying to ask people how to get somewhere or so, they didn't understand me, and if they did, I could not understand their answers! So, I felt lost. But everything got better when I started to study in university here in Hangzhou. I met great people, I started to know the city, got used to Chinese life, well, more or less.

Before coming to China I thought that Chinese people are obsessed about fengshui, Buddhism and Daoism. I was reading a lot about all this, digging deep to understand Chinese culture, history, traditions. I expected to see the ancient country with good old traditions, great literature, but insteadwhen I arrived I saw that people care only about money. You know, even in Buddhist temples they put money first to the box in front of Buddha just to make their God to listen to them. So, no money - no help. However, there are still people who care about traditions, poetry, Chinese traditional art and calligraphy. I am friends with some famous painters and writers, also one great calligrapher. These people opened my eyes to a better China, not glassed buildings and fancy malls, but the soul of country. And, I should admit, I really love this China. I started to teach in China almost two years ago. English for school kids. I had such experience in Ukraine, so for me it was not difficult. Maybe, even easier beause Chinese students come to class to study, not because their parents pay money. At least, most of my students. Chinese kids are lovely, I love all my students, even the naughty ones. They can shake my soul out, but when I see the progress in their studies, I know it was worth it.

Now I am teaching dance in a public high school. I am lucky to have such adorable students and friendly coworkers. I go out from work even with more energy than I came to school with. Dancing is my life and I'm doing now what I really love. Isn't it happiness?

Hangzhou is my home now. I feel safe here, no matter what time I am out, I am not worried about anything. Driving bicycle in Hangzhou can be a little stressful because of the intense traffic and, I won't lie, because of crazy Chinese drivers, but it is possible to deal with it. About food as well you need to find your preferences. I like to cook by myself, but I also like to go to Chinese or Western cuisine restaurants sometimes. When I was studying in university, we had many tasty things in our foreign students' canteen. For example, steamed eggplant or chicken in sweet and sour sauce, mmm, finger-licking good!

Do I miss home? Who does not? But I am not homesick, just envy sometimes when my family celebrates something and I am not there. But here in Hangzhou I have another family, I have my friends.

China is a good place to be, it really is. Travelling around China is exciting; I wish I could see more. Working here so far is also good, sometimes even more relaxed than back home. I hope all of you will feel what I was trying to say through my small speech. I wish you luck and a good time in amazing China.

Rhian Williams
I first decided to teach English as a foreign language as I wanted to travel and living at home trying to save was nearly killing me. When I was looking for jobs, it seemed the best place for travel and to earn money would be China, so I decided to pack up and move there. Before coming to China I had no experience of learning Mandarin, but I was able to learn enough to get by, and making friends with locals, like your teaching assistant is a great help. I found one-to-one Chinese lessons for as little as $10 an hour, and some of my friends did a language swap. Also, often when I was out people learning English would stop to try and practice what they have learnt, even if it’s just a ‘how are you?

For the most part, there has been nothing that I have missed from home. Most of the brand beauty products are available, like L’orel or Maybelline, and there are brilliant alternatives in shops like Watsons, as long as you’re not too fussy, you can get everything you need. The main problem I found though was finding decent deodorant and some feminine care items, so bring a supply of them! Also, as a bigger lady I found it hard to find clothes to fit, but H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo are often nearby.

I love the food in China, which I found quite surprising as I don’t eat red meat. There are a lot of vegetarian options so that’s not a problem either. There are lots of western restaurants, which although not the same as home, often fill a craving. The only thing I missed was salt and vinegar crisps – but I soon replaced them with my new Chinese favourite…. Cheese and lobster.

The best part of being in China is that is a major hub for travel in Asia. While being here I have travelled to Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macao. Flights from Shanghai or Guangzhou are super cheap, I got return tickets to Kuala Lumpa for less than $150. I also travelled from Beijing to Kathmandu via Tibet, which has been one of the best experiences of my life. Meeting like-minded people who share a passion for travel has been one of the highlights, not just seeing Asia, but in China as well, from the Ice Festival in Harbin (at -35 degrees Celcius!), to the beautiful landscape of Guilin and Yangshao.

I have never felt unsafe in China. The main thing to look out for is the opportunistic pick pockets. As a female, I have never felt threatened, even in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

I’d definitely recommend teaching in China. I spent over a year and half there, left to travel for 6 months, before returning for another year. It’s a brilliant chance to see the world and experience a completely different life.
Dell P. MacTaighain
“I grew up on a diet of Jacky Chan and Bruce Lee films as a child, making homemade nunchakus from chair legs, joining my local kung fu class, but never thought I’d actually be here. Back In 2006 I almost switched careers because I was so jaded and bored from lecturing and teaching but out of the blue I was offered a thought-provoking position to bring the Erasmus Project to China. Arriving here and teaching rekindled my love of not only education but also culture. Teaching here is very challenging, constantly engaging, and never repetitive. Whether I’m training teachers, writing an exam, or simply teaching students general oral English I always have the exquisite backdrop of the Chinese landscape, it definitely beats the hustle and bustle of London concrete jungle life. I’ve never been a tourist per se, despite travelling pretty much everywhere I’ve wanted to over the past 30 years. Here in China I’m no different, I’ve never seen a panda, the great wall, or the terracotta soldiers. This is what fascinates me about China, the hidden treasures not seen or experienced by your average traveller. In Qianxian I was the only foreigner in the whole town, most had never even seen one before – many a lamp post was walked into by a passer-by who did a double take as I wandered by. It’s this China that keeps me here and loving it and will probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of here. There’s just too much to do and too much to see and experience for a single life time, but I’m giving it a good shot. I find the Chinese people a likeable puzzle and they constantly surprise me, and if this is a testimony, it’s a testimony to them rather than me. This country revitalised me both personally, and professionally, and I am in their debt..