Living, Working and Interning in China: Big City or Countryside?

By: Jeremy Freedman | Posted on: 19 Apr 2014

From the Gobi desert in the North to the Himalayas in the South, and with the heady mix of ancient history and some of the world’s most iconic new skylines in between, China is a country of great contrasts. Perhaps though the greatest contrast is the one that exists between these rapidly developing cities and the countryside that they are leaving behind.

What is Important to You?

man-in-rural-chinaSome of the core differences between urban and rural China are not too dissimilar to anywhere else, although the scale of them may come as something of an eye-opener. There is a far bigger gap between rural and urban China than there is rural and urban England, for example. Some of the most noticeable aspects are to do with the basic living conditions and standards. While modern Chinese cities are set-up to cater for people from all over the world, with amenities, luxuries and imported goods to match, living in the countryside can sometimes feel like living in a previous era. This is not always a bad thing; modern Chinese cities are some of the busiest, most hectic and most polluted in the world. Living in the countryside is a more tranquil experience, with cleaner air and fewer people, but can you handle Chinese toilets, a lack of good night life, and a complete dearth of real cheese? Because good luck finding that in the (very) local supermarket.

It goes without saying that the salary in the city will be higher than that in the countryside. It should also go without saying though that not only will the cost of living be higher, but there will be more things to spend your money on. So how does it balance out? If you’re aiming to save during your time in China, is one option better than the other? The answer to this, and many other things in life, lies in how disciplined you are. Can you resist the temptations offered by the city? There might not be any Japanese restaurants in the countryside, but that also means you won’t be spending most of your salary in Japanese restaurants every month. You should also consider how far your salary will go outside the boundaries of where you’re earning it. Your countryside salary will be enough to survive while you’re there, but what about when you want to move on? What if there is an emergency that means you have to travel, or spend time in a bigger city? Will your small-town wages cover this?

How Important Do You Want to Be?

Living in the countryside, you may be one of only a few foreigners in your town or village. If this is the case, the local people will want to know you. They will be interested in you and will want to involve you in more of their lives. This might be come in the form of meals, drinking a beer together or saying hello (or just staring) as you walk past.

So Which is The Real China?

Both. While it may be tempting to label rural China as the real China, this would be an error. The cities are as much today’s China as the rice fields are, and with the rate of development as it is, will only become more so. Living in a Chinese city is no less real than living in the countryside.

Choosing whether to live in the big city or the countryside is something that you will have to decide for yourself, based both on what we have talked about here and your own personality. Both have their good and bad points, and you will need to weigh them all up before making your final decision. There really isn’t a wrong choice though, merely a choice that will be better for you personally than the other. Either will result in you having a wonderful experience that you will never forget, as well as helping to develop yourself and your career.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Teaching a class of rural children who have perhaps never had a foreign teacher before is a wonderful experience, for both you and them, and can feel far more rewarding than teaching city kids, to whom you might not be quite so special. Any city will have a greater number of ex-pats living and working there. Depending on your point of view, this could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. It’s always nice to know that there will be people in the strange place you’ve decided to live in that are in the same boat as you. People who can welcome you, relate to you, and help you. One danger here is how easy it is to spend all of your time with ex-pats, denying yourself the chance to really make local friends and living in a little foreigner-only bubble.6966Xiamen

Of course, living in a big city will afford you more opportunities to find a job or internship. That isn’t only concerned with the number of vacancies, but also the variety. From office work to hospitality roles, to the ubiquitous teaching, the options are all there. Anybody trying to do similar in the countryside will most likely be restricted to teaching only.
Neither rural nor urban China should be missed when visiting the country. Everybody should see both, to get a more complete picture of this vast land. When living, working or interning there though, is it better to do so in a big city or the countryside?

Check out our Paid Teaching and TEFL training project in China to find out more about what you can do.

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional Internships, Volunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30 countries worldwide. Figure out of you’re a country bumpkin or city slicker – come travel your career!

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How to not totally suck at being an EFL teacher

Thai Paid Teaching

By: Jeremy Freedman | Posted on: 11 Apr 2014

Being an EFL teacher is easy, as many people will tell you. And I completely agree with them. But being a good EFL teacher is a completely different ball game.

When I landed my first teaching job, I was pretty nervous before I started. Having never done anything similar, and also being a naturally quiet person, I wasn’t even sure that I could do it. After I started, I started to feel my fears were completely unfounded. There was nothing to it. Just turn up, go through the book with the students, accept their compliments on how good a teacher you are, and go home again.

However, after not too long, I realised that my fears had not been unfounded at all. Teaching wasn’t easy. I just thought it was because I was making a really bad job of it. More accurately, I wasn’t actually doing anything at all. I learnt a lot more about teaching (badly) during that time than my students did English. I’ve also seen a lot of other teachers make their own mistakes, which I casually observed from the side lines, glad I wasn’t making those mistakes in addition to my own! To give you half a chance of not doing similar, I’ll share a bit of what I have picked up.

Lessons Learned

The first real problem I encountered was a student asking me to explain a grammar point. And not even a difficult one. I was left stumped, and red-faced, by something an intermediate level EFL student would probably know. The answer “I don’t know, but I will check and tell you tomorrow” is fine for obscure structures and rare exceptions to rules; for Present Perfect, it isn’t. A good teacher needs to know why we speak the way we do, and not just how to do it. Read up on grammar, because the students will ask you.

Making sure you know the grammar you are attempting to teach is all part of the preparation. Lesson planning is key, but sometimes even that is not enough. Games that you think will be well received fall flat, activities that you think will take an hour are over in a quarter of that time. What are you going to do? Play Hangman again? Trust me, there are only so many times you can get away with that. You need a back up, and it needs to be good. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to the lesson you have been doing, but it needs to be something that you can easily pull out and use when things haven’t gone to plan. You also need more than one. After learning the hard way, I had an ever-increasing arsenal of back-up options. Every time I saw a new non-specific activity, it went in there. It’s hard to use the same back-up plan on the same class more than once.

Get To Know Your Students

A good teacher should know a few things about their students. Knowing their personalities is just as important as knowing their language strengths and weaknesses. As much as what the students are capable of, you need to tailor the lesson plan to what students are interested in, to give your plan the best chance of being well received. A class of teenage girls will not give you much mileage with the Military Hardware lesson you spent all evening planning.

Knowing their personalities is especially important when utilising pair work. All of the students will want to work with their friends. It’s natural, but at some point, they will have to branch out and work with others. You can tell them it’s good for their future development, as life is all about working with people you don’t like, but you do have to bear some things in mind. If two people really do not get on, don’t try to force it. At the same time however, smart pairing of students can help you out. Two students of similar level will often work well together and not require too much input once you set them going, while you can pair a stronger student with a weaker classmate and ask him to help with his understanding of things. This will alleviate a little of your workload when you have several pairs who need your attention at the same time, and you can tell the stronger student it’s good for their English too. Like the lesson plans and activities though, it has to be kept fresh. Pairs should be rotated and mixed up regularly.

You’re There to Teach

Whether teaching adults in a private training centre or children in a high school, all students have one thing in common; they are there to learn. Whether they want to or not is another matter, but it isn’t your job to decide. Nor is it acceptable to see EFL teaching as anything less than a serious job. Some of the most self-centred people I have met have been employed as EFL teachers, using class time to slack off while students are having their money wasted or receiving a sub-par education.

Whatever kind of teacher you are, you have a responsibility to your students. Leaving that unfulfilled is the best way to become a bad teacher.

EFL teaching is a great way to make some money while you travel, to develop yourself as a person, to enhance your gap year and to make a difference to other people’s lives. The vast majority of teachers abroad do a wonderful job. Done badly though, nobody really benefits. By being aware of some of the pitfalls, you stand a better chance of contributing to the growing number of great EFL teachers in the world!

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional Internships, Volunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30 countries worldwide. Why don’t you join us?


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Photo Competition – Compete in the Selfie Glolympics!

selfie olympics

By: Jeremy Freedman | Posted on: 06 Apr 2014

The art of self-portrait photography is as old as the art of photography itself, the first selfie being taken in 1839, almost 175 years ago! It wasn’t until more recent years however, that the term ‘selfie’ became a household expression. Thanks to an Internet explosion of more or less badly framed self-portraits posted on any and all social networks, the word ‘selfie’ was finally included in the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language in late 2013 and was designated the word of the year.

With the recent 2014 Winter Olympics, a new Internet phenomenon has appeared; the Selfie Olympics, involving selfies taken in unusual situations.

obama-selfieHere at Global Nomadic we like to celebrate both the unusual and the usual and have arranged our own Selfie Glolympics! However, instead of unusual situations, we are asking participants to send us your selfies, taken on location abroad, be it a volunteer project or a short holiday trip, showcasing all the beautiful corners of our world, and your place in it.

Of course, all entries need to adhere to the universal selfie rules; i.e your picture must include yourself and must be taken by yourself. The real challenge will lie in framing your picture to also include something of interest in the background, which can tell us a little something of the place you are in, and/or the people you have met there.

Submit your entry to before May 15th 2015 to be in with a chance to win a free placement! Successful entries will be gathered in a Facebook album where you can vote for your favourite Glomadic Selfie!

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional Internships, Volunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30 countries worldwide. Why don’t you join us?
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Uncovering the past – Archaeological Internship in St Eustatius

archaeology internship

By: Jeremy Freedman | Posted on: 04 Apr 2014

Archaeology is a niche scientific discipline that has long suffered from a gross misrepresentation in mainstream media. For most people, the word brings associations of glamorous adventures in exotics deserts and far away locations, expeditions fraught with dangers and the promise of long forgotten treasures, all carried out by dashing figures of the likes of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.

archaeology internshipWhile the reality of archaeology is very far from this image, there is still a sense of mysticism surrounding the act of digging through the layers of the earth to find out about the past, reconstructing the lives of people long forgotten and cultures lost in the mists of time. Archaeology teaches us about more than broken pieces of pottery, it helps us paint a picture of human activity throughout the ages and how our very existence was shaped into being. While history may be all about the past, advances in archaeology are constantly re-shaping theories of cultural evolution.

The most iconic part of the archaeological discipline is without a doubt the dig itself, the painstaking act of slowly sifting through the dust to uncover fragments of the past and piecing them back together, fragment-by-fragment. Far from the adrenaline-filled escapades of Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones, this can be back-breaking hard work, long hours under the sun spent carefully removing dirt surrounding an artefact, which is most likely not going to make anyone very rich. What it will do is uncover another little piece of the puzzle of the past, through which we can gain greater understanding of the many layers of culture that precedes our own.

Gaining experience on a dig is a key milestone for any student of archaeology or anthropology, but is also a great way for the uninitiated to get a glimpse of what archaeology is all about. And if you could marry all this up with living on a sun-drenched Caribbean island, surrounded by miles of blue skies and seas offering some of the best snorkelling and Scuba diving in the world, what you get is the opportunity of a lifetime, taking part in the archaeological field school on St Eustatius!

The island of St Eustatius, or Statia as it is commonly referred to among its approximately 4000 inhabitants, is a small island in the Caribbean Sea. Formerly a part of the Netherlands Antilles, the island has been a special municipality of Holland since 2010. With its strategic location, the island has an incredibly rich history, spanning both pre-historic and colonial times. During the course of history, the island was claimed by many different nations, most notably the Dutch as a result of the activities in the region of the Dutch West India Company. Despite its small size (a mere 21 square kilometres), the many layers of history has left a stunningly rich archaeological inheritance, important both for the understanding of St Eustatius as well as the wider Caribbean region. Statia, dubbed ‘The Caribbean’s Historic Gem’ offers up hidden archaeological resources both on land and below water and is the perfect place for cutting-edge archaeological research.

This internship provides a unique opportunity for archaeology students or those with a keen interest to work alongside world-class archaeologist at a local NGO. This organisation was founded in 2004 with the goal to protect and preserve the rich and diverse historical resources of the island as well as developing new techniques for underwater and terrestrial archaeological site recording. During this internship, you will have the opportunity to learn a wide scope of archaeological field work methods, including excavation and survey techniques, archaeological drawing and photography, processing and identification of artefacts, conservation, archaeological report preparations, legislation and much more.

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional Internships, Volunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30 countries worldwide. Why don’t you join us?

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