Creating a home as an ESL teacher in Beijing, cut short due to Covid

There are many reasons why someone might choose to become an ESL teacher, but one of the most common motivations is a love of travel. If you’re an English as a Second Language teacher, there’s a good chance that Beijing was your dream destination. Beijing is a city that is full of opportunities for ESL teachers, and it’s a great place to live and work. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has forced many ESL teachers to leave Beijing and return to their home countries.

In this podcast episode, Amy, whom I met when we were both teaching for Disney English in Beijing, shares her experience of creating a home in Beijing and offers advice for future expats who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Living in Adelaide

Amy moved to Beijing from Adelaide, Australia, and she had been living there for 20 years, ever since she was 23. She loves it there – it’s a great city with a lot to offer. It’s also very exciting, and there are plenty of nice countries nearby to visit. Adelaide is a beautiful place with lots to do and see. It is the wine capital of Australia.

Adelaide is home to some of the best wineries in the region. There are also beaches with beautiful, sandy, blue waters. And, despite being a city, Adelaide has a small-town feel. Amy often runs into people I know when she’s out and about. Adelaide is a great place to live and work. Plus, the weather is perfect – not too hot and not too cold. It’s the perfect place to live!

Amy loved her job as an English as Second Language teacher. She loved being able to help students in Beijing China learn English. ESL teachers play an important role in helping students adjust to life in a new country. She was planning on going to Japan but that fell through at the last minute.

But when she saw an ad looking for English teachers in China with Disney English she thought why not? She didn’t know anything about China. When Amy moved to China to teach English as a Second Language, she didn’t know anything about the country. She was unsure of what to expect, and had to rely on YouTube videos and online research to learn about her new home.

She also tried reaching out to people who had already been there, ESL teaching, and everyone was just so helpful in getting me settled and finding an apartment and getting acclimated to the culture shock of living in China for the first time.  However, once she arrived, she quickly realized that there is so much more to China than she could have ever imagined. The history, the culture, and the food are just a few of the things that make China such a fascinating place. And through her work as an English as Second Language teacher, she has had the opportunity to help other people discover all that this country has to offer.

Her parents were concerned but she just reassured them and showed them that she was safe.  During her Whatsapp calls she showed them around her neighborhood, her apartment, and made them feel like they were a part of it as well, and in a way, it stopped her from feeling very like homesick.

Covid in China and making the hard choice to return home

When Amy thinks about what home means to her, she thinks of a place where she can be comfortable and herself around the people who she enjoys spending time with. For Amy, that place was Beijing. Although she spent less than one year living in Beijing as a teacher she absolutely loved it. She misses it every day. Beijing was a place where she felt like she belonged.

Amy had great friends there and they would spend their time off from work exploring the city and enjoying all that it had to offer. From the delicious food to the beautiful sights, Beijing was a place that truly felt like home to Amy. Unfortunately, she had to make the hard decision to leave Beijing China due to Covid. Her family was worried and concerned about her, and the political tensions between Australia and China were rising.

For the first year back, Amy was in a rut, depressed, having lost all her wonderful friendships. Not being able to see those people every day and the little kids she had taught, not being able to see their smiling faces every day. She struggled. And on top of that, she was trying to get her teaching license in Australia, but because of the pandemic, everything was closed, and everything was delayed. But then she got a job with the Australian government working with young people, and enjoyed it, so eventually she found my way back into youth work.

Future Adventures Await

Recently Amy has been looking at possibly going to South Korea in the coming New Year. She won’t let her experience in China, with having to leave halfway through, stop her from exploring new places or exploring adventures. Adventures are an important part of life. They help us explore new places, meet new people, and experience new things. Amy doesn’t want to be one of those people who doesn’t do the things she dreams of just because there are a few things that might get in my way. To some people that might say that sound naïve, but she wants to travel, teach, and visit new cultures.

ESL teachers often come to China to make a difference in their students’ lives. They want to help their students learn English so that they can have better opportunities in life. However, ESL teachers need to be aware of the cultural differences between China and their home countries.

If they are not careful, they can unintentionally offend or make their students uncomfortable. The best way to avoid this is to try to learn as much about Chinese culture as possible before coming to China. Additionally, once you are here, be respectful of your students’ culture and refrain from discussing topics that may be sensitive. By following these simple guidelines, you will be sure to have a successful and enjoyable experience teaching English in China.

Amy loved living in Beijing as an English as Second Language teacher. The friendships she made there were incredible. There were so many foreigners new to the city and everyone bonded quickly. She still talks to those friends and they always bring back happy memories of Beijing. She also loved the city environment – it was always busy and there was always something open, even at 3:00 AM!

As an ESL teacher, Amy felt like she had a real impact on her students’ lives. Amy still dreams about going back to Beijing all the time. But even though she’s no longer living there, Beijing will always hold a special place in her heart as her home away from home.  Teaching English in Beijing was an amazing experience and she would recommend it to anyone!

ESL Teacher Requirements

Teaching English as a foreign language gives people the opportunity to live and work in a variety of different countries, and each location has its own unique culture and history to explore. For many ESL teachers, part of the appeal is getting to know students from all over the world and helping them build their English proficiency.

In addition, ESL teachers often find that they learn just as much from their students as their students learn from them. If you’re thinking of becoming an ESL teacher, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, make sure you have a strong command of the English language. Second, be prepared to live in a foreign country and experience a new culture. Some countries require you to have a Bachelor’s degree and/or a teaching license and others don’t, of course you will need to do further research. Finally, don’t forget that teaching is a demanding profession–you will need to have patience, a sense of humor, an open mind, and genuine interest in learning about your student so that you will know the best way to help them!

To hear more about being an English as Second Language teacher in Beijing or living in Adelaide, tune in to episode 14 of the Are We Home Yet Podcast!

Connect with Amy via Instagram here.

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