Montreal is a cool city. I grew up in New Hampshire. Do you miss home?
I won't lie, I really like living in Suzhou, but as you said Montreal is a great city so of course I miss it. There are many things I miss from home, but Suzhou is not a bad place to live. It's not far from Shanghai, so I go there regularly and Suzhou itself has a big expat community.
Where do other expats congregate in Suzhou?
There are a bunch of foreigner bars around Ligongdi and in old town Suzhou. Furthermore, there are always events going on, like last weekend I went to a foreigner bazaar. It wasn't really my thing, but it's still nice to have that option.
Any Suzhou websites?
Umm... I know there are some, but I don't really use them to tell you the truth. I usually go by word of mouth. I have a coworker who's pretty connected to the foreigner scene, so she lets me know what's up. I can find out some of those sites for you if you want.
Shanghai Expat is a popular one for nearby Shanghai.
How did you find your job there?
I found my job through teacherforasia. It's a recruitment company that one of my friends in Korea works for. I applied late (around May), but they did a great job. They helped me weigh my options and followed up to see how things were going.
How do you feel you're treated as a foreigner in China?
As a foreigner, It can be tough at first because depending on where you are there is very little English. I used to teach in Korea and it was much easier to get around without speaking the language. You also have to get used to the staring, but overall Chinese people are very friendly even if they do not speak any English.
Where did you teach in Korea?
I taught in Suji, Yongin. I think it's a satellite city of Seoul, only a half hour out from Gangnam by subway.
Do you prefer China or Korea? Why?
I definitely prefer China. When I went to Korea it was because I wanted something new, but to my dismay Korea was pretty westernized. The nightlife might be better, but I find the people more accepting here. And, I like my job a lot more here. The pay is less, but things are a lot cheaper here, so it evens out.
What kind of students do you teach?
Right now, I'm teaching grades 10-12, but in the past I have taught grades 4-8. My current students are Chinese high school students who hope to attend American, or in some cases Canadian, universities. Currently, I teach history and English, but last semester I was teaching academic writing and current events.
How large are your classes?
My classes right now are between 11 and 16 students, once a week I teach a class of forty. Overall it's great, with such small classes sizes I don't need a teaching assistant and you really have a chance to connect with your students. Furthermore, my school is pretty liberal with the curriculum, so I can be pretty creative with my lessons.
Do your students speak Chinese in class? Are they reluctant to speak English at all?
Some yes, some no. They aren't reluctant to speak to me, but to each other they rarely speak English. I have both high and low level speakers, so I guess the low levels are more willing to ask their friends in Chinese for help instead of asking me to re-explain in English.
Which grades do you prefer teaching?
In Canada, my favorite grades to teach were 7 and 8, but I have been having a great time with grade 10 at this new school. Grades 11 and 12 are alright, but they are very busy with TOEFL and SAT prep, so they miss a lot of class which can make it hard to plan out long term lessons.
Were you a teacher in Canada?
Not really. I graduated with a teaching degree in Canada, but I left the second I got my diploma.
Do you get along with your co-teachers?
I get along fine with my co-workers. I wouldn't say they are my best friends, but I have never had any problems with any 4 of the foreign teachers and we often bounce ideas off one another when making lessons. I would actually say I get along better with the Chinese staff though. I don't know why, but I just find them more fun to talk to in general.
How's your housing?
What do you like about living in China?
The best thing about living in China, I would have to say, is my job. As I said before, I really like my students which makes it a pleasure going to work. There are even days where I look forward to teaching certain classes or lessons. Besides that the food is great and the people are very friendly. Most Chinese people, from what I have experienced, love to teach you about China and they love to hear about my own experiences, whether they be in Canada or travelling abroad.
What's been challenging about living there?
I haven't really found much challenging about living here in China. There are a few minor annoyances, for example when my vpn is down or the lack of English at times, but if you did your research before coming here you get used to them and they phase you less and less. Overall, nothing has happened to me here that has made me regret my decision to move here in the past 8 months I've been here.
Do you have any that you would give to someone who was interested in teaching in China or elsewhere?
Do your research I guess. I always have and so it limits culture shock. But don't believe everything you read, because a lot of the time, especially in the case of China, you read things that are completely false. Also, have an open mind. I have seen some foreigners who almost look down upon the countries they are staying in and this just makes me sick. It makes me question why they are here in the first place.