Looking for a change; wish to experience living abroad without breaking your bank; or simply aspire to see the world? China is a great start.
After almost two years in China, I continued to be amazed at the diversity of a country and people perceived as so uniform. I never intended to make the move, nor did I plan to stay as long as I did, but there’s something about China. Opportunities are rich for westerners and the land is vast and waiting to be explored.
This post will focus on the possibilities foreigners can take advantage of when considering longer term options in China that don’t require a trust fund.
1. Teach English as a Second Language
This is without a doubt the most popular method to end up in China with. Whenever you go out to the clubs (yes, China has clubs) and find yourself among fellow foreigners the chance of them being teachers is very high. It is a fairly easy job, which pays incredibly well.
You are not required to have a teaching degree, though in recent years restrictions have been set in place. To end up with a legitimate company you must have a bachelors degree in any subject (several would offer you a visa regardless, be wary of these as they will produce a fake diploma for you) and a TEFL certification (teaching English as a Foreign Language). Do not be put off by this requirement, it is easily obtained as it, unfortunately, is a non-regulated certificate offered through several online programs. Meaning you can pump out a certification in as little as 2 weeks at a low cost (talk to schools, some may even be happy to reimburse you).
Classes range from 4 year old pre-schoolers all the way to adult business English learners. Most hires occur with private tutoring companies, which either offer one-on-one classes or a full classroom. Jobs will also be available at schools, however, private companies will be able to offer you more money. Your best bet at finding a good job is signing up for a wechat account and searching for a foreigner group in the city you like and bluntly ask. Somebody always has connections to openings.
Lastly, location is everything. Figure out what you want out of this experience. Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai may be obvious choices and though salaries may appear higher, in actuality they are not. The cost of living far exceeds the increased salary, however, it is still plenty of money to live off of and have leftovers to store away. My personal bias leads me to recommend Xi’an, a combination of the old with the new, expect to learn some Chinese with this selection. (Follow the link for more info about my ‘hometown’ in China.)
2. Consider Going Back to School
Several top Universities in China offer full-ride, stipend programs to Europeans and especially Americans. This is how I extended my time in China after the completion of an internship at an American Exchange Center. Consider finding the nearest Confucius Institute and check out this list for Universities which accept Confucius scholarship recipients.
If you have no Chinese language background, consider contacting Universities of your interest on that list and ask them if they offer scholarships for language semesters or other programs (the chances are high, as they often desire a high international student body ratio). My program was a Masters in Chinese Cultural Studies all expenses paid, plus living and housing stipend at Xi’an Jiaotong U
niversity. Expect last minute decisions and questionable organization at some institutions.
Be aware this method is not a money-maker, but you will have plenty to cover your living expenses. Additionally, you will be able to return home with a further education and are in an environment in which you can make several Chinese friends who can help you experience the real China.
3. Big Boy/Girl Jobs
These are harder to come by, but are certainly attainable. If you are interested in a large company consider scoping out their international jobs. Alternatively, consider checking out some of these job browsers or search for some on your own (Indeed, ChinaJob, or Echinacities). Most browsers will have an abundance of teaching jobs, but if used the right way, you can also find great non-teaching jobs. Just know that whichever field you would like to work for, there is probably a position for you in China if you are a native English speaker.
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me or comment below.
Safe travels millennials!