Before You Sign a TEFL Contract

There are many factors to consider before signing a TEFL contract in Asia. To set yourself up with the best prospects and bargaining rights you should have the following:

1.     A Bachelor’s Degree (in any field)

2.     A TEFL Certification – this can be obtained from any online or school program,    there’s no need to shell out a ton of money, as TEFL is not regulated.

3.     A Native-English Speaking Passport

Note, if you do not have one of the above, many schools and tutoring centers will still hire you if you are already in the country. However, they will likely be forging paperwork to hire you on a contract. I do not recommend signing on with these businesses.

The Chinese government, in particular, has been cracking down hard on businesses doing this. I’ve heard several horror stories of teachers showing up to work just to find the place shutdown and others waiting on paychecks for months.

Now, if you have the above three, let’s talk details.

Location 101

Renown cities, like Shanghai, and businesses, like  EF, have a large base pay and are usually reliable. However, the workload is heavy, the teaching standardized, and the cost-of-living high.

Small towns will often also have high salaries with far more freedoms in the teaching arena, but they can be isolating. In Asia, it should be known that very few people speak English in the countryside. If you are hoping to pick up the native tongue though, this could be a great choice for you.

Universities and other public schools provide ideal social environments for teachers, but unfortunately are unable to compensate you at a competitive rate. My personal preference is small, yet established businesses in lesser known cities, like my alma matter, Xi’an.

Salary and Working Hours

When I left Xi’an, a competitive hourly wage was between 150 to 225 yuan per hour. Salaried teachers worked around 20 teaching hours a week and still made around the same amount per hour. This needs to be in your contract, along with when and how you will get paid.

Note, 20 teaching hours should be considered full-time. Do not sign a contract which will require you to work more than 25 teaching hours a week. I’ve heard first-hand of teaching centers telling foreigners they need to teach at a different school occasionally to build up enough hours to obtain a teaching certificate. It’s not necessary and you do not need to do this. Far from it, any hours outside of your contracted hours are over-time and should also be getting paid.

Teaching Options

The options are endless on who you teach and how many students you wish to have at a time. Virtually any tutoring center offers one-on-one classes, small classes and larger classes. Likewise, there will be toddlers, adults, and everything in between, eager to learn.

Be sure to ask who you will likely be teaching and state your preference. If this is your first time teaching and you have no idea, go with the flow, variety has always been my favorite. There are pros and cons to all. If you are set on a certain age group or classroom size, try to incorporate it in your contract.

If your first lead does not seem to fit your style, keep looking! There are an amplitude of English teaching positions, one is bound to be a good fit for you.

Negotiating Contract Bonuses

Most contracts do require you to purchase your one-way ticket there, but upon completion of your contract (usually one year) the company will give you a generous bonus to cover your return flight. I never encountered a job offer which did not include this. So be sure to ask for this if it is not offered.

A housing allowance or apartment should be provided and a good employer will absolutely provide you with health insurance and time-off. Try to haggle on this last one as you will want to travel often in Asia ;).

Utilize Social Media

Lastly, there are hundreds of expat groups filled with teachers on social media, be sure to ask around about a school or tutoring center before signing. WeChat is huge in Asia and I always saw job offers and feedback floating around in groups.

If you are unsure of how to find these groups ask your potential employer if they can put you in touch with another teacher, they will most likely know of a group or two and will be able to send you a link to join.

These teachers may be a great resource, but be cautious of what they say as you may be the one taking over their breached contract. There are occasionally penalties for breaking a contract, so you should definitely ask about this as well.

 

Please add any additional tips or questions in the comment box and I will look forward to reading them.

 

Safe travels and signing millennials!

Bali’s Hidden Gem: Ubud

Ah, the paradise of Bali where western hippies and vegans go to retire. This small in-land town has been rapidly developing into a complete foreigner zone, but the kind that suits my heart.
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Largely known for its spectacular Monkey Forest sanctuary (which I highly recommend), Ubud’s charm lies in the rice paddies surrounding the town. Despite the large influx of foreigners, the Balinese life seems to be going on as usual.

The hard-work of farmers is difficult to miss when cycling through the paddy fields and seeing the carefully designed waterworks along the leather-skinned man walking behind an ox in the swampy fields. The smiles are genuine, the food is fresh, and the religious beliefs wrap this beautiful town in a golden shimmer of warmth.

There is a stark difference between the foreigners in this town and the foreigners you would find in Kuta Beach. These travelers have reached their destination and don’t care for boom-box blasting, fire-throwing parties, but rather, have adapted their lifestyles to reflect their adoration of the Balinese. Many are deeply religious, most are free-spirited, plenty are total yoggies, but all are loving, accepting and inclusive to one another.

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows my very own hippie boyfriend that I was ecstatic to discover this town anew with him by my side. There wasn’t one portion I wouldn’t be willing to do for a third or hundredth time if the opportunity arose.

So, if you’re looking for a more relaxing, cultural experience here are some tips for making the most of this charming town:

1. The ultra-prepared should get an international driver’s license, because the best way to explore Ubud is via Scooter. It’s cheap, fast, and fun.

Failed step one? Get a scooter anyway. Stephen and I did encounter law enforcement officers who were on a raid of busting foreigners driving without a license in attempts of pulling out a hefty bribe. Don’t feed into the corruption, ask for a ticket and tell them you would like to go to the station and pay the fine.

Regardless of how much more the fine may seem versus the bribe, there’s a high chance they will back out and just let you go, as they did with Stephen and I. They tried to bluff it for a while, but eventually told us to “just go.”

Alternatively, prepare that license and avoid the hassle all together. Though they still may try to get you to pay fines for other traffic “violations,” in which case refer back to the original advice – demand a written ticket.

2. For the most delicious, affordably-priced meals and deserts, check out Dayu’s Warung (Jl. Sugriwa No. 28X, Padang Tegal Mekar Sari, Ubud).

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The staff was kind, the atmosphere chill and the food to die for. In fact, we liked it so much we went there several times. The smoothies, main courses, and deserts are
the perfect blend of home-cravings with local flares.

Things to avoid in the food department are the more foreigner-run food businesses which are popping up all along the busy streets. Though undoubtedly good, many struck us as being unreasonably over-priced, regardless of how “highly-recommended” they came. Just head into the more residential areas and you won’t struggle to find the more authentic gems.

3. Find a boutique hotel outside of town after your first pre-booked night.

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We simply stopped in a few different spots, compared prices and settled for a beautiful apartment-style room with a kitchen, whih overlooked the rice-paddies from two attached private balconies. Usually the place would go for double the price, but as it is was last-minute we were able to snag the place for less than $30 a night!

Ask the staff if they can set you up with a scooter and dodge the hassle of dealing with a business downtown (just know the cost ahead of time). If they don’t have any on-hand, chances are they know a friend who owns a scooter and wants to make a few bucks.

4. Beat the tourist tides at the Monkey Forest which flood in at noon by heading there early in the morning.

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Hop on your scooter and head on over, it’s ashort ride from anywhere in Ubud. Be sure to travel light though as the monkeys are highly intellectual and will gladly rob you of anything shiny, tasty or fun looking. They are not confined to the forest either so store everything away in the scooter seat.

5. Head to the market near the end of daylight for the best shopping prices.

The tourist crowds have for the most part retreated to their respective beach towns by this time and the store owners are wanting to make a few extra bucks before closing. So, know what you want ahead of time, know what you want to pay for it, offer the price and walk away. At this time of day the haggling process is short and sweet.

 

I hope these tips can help you navigate your own adventure, have a wonderful time and as always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me or comment below.

Safe travels millennials!

 

 

 

 

Pitstop in China

If you are an American on a budget or on a tight timeline, I would strongly advise against including China in your Asia travels. Visas are expensive  (ca. $200) and flights from China to Southeast Asian countries can take over 6 hours, taking up a large chunk of your travel time. That being said, there is a loophole!

Despite China being the size of America, with mountains, beaches, grasslands, and deserts, 72 hours can certainly give you a taste of China which will leave you wanting more.

China offers a 72-hour free-transit-visa, which requires no application and is issued upon arrival. As long as you enter and exit from the same airport and are coming in from one country and are departing to another you may spend up to 3 days in China (i.e. ✈️ Chicago-Beijing, Beijing-Bangkok). This could enable you to see the Great Wall of China on your way to say India, just expect lots of travel time.

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It should also be noted airport security will require you to show your exit ticket which should be within 72 hours of arrival. Larger airports like Beijing and Shanghai are more familiar with the transit visa so I suggest going to one of those. However, smaller airports, like Xi’an, will also issue them, just expect some more questions and time coming your way as they do not frequently encounter these requests.

I personally had no problem (other than extra questions) using the 72-hour transit visa to collect my belongings in Xi’an after my visa expired and I returned from traveling.

For any additional questions,  I suggest checking out the Chinese Embassy website .

Safe travels millennials!

Trumped Out? Xi Wants You.

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

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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.

Here’s what you should expect out of a contract.

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

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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
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. 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

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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 (IndeedChinaJob,  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!