In the first of this two-part series, I interview 39-year-old Texan, John Mandina, who is teaching English in China.
John currently lives in the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu province, eastern China.
Why did you decide to teach English in China?
I love history and I love traveling.
After teaching in Egypt and experiencing one of the oldest cultures and areas in the world, I decided to see the Far East and all the beauty that it has to offer as well.
For many Americans, China is an enigma. So much of what we read, and our media in the USA, paints a picture of China as a third world country.
Since being here, I have experienced many great aspects that China has to offer. The opinion that China is still a third world country, especially in the eastern side of the country, is a farce.
How does teaching in Egypt compare to teaching in China?
There are many differences between teaching in China and Egypt.
The culture and language are the obvious differences, but the curriculum and education models are vastly different as well.
When it comes to quality of life, I would say China fares much better. However, teacher salaries are higher in Egypt.
You initially chose to teach in the city of Yangzhou. Why is that?
I chose Yangzhou because of the school and location, which I had researched.
For an initial first run in China, I thought this would be the best place for me to grow as a teacher and develop a sound understanding of China from an educational standpoint.
And then you moved to Wuxi?
Wuxi is a growing city with lots of opportunity. It’s also close to Shanghai.
The people in Wuxi are really warm and friendly. There’s a large expat community too, so it feels like home.
John (pictured) has taught in both Yangzhou and Wuxi, China.
What have your schools been like?
Like any career field, there are good and bad places and jobs. I would suggest to any professional teacher: do your research before you commit.
How did you find each job? Can you explain the recruitment process?
I found my positions through several recruiters. I have been in this industry for some time now and have a database of recruiters that I use.
The recruiting process is fairly straightforward. Find a school that you will enjoy working for, and if you meet their requirements, they will send you an invitation letter.
Take the letter to the Chinese embassy in your home country, or the country you are in with a valid residency permit, and a few days later you’ll have your entry visa.
You need to have a passport with at least 18 months left on it.
What qualifications did you need to get each job?
Well, my qualifications may be more than the average person needs to be an ESL teacher in China.
If you want to work at the international-level schools like me, you will need to be licensed (in your own country) and many schools want you to have a master’s degree.
Currently, I have two master’s degrees and am working on my doctorate. I also hold TESOL, TOFEL, IELTS, and TOEIC certifications.
Can you tell us more about these certifications?
I completed them at Midwest Education Group (MEG) in Chicago.
The programs are lengthy and require you to stay focused as there are many modules that require hours of study and preparation. However, they are outstanding courses and an asset to anyone in the international teaching field.
The great aspect about the course work is you can do it at your own pace and schedule (though there is a certain timeframe to complete the course).
How did you get involved with MEG?
I first spoke to Dr Chau at MEG when I was teaching in Egypt. She was gracious and really wanted to help.
At the time, my mother was Dean of Education at a major university in America. I figured she would know if the program was truly top notch, so I had my mother contact Dr Chau too.
Dr Chau and I have stayed in contact over the years. She often asks if I am in need of anything, or just emails me to say hello.
The MEG certification has been a huge asset to my career. I’ve actually recommended it to teachers in many countries, so I know it’s benefitting others too.
What advice would you give to someone considering a teaching course?
Take the course! If teaching is a career path you want to take, then do not hesitate.
What's your experience been like teaching in China? Please comment below.