First Impression: Shanghai
As some of you might know I have accepted a job offer in Shanghai, China to teach English for a year (10 months to be exact). So now I am sitting in a hotel room in Shanghai writing about my first thoughts of the city and what not. But before that I should explain the process in case any of you are ever interested in doing something like this (which if you are in your 20s why not?).
So let’s start with finding the job. I worked with a company called IES Abroad and I have used their services before when I went to Berlin, Germany as an undergrad. They are absolutely amazing and have their head in the game. Although this is their first time sending people to China for this sort of thing, the people working there are extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I had an interview process with them, and once I was cleared through them, I had an additional interview with the school. At first I had a school further south in the Guangzhou region, however, the paperwork required by each region varies and this specific region had one of the most thorough paperwork requirements in China. Thus, I was assigned a school here in Shanghai and had to go through the interview process again. Once the job was offered, I had to review the contract and make sure I agreed with everything stated. The contract goes over details such as reimbursement for flights, payment, accommodations, work hours, relationship with the institution, holidays, etc. Now once the contract is signed the school has to apply on your behalf for a work permit that then is sent to you and must be brought to the embassy/consulate to apply for your visa. The process for applying for the permit has a usual turn around of 8 weeks. In my case, because of the change in school my process started a lot later and thus I arrived late to China. Most of the other teachers had a 2-week training period in Beijing provided by the government. At the present time there are 2 other teachers that arrived the same day I did and thus we are doing training together here in Shanghai.
Now that I have told you about the process, I guess I could talk about the flight and some other impressions and recommendations I have. For the flight over I took United Airlines and honestly it was okay. It flew direct from Newark, NJ and had relatively comfortable seating. My only complaint would be the food was questionable, not that airplane food is good to begin with, but this one just really took the crown for worst I have ever had. The entertainment available was decent, good movies and TV shows available. I slept at the beginning of the flight then woke up for food and took small naps here and there which allowed me to get to the airport and be tired from the flight but with no real jet lag. The amount of people flying into Shanghai was a little insane, and I was shocked to get out of customs to see a swarm of people with signs looking for arriving passengers. It was quite overwhelming but I was able to quickly find a good spot to wait for a representative from the school to find me. In addition, while waiting at the airport, I purchased a China Unicom SIM card right away in order to have some cell phone access. I decided to stick with them because I get a lot of data from them and it didn’t seem that expensive about 96 yuan which translates to roughly 15 USD.
After being picked up, we headed straight to the hotel and I got some first sights of the city. There are a lot of apartment buildings from what I can see, and definitely a lot of people. While traveling to the hotel I was given my metro pass, a bottle of water, and a map of the city (which I have yet to open). I settled in my room and met some other teachers that had also arrived on the later side. We decided to go meet a group of teachers that had already been living in Shanghai for about two weeks and had come to China using the British Council program (thus they all know each other). We were able to quickly figure out the Metro: we headed in the direction of the meeting place but, we didn’t realize how far it would be! Just like any big city Shanghai is broken up into districts as seen below. We are currently staying in the city center which is highlighted in red, while the people we were meeting where in the Jiading area in grey.
By traveling to Jiading we were able to use the metro and feel comfortable getting in and out of the station. One thing to note that I found interesting is that they put everyones bag through security before you enter the subway, and while that might seem time consuming, everyone here is so used to it that it proceeds smoothly and without hiccups. It is also important to note that the metro stops working at 10:30/11pm which for a city really sucks. Nevertheless, taxis are always available and incredibly cheap (about 2 USD starting rate).
We were able to meet with the rest of the teachers at a lounge that seemed to be more westernized in terms of music and drinks despite its very oriental decor. Nevertheless, it was a great time to unwind and meet some of the other teachers.
Yesterday, I started my training and learned mostly about class management and the program that we will be teaching at the schools. I also opened a bank account, the other teachers got SIM cards (which I already had), and got my class schedules. Although I will be teaching at 3 different schools grades 1-5, I will also have off on Mondays. There are also opportunities for me to do a tutoring class on Saturdays and volunteer at local organizations. Overall, it was an extremely productive and tiring day.
Today another teacher and myself observed a class in the morning and were able to see a Chinese classroom in action. The kids are very animated and ready to answer questions. Some behave really well, while other often cause disruptions. After observing the teacher we were able to go apartment hunting for both the other teacher and myself. By the time we actually got to see my apartment I was so tired all I wanted to do was take a break from being awake. Nonetheless, I had to do this whole adulating thing and find a suitable living situation, which from what I was being told I didn’t have much of an option. Due to my jobs location my apartment needed to be more central. I am only a block and a half from the metro stop, half an hour walk from the Bund (very touristy area) and a block away from Shanghai Joy City which is apparently a nice shopping center filled with amazing restaurants and a ferris wheel on the top floor. Because of my central location, my apartment cost a bit more than what other people are paying but I don’t mind for the location.
Tomorrow, I will have a medical exam in the morning and I will have my afternoon free, which means I will be moving into my apartment. I will post a blurb about my apartment later (with some pictures). The good thing is that this week is short! We have the Mid-Autumn festival or Moon cake festival. So we will be off on Thursday and Friday. But because this is China, we make up the time by going into work Sunday with a Friday schedule (which is shorter than the rest of the days).
Overall, I am still in the very excited about everything phase but also nervous about teaching phase. Once I get settled in I will have loads more to tell you about!