Below is a collection of information, answers to common questions, important links, and more for our current AYCers to refer back to as they prepare for their stay in China. This post was originally published by Leslie Cardone in 2015, but has been updated by Jilli Leonard.
The tentative arrival date for ALL participants attending the Shanghai orientation is late August into Shanghai Pudong International Airport. AYC will arrange airport pickup between 10AM and 9PM (CST – China Standard Time) – we’ll be the ones holding the “AYC – Ameson Year in China” signs.
From Pudong International Airport, you’ll be transported to the Orientation site, where for the following week, you will complete in-person TEFL training, network and get to know your fellow AYC Ambassadors.
Getting from Orientation to your Host School
AYCers will purchase train tickets and be reimbursed by their schools upon arrival. During orientation, AYC staff will help all participants who will be travelling by train to purchase tickets. Just remember to keep your ticket, as you will need it for the reimbursement process! If you'd like to have an idea of how much your ticket will probably cost, this website is a good reference.
Many schools send a representative to orientation, who will travel with you to your host school. If they are not able to, you can travel with another EA who will teach in a school nearby, to be picked up at the local train station by a school representative.
Depending on your school's distance from Shanghai, your school coordinators may opt for you to travel to your school by air. If this is the case, your school coordinator will probably have already mentioned this and will work out the details with you. Please feel free to ask any other questions you might have about arrival or the program in general. We try to answer all questions with 24 hours of their posting.
Since VPNs exist in a grey area here in China, AYC cannot provide program participants with this service. That said, we would be more than happy to recommend VPN services that we have found reliable and easy to use.
VPNs fall into three general categories: paid, institutional, and free.
- Paid: If you plan on continuing to use Google, Gmail, Facebook, or frequently access websites based outside of China while here, we strongly recommend that you purchase a VPN service package through a provider such as Astrill. Here's a list of great VPNs and more information about VPNs.
- Institutional: Many research universities offer institutional VPNs to students and staff; it would be worth checking to see if you are eligible to use this service while in China.
- Free: Free VPNs, the most famous are in the form of smartphone apps, are a good option if you plan on immersing yourself in China while being able to check in occasionally if necessary. That said, free VPNs allow you to crawl over the firewall, not fly over, so it's not a viable option for heavy use.
If you plan on using a VPN please get it before you arrive in China. Once you arrive in-country, the task of getting a VPN becomes difficult to impossible.
Teacher resources! Hurray! It seems like many of you really want to get a head start before coming to Shanghai. There's a My Life in China YouTube series that will give you a personal look into previous EAs' experiences, both in and outside the classroom.
Once you arrive at orientation, you will gain access to the AYC Google Drive. This private resource is stocked with ppts, videos, lesson guides, and printable materials from current and past EAs. It is updated throughout the year by YOU, the Educational Ambassador, and a free resource to those who teach in China through AYC. The link will be emailed to you at orientation.
Those who are accepted into the program will also receive links to a 6-part Webinar Series before orientation, which includes ppts, news articles, personal narratives and other resources. The topics include: Education System in China, Cross-Cultural Adjustment, Learning Chinese, and more.
Different teachers have different styles, personalities, and techniques when it comes to teaching their classes. As you get to know your students and feel more confident in the classroom you'll start to get a feel for your own teaching style and voice.
And last but not least, 2014-2015 AYC alum, Jack Carlson wrote an awesome <blog post> titled "Advice from an ESL Teacher Who Didn't Have a Clue What He Was Doing the First Day of Class" that we think is worth checking out.
We think the most important thing to take away from Jack’s post is:
“These kids are at school from 7am-6pm everyday and their study habits are ludicrous. They have no time for creativity or leisure. You’re the class that allows them to participate; they don’t want to passively listen to you. I’ve had success with games that require conversation between classmates, talking about themselves and their interests, or activities that are competitive (e.g. Team hangman, 20 questions, tongue twisters). Arts and crafts days (use sparingly) allow the students to decompress after a rough midterm week. Monthly show and tells are my bread and butter. Make your students be creative, imaginative, and original.”
— Jack Carlson (2014-2015 AYC Alum)
You can take your teaching job seriously, and still have fun! You are in fact encouraged to learn as you go. We don't expect AYCers to be perfect right out of the gate.
Stipend, Banking & Living Expenses
Your school will help you set up a local bank account when you arrive. It's not possible to do this from abroad and your school will likely want you to use the same bank as their administrative division to facilitate direct deposit of your stipend.
For your stipend, you will receive 5,000 CNY and currently that equals about 750 USD. Of course, that number may go up or down slightly depending on the currency policy of the US and China.
It is not necessary to be concerned about the variations in the exchange rate, as this will not in any way affect your purchasing power here in China.
Since your school takes care of rent, utilities, and insurance; the 5,000 RMB is not taxed since it is a stipend, pretty much all of that money will be left for enjoying yourself and exploring the city. Metro fare is usually 2-4 RMB ($0.30-0.60), a bowl of delicious noodle will run you around 15 RMB ($2.50), and taxi fare starts at around $1.50 USD (the prices are specific to Guangzhou; most AYC cities will be slightly cheaper). You could eat out for every meal and enjoy a bit of travel on the weekends without too much trouble. As a plus, many schools allow AYCers to eat a meal each day in the cafeteria for free or at a discounted price!
Partying and consumption of foreign food products are the main issues that you are likely to face when it comes to a budget. Of course, these things don't have to be expensive. Harbin beer costs 5 CNY ($0.80) a bottle at the convenience store and if you prepare your comfort foods at home instead of out, they won't put much of a dent in your budget. That said, burgers and cocktails at a chic foreign style restaurant or bar could cost you about 200 CNY, the equivalent of 13 bowls of delicious noodles or public transportation for a month. The more you engage the community around you, the less you will probably spend. Your stipend is higher than the salaries of many of the teachers you will teach with, and they have to use that to raise a family and pay rent!
If you want more information about the specifics of your accommodations, we suggest that you contact your school, as they will have the most detailed information available. Though we can tell you your apartment will more than likely already come with basic furniture and appliances such as a TV, refrigerator, microwave, washing machine, couch, bed, etc. Aside from foreign luxury items, pretty much anything you'd want to buy for your house is available here in China for cheaper. You can buy anything from bed sheets, decorations, multiple outlet strips, etc. once you arrive.