I completed the AYC program last year, in June 2016; it was a really rewarding experience for me.
In my experience, your time as an English teacher in China is largely dependent on two things: your school placement and your attitude. I was at a really large high school that had a lot going on, and while at first I was sort of left to my own devices, I decided to really actively invest in the community there and pursue relationships with other staff and students: it was an incredibly rewarding experience. I've gone to several Chinese weddings this fall, and find myself returning to Changzhou pretty often this year; it's like my Chinese hometown, and there's a really sweet feeling of homecoming each time I go back.
As for the attitude, China is about as different from America as you can get. Cultural differences challenged some beliefs I held about myself, and it was a transformative year of self-examination and learning to be more open-minded and appreciative of others' beliefs and customs. Living abroad can be really challenging, but it for me was abundantly more rewarding; I'm still in China, and will probably be here for a while!
I think another reason it was such a positive experience for me was the community of other EAs (Educational Ambassadors) I had around me; we were a great resource for each other, whether it came to exploring the city or talking through homesickness. A big part of my job now is helping foster this sense of network and support across the AYC program; I also help prepare EAs practically for 10 months of teaching abroad, and help them along the cultural adjustment process with living abroad for 10 months. Your RPL, myself, and the community of EAs are a great resource during this time.
Living abroad makes you tougher and softer at the same time. It's really magical. Kindness doesn't have a language barrier, and sometimes the generosity I've been shown in China has moved me to tears. Sometimes parts of China are disturbing, challenging, or chaotic. But they teach you what you care about and who you are at your core, and letting those situations sculpt you, and show yourself how brave you are, is kind of magnificent.
Jilli graduated from Berry College in 2015 with degrees in International Studies and Public Relations. She spent the next ten months working as an Educational Ambassador for AYC in Changzhou. Afterwards she transitioned to a Cultural Liaison, who represents the Shanghai office, educational ambassadors, and their school placement.