I normally don’t publish guest posts but today I’ve made an exception. JY is a good friend of mine who recently completed TTC (Teach and Travel China) with i-to-i. I actually remember wanting to do this programme back in 2011, but couldn’t find a review of it anywhere! So, I’ve decided to publish this recap of his; hopefully it’ll be of some help to you budding ESL teachers out there.
I first heard about TTC (Teach and Travel China) after being recommended it by a friend. There are literally hundreds of sites offering the same thing, but i-to-i is one of the more reputable ones out there (note: The TTC program is offered by various other agencies too, such as IESGlobal and Bunac, among others).
The price I paid was a little cheaper than the listed $1,800 as I caught it on special (thinking it’d be totally worth it, since it included the $399 TEFL certificate course and a two week training course in Beijing). We were able to choose a start date in either February or August, and I decided to take the August semester.
i-to-i calls this program a “voluntary internship”. The pay is not great, around $400 a month, but accommodation is included as well as 3 meals a day, Monday to Friday.
The year I went (2012), there were 141 of us – 4 from NZ, about 8 from Aussie, 20ish from the US and 93 from the UK. We all met in Beijing, got split up into 5-6 groups and got put through the 2 week course. In reality, it was more like a two day course – 2 days on actual teaching methods and mock classes and the rest of the time doing things like tai chi, calligraphy and basic Mandarin classes.
Interestingly the process went like this – while we were in Beijing, the schools in the TTC program actually chose us. We didn’t really have a say on where we went. We got to put down 3 preferences, and I chose South as my first choice, then North, then Central. In the end I got placed in Chengdu which is Central. We also were randomly given pre-school, primary, intermediate or high school (luckily I got primary, which is what I had hoped for). As for the location, it seemed like the boobie area was Inner Mongolia. I still remember on our 3rd to last day in Beijing, everyone was running to the pin board as if they were getting their exam marks, but it was just the placements. As soon as one of the girls found out she got Inner Mongolia, she cried.
Then we were given the stats. Of the 141, 30-40% were expected to leave the internship. This was due to culture shock and homesickness, as well as many teachers getting poached by other agencies offering much higher salaries (up to $1,900 per month compared to the $400 paid by TTC).
For the duration of the internship you get assigned a person who speaks English from your school, so if you ever have any problems or questions you have someone to talk to. This is good and ensures that you’re well looked after during the entire 5 month internship. You can also request to be placed at the same school as your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife.
As for the actual teaching part, we were required to work a maximum of 16 hours a week. Usually that worked out to around four 40 minute classes per day, and sometimes it was as little as two. That might not sound like a lot of work, but honestly, it is! We also had to plan our own lessons, so there was a fair amount of prep time too.
There’s quite a few downsides to the TTC program. First, it’s expensive. Then there’s the uncertainty and mystery on where you’ll be placed and with which age group. Accommodation quality can be a problem too – I visited some of my friends’ apartments in Chengdu which were appalling.
Lastly, there’s the pay situation – it’s natural to wonder how much TTC is taking of your salary considering a normal English teacher’s salary is around $1,500 a month and you’re only receiving $400. This is probably why it’s so common for interns to get poached by other agencies and in some cases people just go looking for other work themselves. However for me, it was all for the experience and never about money. I made some really good friends, had an experience I’ll never regret and definitely reconnected with my inner roots.
In the end it was quite a costly way to experience China but luckily for me it all worked out -accommodation was awesome, school was awesome, students were awesome and teaching experience was totally awesome. Every man to his own opinion and experience. Even if I had been placed in Inner Mongolia or some place rugged, I wouldn’t have minded at all – would’ve just made the experience my own and appreciated everything.
For those thinking about teaching in China, here’s my recommendation – get TEFL qualified by doing the i-to-i TEFL course online (around $399, click here to check it out) and then find work through your own agent (the challenge is to find a reliable one and not get scammed – do your research!) Also, travelling in China can be a scary place if you don’t know the language, so make sure you have reliable sources and a backup plan if things don’t work out. As for me, I’m adding a little detour to my next trip to visit my old school in Chengdu. I miss my kids, definitely had an experience to remember and don’t regret it one bit.
Got questions? Taken a Teach and Travel China internship of your own? What’s your experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: This is a guest post by a friend of mine. If you have questions about the program, leave a comment below or send me an email and I’ll do my best to connect you.
- For affordable accommodation, I highly recommend using Airbnb. You can get $25 of Airbnb credit, absolutely free, using this link.
- For easy and affordable travel insurance, I always go with World Nomads.
- For more useful websites for cheap flights, accommodation and other travel needs, you can check out my Resources page.