What It’s Like Teaching for EF in Wuhan, China
Quincy: Greetings. This is an interview with my friend Anthony from “Breaking la Barrier“. Anthony is a former EF teacher who spent a year teaching in Wuhan. We get into why he chose Wuhan, what it was like arriving in China, what he remembers kind of like his first day, his first class being like, and then we talk a little bit about how EF kind of treats our teachers. What that combination’s like, and the support and stuff like that.
So this is a great little piece for anyone considering not working in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, or anyone considering teaching at EF, because Anthony’s got some really good first-hand insights and I found this super valuable. Hopefully, you do too.
Thanks for joining us. Thanks for coming on. We did a brief interview that I’ll link to about your time at EF and the little interview tip, and for those of you that don’t know Anthony taught at EF in a city called Wuhan, but before we get into that, I want to know being from Texas all the way to China, do you remember arriving in China and what it was like?
Anthony: First, it was almost midnight there.
Quincy: Where did you? Tell me about the trip from Texas to Wuhan or to wherever?
Anthony: Okay, well, I actually flew out of Kentucky, because I’m originally from Kentucky, and so, I start off in Cincinnati, Ohio. I drove up there and then they take me to Toronto.
Anthony: In Toronto, I’m like, “This is not going to be that bad, but just in case, I’m going to get a burger at the airport.”
Anthony: It’s the last time I’m going to get burger.
Quincy: Fair enough.
Anthony: And then, the big difference is when I arrived in Beijing 14 hours later, and just everything you can see immediately, it was totally different. The sun, totally different color, because Beijing, quite polluted.
Quincy: Yeah, the air.
Anthony: And Wuhan my first impression I guess everything in China just big.
Anthony: These huge buildings everywhere. It’s not like, oh here’s downtown, and then everywhere else is normal size buildings. It’s like, the whole …
Quincy: Yeah, everywhere.
Anthony: Everywhere it’s what I found, so and there’s just so much going on. That was the first thing I noticed. I obviously notice how crowded it was, and then the driving which I have been warned already how it was going to be. Just the taxi driver, flying through everywhere. I was like, wooh. Not expecting it.
Quincy: That’s funny. When I came to China, and I flew through, and I was going to go Hangzhou but I connected in Beijing, and I had a lay over there. I’m trying to make that connection, which is crazy, that airport was just I don’t know. Yeah, the air, the people, it was just … It was overwhelming. I remember that.
Anthony: Oh yeah, that’s basically the perfect for it, overwhelming.
Quincy: Yeah, nice.
Quincy: Now, so anyway, you’ve obviously made it and you got several day in Wuhan, and I assume get your training which EF does. What was your first real … What was your real class like? The first day you were there, you’re in front of everybody.
Anthony: Okay. One thing I didn’t expect is part of the training, EF, they do a lot of side activities. You’ll have your normal classes, and then, you’ll have classes where you cook in the kitchen with them.
Quincy: Oh, that’s cool.
Anthony: If it’s a holid- If they have, say if it’s Christmas, then they have special activities where you do Christmas stuff and learn Christmas songs.
Anthony: So because they have these every week, and there’s a different theme every week, during the training process, after day four they have you do one of those. I did some training, and then basically since I got there, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, four day, you’re going to do this activity.” It’s only 30 minutes.
Anthony: I was even though I knew these was going to be three-, four-year-olds, I was … It was very nervous, and they give me an assistant. I constantly felt like she was just judging me. Because it’s my first time teaching and I was like, she’s looking so down on me. I was like, oh she said, she thinks I suck. In the end, it was okay. She’s like, no it was fine.
Anthony: I’ve seen worst on the first days. She gave you advice, and then you learn pretty quickly that it’s pretty easy to entertain kids. They don’t really know what’s going on, so you just make weird noises and stuff, and they’ll just laugh.
Quincy: I remember showing up to my first school and I was under the impression I was just going to get settled in, and I get there. They throw me in the classroom. They’re like, “Okay, we got 30 minutes left. We got 30 minutes left for lunch. Get in there.”
Quincy: Yeah, and I was there from … I had my bags from the airport. I haven’t even been to my apartment yet, and they just threw me in there. I was like, “What?” I was a bit put off by it. This is not working out. I was nervous as hell, but it worked out. I think that … I think a lot of people get through something similar just because any … Anything that happens there is going to be just different.
Anthony: Oh, yeah. From my coworkers, I got lucky the time I came in.
Anthony: Some of my coworkers since they arrived, the next day they’re like, “Okay, you’re going to teach this class.” They were just thrown into … They were like, “Wait a minute, what?”
Quincy: Yeah. Did you … Before you’re training with EF, did you do any training previous to going to China.
Anthony: I did just an online certificate.
Anthony: You probably heard of bridge.
Quincy: Yeah, of course.
Anthony: Bridge? Yeah, so I did. It was …
Quincy: Nice. All right, well then so we covered yeah, the first day and kind of how all that entails and how overwhelming it was. Tell me about Wuhan. Why Wuhan?
Anthony: I didn’t even know Wuhan exist.
Anthony: And it’s so funny that even the local teachers, the Chinese teachers there know that no one knows about Wuhan. They also ask you, “Why did you choose our city?” I guess one of the reason is that was my first offer like that, and it just happened to be from Wuhan.
Anthony: One thing I liked about it, I’m really big into culture and getting away from … Basically getting off the beaten path.
Anthony: I think that’s where you can really get into … Really get through experiences, culture experiences.
Quincy: Okay, perfect, yeah.
Anthony: Because Wuhan is … In Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, all the major top tier cities, they’re quite modern. You’re going to get a lot of English speakers.
Anthony: It could be easy, especially at Shanghai to somewhat feel like home.
Anthony: Probably different still, but I have a little similarity where in Wuhan everything looks how do you say this? Everything looks very Chinese. Nobody … Huh?
Quincy: It’s challenging every day, right? It’s about that. Yeah.
Anthony: Oh, yeah. No one speaks English. Very rare, and I would go a week without seeing another foreigner.
Quincy: Yeah, man, I get thanks for that. I’ve done the big cities, thanks. It’s easy to get comfortable and be like, the places you get Western food or you don’t have to speak Chinese, but to have you travel a bit through China, it really is those smaller … I don’t know, less populated, less … I don’t know. I don’t know how to describe it. Less popular places that give you that real cultural immersion.
Anthony: Yeah. It’s more traditional.
Anthony: That’s what I saw. I was like, Wuhan is so traditional.
Quincy: It’s also huge, right? It’s not like some … Yeah, it’s not a town. It’s a proper city.
Anthony: Oh, yeah, it’s I think 12 million people. It used to be three cities, and then they just combine.
Quincy: Yeah, what classifies as tier two, right?
Anthony: Yeah. I’m like, what? That’s bigger than New York.
Quincy: Yeah. Nice. How long did you stay?
Anthony: I was there for barely over a year.
Anthony: But then yeah, I traveled a little bit after that.
Anthony: But taught a year.
Quincy: Nice. What would you say to people that were considering cities like Wuhan or the non-Beijing, non-Shanghai, would you recommend it?
Anthony: Oh, yeah, definitely. Like I said, it’s you truly experience Chinese culture. Of course, in these other bigger cities you can, it’s just that when you go somewhere like Wuhan, it’s just going to be …
Quincy: Times 10.
Anthony: You’re going to find very few similarities. Yeah, basically times 10. I think you need to be, definitely understand that, and just to be prepared to just always be lost in communication.
Anthony: Because nobody speaks English.
Quincy: Did you study Chinese?
Anthony: I tried. I did a little bit and the bad thing is I really start toward the end, and I was like, why can’t I have done this in the beginning?
Anthony: Where it became a joke between so me and Chinese coworkers, where they would teach me a phrase or a song, and the I would go impress someone like, “Yeah, I’m fluent.”
Quincy: Yeah. Oh, man, I know exactly. You say one thing and everyone’s, “Wow.” Their minds explode and then they just … Then they try to have a fluent conversation. That was the same thing when I was learning it. I kind of … It’s hard. I kind of gave up, but yeah, I remember drop … I remember going to the grocery store and asking for grapes. They’re like, “Wow, grapes.”
Anthony: Yeah, I see. I don’t want I think, even I’m not learning a whole lot. I don’t want to forget what I have learned, and so I still talked to a lot of people on WeChat.
Quincy: Oh, perfect.
Anthony: I’ll do the audio out of nowhere. I’ll just be like, say something random. Just so that I’m continuing using it.
Quincy: Yeah. That’s great. WeChat is so … It’s so clutch, I love it.
Anthony: I wish we … I miss WeChat.
Quincy: Is it? It’s like the perfect app. It’s way better than what are used at the States. Oh, man. That’s a conversation for a different time. Let’s get into one more thing here. We talked about Wuhan, and talked about EF a bit. A lot of the times people ask what are the living situations going to be like? Every apartment’s different, but I want to hear about your apartments in Wuhan. Was it yours? Was it shared? Was it nice? Was it good, bad? Tell me.
Anthony: Okay. I have an interesting apartment situation. I come from two apartments. The good thing about EF being very big and established, is that they have a lot of money, so they throw some money into the apartment.
Anthony: They’re going to get you a nice apartment. If all me and all the other teachers, they put you with one roommate who worked at the same school, or they put alone with an extra room until a new teacher comes in. They are required to have you so many kilometers from a police station, and it has to be so many kilometers away from the school. That way if you need a walk, you can walk real quickly.
Quincy: Yeah, is the roommates always foreign? Or is it your Chinese co-teachers also?
Anthony: Oh, it’s just … It’s foreign. Mine was from Florida.
Quincy: Okay, cool.
Anthony: Then I tried to have my own apartment, so they …
Quincy: Me, too.
Anthony: What you can do is they will give you money instead, and the only thing I didn’t like about EF is that it didn’t kind of equal what they were already giving me.
Anthony: I was like, oh give me how much this room is so I can get a nicer apartment. I do think I had to downgrade to the one bedroom apartment. But either way it was still nice, they help you a lot if you want your own apartment. Because they have the connections with a bunch of landlords, because …
Quincy: It’s consistent business, yeah.
Anthony: You can’t- Yeah, at least every year, someone else had resigned. When I want one, she’s like, okay, let me call my people. She’s like, we’ll find you something. At least they help you, but I mean they’re actually very nice apartments, quite big, furnished.
Quincy: Yeah, so a proper kitchen and bathroom and stuff like that?
Anthony: Yeah, TV, pretty much everything. Bills will be paid for.
Quincy: Oh, nice. Did they … Deducted that from your salary, is that right?
Anthony: Yeah, except electric. You’ve got to pay electric.
Quincy: Yeah. No real complaints about EF then?
Quincy: Yeah. I’ve heard …
Anthony: No. No, wait, I mean …
Quincy: Yeah, I was going to say I’ve heard a lot of favorable things. They sound like they really kind of stand up company to work for. Obviously every location is different, but on the whole, it’s then pretty positive feedback.
Anthony: Oh, yeah, definitely. Of course, what I found every school in China, especially whenever it’s for profit, I think it’s people understand. They are going to run through some problems they may not like, because at the end of the day, some of these people are trying to make money.
Anthony: But for as introduction to China, I would always recommend EF or another training school to get your foot on the door, and then if you decide you want non-profit education, EF or another training school helps you get there, then you can go off. Something like that.
Quincy: Yeah, it’s easy to switch after the contract.
Quincy: Well, Anthony, thanks so much for the insights. Yeah, all good stuff. Tell us what you’re up to now real fast. You’re obviously … I think you’re not in China anymore, right?
Anthony: Yeah. In Houston right now. After I left China I traveled to Southeast Asia with a drone. I do a travel photography, writing and videos. What I’m going to try to now that I’m back in Houston, in America, starting my own business where I’m doing drone videos, pictures, for real estate and I guess if it works, then that’s what I’ll do. If not, I’ll-
Quincy: Yeah, we’re going to … I’m going to link to your sites, some of your footage. That stuff you did in Vietnam was crazy. It was really good.
Anthony: Oh, yeah. Unfortunately though when I was in Thailand I crashed it.
Quincy: Oh, man, what happened?
Anthony: You know Pipi Island?
Anthony: I was there. I guess either the wind’s got it caught up. It wasn’t that windy, but maybe it was higher up, and just took it into a tree. I watch it as it crash down.
Quincy: Yeah, did it ruin it?
Anthony: Yeah. I have it back now, but I had to send it off, so it’s been gone this whole time. I just got it back a few days ago.
Quincy: Oh, bummer. Ah, man. Well, thanks so much. Anything else? Any parting words? Any words of wisdom for those looking to go to China? Just do it.
Anthony: Yeah, just do it. Don’t be afraid. You’re still going to be afraid, but it’ll be worth it, trust me.
More posts about teaching in China:
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Great interview with Kristine, a primary school teacher in China – see how she got started and why she loves it!
Thinking about quitting your teaching job in China? Here’s how it should go down.