After deciding to move to China rather spontaneously, I have finally made the move to China. I had been working at the Hedge Fund in London until March 2017. At that point, I was planning on completing my Advanced Diploma in Special Event Planning & Design then starting my own business.
As a way of keeping myself busy, I was working in a few local shops near my home in Kent. (And when I say near, I really mean near. As in a 2 minute walk from my house). I really enjoyed it, as it was quite a relaxed lifestyle, with no pressures (very very different to the environment I had been in before). I soon realised, however, that I was just not ready to stay put in England. I needed to get back to travelling. I had just been to India a few months earlier, and here I was already getting itchy feet.
With not much of a travel fund to just backpack for a few months, I realised the best way forward for me was to finish my TEFL qualification and see where that would take me. Maybe I would get a job, maybe I wouldn’t. In my mind, I had decided I wanted to move to Indonesia or Thailand to continue my chilled lifestyle, but with earning more money. In the end, I have ended up in China – somewhere I had never ever considered in the past, and actually I would wonder what drew people to China!
So there I was, sat in a quiet home decor shop, completing my TEFL qualification and applying for jobs as I waited for customers to come in. In the end it took me about 4-5 weeks to do the qualification. On week 4, I started applying for jobs. I initially found some of those TEFL internships, where you have to pay to teach. I was desperate to do it – Thailand! The dream!! But, my dad logically reasoned that it was silly that you should have to pay to teach. I didn’t apply for it. And instead carried on my search on some TEFL job boards. There are so many jobs out there, it’s incredible. I applied to a number in Spain, Thailand, Indonesia, Costa Rica, and China. I got interviews for Spain, Thailand, China and Indonesia.
So, I applied for jobs on the Friday, I had already interviewed with 3-4 schools on the Wednesday, and was offered jobs on the Friday. I had about 10 job offers. This had never ever ever ever ever happened to me! I had to choose and reject jobs! WHAT?!
After considering my options for a few days, I decided to go with the language school in China – York English. A language school based in Fuzhou. They offered some great benefits, such as a free apartment (or a housing allowance if you wanted to find your own place), a travel allowance (to repay the flights) and visa cost reimbursements! Aside from the great benefits, I chose York English because of the great training opportunities and the support they provide. As someone who had never taught before, my interviewer reassured me of the support I would receive during my induction, and I had already felt this support just from the initial conversations with the school. Having worked at a Hedge Fund before, I wanted the personal approach from my new workplace, and York truly felt like the right place for this!
The Visa Process For China
The visa process was definitely something I was dreading. What if I got it all wrong?! What if I had some sort of criminal record that I didn’t even know about?! All these irrational thoughts and worries were coming out, but fortunately the school were so helpful with the process. This was one reason why I chose the school. They provided assistance and were there to answer any questions I had, which was a huge relief. I was given a timeline for getting my visa, deadlines for each step. Breaking it down made everything seem so manageable. Moving to a new country? Easy peasy.
To get my Z visa (work visa), the process was to:
1. Make sure I had enough pages and time left on my passport (Easy)
2. Get an ACRO Police Check (to make sure I don’t have a criminal background)
3. Have my university degree and police check notarised and legalised (this had to be legalised and notarised by both the FCO and the Chinese Embassy). I used an agency for this, as it had been recommended to me. Definitely made everything so simple. I didn’t have to do anything, other than send a form to the university allowing the agency to request details on my behalf.
4. Send digital copies of: my TEFL Certificate, Degree, Visa Photos, Passport, and Medical Forms
5. The school then requested letters from the Local Authority in Fuzhou, and sent them back to me. (I basically just sat around and waited for this one – it takes about 15 work days to complete).
6. Apply for the Work Visa (once I received the letters from the authority confirming that I had a job offer, I was able to apply for the visa. Again, I was told to use an agency). Annoyingly, I did have to go into the Chinese Consulate at 9am one weekday morning for an appointment which lasted roughly 3 minutes. I had to have my fingerprints taken.
7. Wait for the visa and celebrate once it arrives!! I received my visa and passport about a week before I flew out. I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to get it in time, but thankfully everything went smoothly! Reality that I was moving abroad was starting to hit….
The Big Day
On the day itself, I had a lovely brunch with my Mum, Dad and sister. I dropped my sister off at the station, and had a teary goodbye. We never ever cry, so this was super strange. Was this actually happening?! Was I really not going to be there when she got back from work?! A few hours later, I left for the London Heathrow airport, with my mum and dad. I flew with British Airways to Hong Kong, where I had a 4 hour lay-over before catching my Cathay Dragon flight to Fuzhou. When I saw that I was the only foreigner on the flight, I realised that this was it. This was me starting my new chapter. This was the start of a new year of being stared at (the only times I really get stared at though are whilst I’m whizzing away on my e-bike..).
Once I arrived in Fuzhou, I was almost expecting to be quizzed by immigration as to why I was in China. What was I doing there? Where was I going? How long was I going to be there? But no! I was pleasantly surprised that I just got let through with no problems whatsoever. Again, I noticed that I was the only foreigner in the airport. Wow – there really weren’t many foreigners in Fuzhou.
I got to the baggage carousel. One bag came out. Awesome. I waited. And waited. And waited. I was texted by my HR contact – ‘I’m here!’. When the baggage carousel stopped, I realised that my second bag just wasn’t going to come. I hunted for someone to speak to. My bag had been left behind in Hong Kong. Of course. Typical. For some reason, I had had a gut feeling whilst I was packing in England, that one of my bags wouldn’t make it. So I had thankfully packed a few extra clothes and pyjamas in my handluggage. PHEW! It had, of course, been the bag with all of my clothes in it…..
The HR contact took me to my new flat and helped me settle in, set me up with the wifi, told me that the suitcase would be delivered in the morning and then headed home. It was already about 10pm at this stage, and so I video called my parents, showed them around the new flat, had a shower and then had my very first nights sleep in China!