Hi, I’m Eric from Tucson, Arizona, a previous teacher at York English. I live in Washington, DC and next month I will begin work as a strategic research consultant for Education Advisory Board, a professional services firm serving colleges and universities.
I started at York’s Xihu branch in Fuzhou in 2010 (one of only two branches back then) and stayed for three and a half years. I left the school in 2014 to move to Shanghai.
I began as a teacher at Xihu and later became the Academic Coordinator (AC) there. After a little over a year as Xihu’s AC, I helped open the Ping Dong branch as its first AC in 2013 and worked there for a year.
Why did you decide to teach English overseas in the first place?
I had worked as a teacher in a school in Tucson during college and enjoyed the work but I wasn’t sure about going into teaching just yet when I graduated. I also wanted to try something new. I wanted to experience a new culture, learn a new language (one that would be useful in a lot of places) and honestly just get out and see a different part of the world.
Without a ton of savings to travel, a working “gap year” made sense to me. China was the top choice because of the number of opportunities available and the fact that it was this rising country growing in prominence on the world stage was also a big reason why I decided to teach there.
York made a lot of sense to me. It’s location in Fuzhou meant that it was a good balance between the “real China” experience you might find in the country’s interior and the “expat China” experience you would find in Beijing or Shanghai. I didn’t want to go to a place that would lean to far in either direction.
The school also seemed to be more legitimate than some of the others I interviewed with. I got a good deal of assurance that this was a reputable organization coming out of my first York interview.
Can you tell us of any fond memories you have about your time working as a teacher at York English?
My memories of teaching are (mostly) fond indeed! In a Senior class, I was able to get my students doing some basic improvisational comedy to practice their speaking while having a really good time and having a good laugh. It became the most requested activity after they got the hang of it. Some of the students’ personalities really shined in that class during the comedy time.
I was also quite proud of myself after somewhat mastering the science of kinder management. After some time the class would run like clockwork to the point where the Chinese teaching assistant barely needed to use Chinese to manage the class.
Can you tell us of any fond memories you have about your time living in China?
I have so many fond memories from my time, it’s hard to choose just one! A few travel memories with friends and colleagues stand out though. The school trip to a beach in Xiapu where a few of us teachers were gently reminded not to dive off the rocks by a local lifeguard stands out, as does the stag party for a friend and colleague held at a floating fishing village outside of Fuzhou near a place called Luoyuan where we were able to catch one fish (in an entire afternoon of trying) and dined on one fearsome looking horseshoe crab cooked to order!
What specific skills do you feel you learnt during your time with us? How have they helped you in your life after York?
In addition to ESL teaching skills like lesson planning etc. the opportunity I was given to take on the Academic Coordinator role really taught me a lot of transferable skills like time management, leadership, and public speaking. It also helped me in finding a management style that suited my personality, and increased my ability to provide mentoring and professional development to my staff.
These skills have served me well in my post-York career working as a business strategy consultant in Shanghai and Washington, DC, where I also have taken positions with management responsibilities.
How do you feel your time living overseas and being an ESL teacher changed you/help you develop as a person or career wise?
Teaching at York and living overseas was a very rewarding personal experience and has also been beneficial to my career. I’ve met friends from all over the world that I will keep in contact with and hopefully visit in their home countries eventually!
Dealing with challenges presented to you while living and traveling in another country—even basic things like ordering food or transferring money—taught me to be empathetic and patient when things are not going according to plan.
I also think learning a new language has really been a fun and rewarding journey. Making friends with Chinese classmates of mine in DC now is just that much easier since I am one of the few non-Chinese students that can speak their language!
Lastly, I think that employers today in globally-connected organizations really value international experience in applicants—whatever or wherever that experience may be. It shows them that you can relate to others, communicate effectively through language and culture barriers, think outside the box, get out of your comfort zone, deal with ambiguity and all the rest. These are very tangible qualities (ones that I like to think I possess) that one can develop living and working in China.
A big thank you to Eric for taking the time to reminisce with us!