The story of my work life in China really began last winter as I started searching for a job. In order to come here with Tian, I needed a visa, and in order to get a visa, I needed a job. Anything would do.
While I had a few job prospects, there was one that I really wanted. Luckily, I got it and found out in early May that I would be teaching this school year at Tsinghua University in the College of Continuing Education’s Center for Overseas Academic and Cultural Exchanges in a special program called the Academic Bridge Program.
If you’re confused about all the organizational layers there, you’re not alone. I’m still wrapping my head around it, and even after working there for four years, our academic supervisor isn’t completely clear on how it all fits together. In this blog, I’ll just refer to it as the Academic Bridge Program or ABP for short.
Given that I would have been happy with anything that provided me a visa, I was fortunate to land this job in my first year here. Tsinghua University is one of the top two universities in Beijing, and it is renowned all around China (Tian’s parents were astonished when they found out I was working there). This job has a lot of other great qualities:
- The students have to apply and be accepted to ABP, which means that generally they are motivated and generally have a higher level of English than the average university student.
- The students are all preparing for undergraduate or graduate level programs in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia. This means that they have a real and practical reason to learn the language.
- I see the same students multiple times per week (a total of four hours per class) and all school year. In a typical university position, you see 12-14 groups of students one hour per week for only one semester.
- My class sizes will be 20-30 students. In a typical university position, classes average 40-60 students.
- I will be teaching writing and academic communication, which is more rigorous and interesting subject matter than most university teachers get to teach.
- I get paid about three times as much as the average university English teacher in China, and I receive health insurance and partial reimbursement for travel expenses.
I didn’t get this job on my own. A friend named Sarah, who had met Tian this past year on a visit to Mounds Park Academy, had been working for ABP for the past two years. She and a couple other teachers were not going to return for 2009-10, and she knew that there would be some openings at ABP. Sarah referred me to them and helped me understand the way the program worked. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job! I am so grateful for Sarah’s help, and I still owe her a dinner here in Beijing!