types of schools you can teach at in china

Teach Abroad in China: 10 Unexpected Challenges of Working with University Students

University freshmen performing their military drills in China.

I had no idea what to expect before stepping into my first class of Chinese university students. I wasn’t a first-time ESL teacher – I had spent six months teaching unruly high school students in Northeast Thailand – but I knew China would be different. I wanted it to be different.

A junior student from the university picked me up from the airport. She stood holding my picture (taken in Bangkok just months before), dressed in a skirt that barely covered her behind, with three-inch heels. She looked sweet and innocent, yet flirtatious and shy all at the same time. With me, however, Janice was anything but shy. “Oh, hi!” she greeted me. “I not recognize you. You look more fat in you picture.”

“Well, hello.” I smiled. This blunt reaction is not uncommon throughout Asia, but it still caught my jetlagged brain off guard. “I look fat?” I asked.

“I mean. No, no. You look good now. Like perfect now,” she backtracked. “But fatter in the photograph.” I laughed and followed her into the taxi. We sped away toward my new school, where I would learn so much more about the cultural nuances of my students than how bluntly honest they can be. If you’re heading to teach abroad in China, here are some important things to be aware of.

1. University is their first taste of freedom.

In high school, Chinese students are forbidden to date or participate in any sports or social activities that aren’t guaranteed to have a positive impact on their university applications. These things are seen as unnecessary distractions from schoolwork, which is to say distractions from preparing for an exam with so much weight that it will largely determine the students’ futures.

Read the rest of this article at GoOverseas.com, where I’m a contributor! You’ll find lots of other teach abroad related articles and jobs.

If you’re looking for more information about TEFL courses and teaching abroad in China or Thailand, contact me here. I’d love to help get you started on the adventure of a lifetime.


  1. Ha ha, I have to laugh at the honesty! Your experience sounds amazing, best of luck..

  2. Rebel Grorge says:

    your real experience is a part of learning like as when a newcomer comes how some one will received. thanks for sharing

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