Mudanjiang Railstation. Mudanjiang, soon to be my city.

I am only a few weeks out from living, working and arriving in China to teach English. The process has been long and is still not 100 percent certain. I started this journey several months ago. My first choice was to teach in Korea, but I was denied the opportunity. I chose Korea as a starting point for my new career as an ESL teacher mainly because I could teach and save money. South Korea has a low cost of living and pays new ESL teachers some of the highest base salaries in Asia. Once I was denied my opportunity and dealt with several teacher recruiters, agencies and shady individuals, I changed my focus to other countries. Chinese schools were very quick to respond to my resume on the numerous ESL job sites where I posted. Over the past two weeks or so, I’ve been dealing with a school in Heilongjiang Province, Mudanjiang and a second school located in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Province.

MY CHOICE: The school in Mudanjiang seems to be the smaller company. I spoke directly (Skype) with two of three of the school managers and felt good about our interactions. There are three foreigners (one American manager from Arizona and two Canadian teachers) and I would join a staff in an area that is not as Westernized as other school locations. The selling points for me are the small staff, high salary (9,000RMB) per month, and getting my own apartment. I’m 36 and too old and too set in my ways to break in any potential roommate.

The staff in Mudanjiang seemed laid back and easy going. I know I will learn the profession without immediate pressure to perform. The pay is extremely high for anywhere in China and most forums and blogs warn against schools that offer more than 6,000 to 7,000 RMB. I am going with my gut feeling on this one. The city is not one of the popular destination cities like a Beijing, Shanghai or Dalian, so English schools are fewer in this much colder climate.

The city borders Vladistovok, Russia. However, it has a few colleges and several public schools. I will work 25 hours per week with two days off. I was updated by my school manager that my initial application had been submitted and that I would receive the requisite paperwork for my work visa in the next couple of weeks. Even though I signed the contract, this thing won’t feel real until I put together my package for a work visa. I will drink in celebration only at that time. Call me an alcoholic, but I must have a few victory beers before I leave this side of the planet.

MY DISMISSAL: The school in Yinchuan was different from the school in Mudanjiang in every aspect. Lower pay (6,000RMB), although fewer hours and a much larger city. I would have been one of 19 foreign staff with the potential of more newbies arriving just like me. The company is a reputable one, with schools everywhere in China with large student populations.

The recruiter was really good. He explained that he and most of the teachers he knew started out in Yinchuan and moved on to other schools. He sold me on the friendliness of the people, Western amenities and the ability to enjoy outdoor activities. These were all appealing to me. Mind you, there was another recruiter from the same company, pitching me my first choice Dalian, as well. So we agreed that the Yinchuan recruiter would pitch my application to schools contingent on my not being hired at a school in Dalian. The company’s schools in Dalian were tallying there overall need numbers and the recruiter was uncertain whether I could get a spot there. I made the executive decision to only deal with the one recruiter and forgo any offers from Dalian, so the Yinchuan recruiter could present my application to schools in a more favorable light. (I edited out previous comments. I realized I made a dick move and will surely face karmic repercussions. I don’t want others to follow my shrewd treatment of a particular recruiter. I removed an email detailing how I committed then reneged on signing a contract he emailed to me. I realize I was in the wrong and had to correct it with this long drawn out explanation days after my original post.)

The bottom line is: I have found a school that I like, people I like and a place I like. For a salary and hours, I like. I look forward to continuing this blog by highlighting my adventures once I reach China with video uploads and regular posts. Hopefully, I chose the right school. If not, I’ll make it mine.

Finally: I want to thank everyone who has “liked” my entries. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your life to read about mine.

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