Teaching English in Zhengzhou, China: Alumni Q&A with Nicole Townsend

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What is your citizenship?

United States

What city and state are you from?

Des Moines, Iowa

How old are you?


What is your education level and background?

Bachelor's degree

Have you traveled abroad in the past?

Some international travel with friends, family, business, etc. 

If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?

Most countries in Europe

What sparked your interest in going to teach English abroad?

I studied international relations in college and wanted to choose a career path that would allow me to see new places and different cultures while at the same time having a job I truly enjoy.

What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?

I was nervous about moving to a new country that was very different from my own. I was also nervous I would sign a contract with a school and end up not liking it.

What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad?
My family and friends were very supportive as they knew it was what I wanted to do, although I think they were a little concerned that I would be so far from home for such a long period of time.
TEFL China


Why did you decide to get TEFL certified and choose International TEFL Academy?

I did not study education in college but knew I wanted to teach abroad. Most of the jobs I was interested in required a TEFL certificate, so I decided to look into it. I did a lot of research and found that the International TEFL academy had a lot of great information about the course, and also seemed that they would be helpful in finding a job afterwards. The online schedule also worked well with my work schedule, allowing me to complete it quickly and efficiently.

Which TEFL certification course did you take?

Online TEFL Course

How did you like the course?
Tips for teaching English in ChinaThe course went very smoothly. The instructor was helpful and always made sure hecommunicated the assignments clearly and was easy to get in contact with. I completed my curriculum while training in my current job which was very helpful to me.

How has your TEFL training helped you in your current teaching position?

It really helped me in understanding that lesson planning is very important. I have used much of what I learned in my current position.
Which city and country did you decide to teach English in and why?

I decided to teach English in China in the city of Zhengzhou. I had many different interviews in various cities around China, but I felt the most comfortable with the position I took. They were helpful and seemed like they really valued and understood how to work with foreign teachers.

How long have you been in this country and how long do you plan to stay?

I have lived in China for 1.5 years and plan to stay at least another two years. 

What school, company, or program are you working for?

Maple Bear Canadian preschool

During which months does your school typically hire?

January and August

Did you secure this position in advance of arriving?


How did you interview for this position?

Skype/Phone Interview

What kind of Visa did you enter on?

Work Visa

Please explain the visa process that you went through.

Before I arrived, I was given all of my visa information and applied for a work visa with my company. It all went smoothly and it was very easy from my end.

What are the qualifications that your school requires for teachers? Please check all that apply

- Native English speaker
- TEFL Certification
- Bachelor's degree

What is the best way to apply?


Tell us about your English teaching job!

Hours per week: I teach 15 hours a week but work a 40 hour work week. I use the other time as office hours.

Salary: I make 14,000 rmb ($2110 USD) monthly.

Ability to save: The city I live in is not very expensive, so I usually send between 8,000-10,000 rmb ($1200 - $1500 USD) home a month.

Type of students: I work for a kindergarten so they are children between 3-6.

Vacation time: I get off close to two months paid vacation.

How did you find somewhere to live and what is it like? Do you have roommates?

The school provided my housing for me prior to my arrival. I have a one bedroom apartment that I live in alone with a living room, kitchen, bathroom etc. It is very nice and feels like home.

Highlights of Teaching English to Chine students


Please explain the cultural aspects, public transportation, nightlife, social activities, food, expat community, dating scene, travel opportunities, etc...    

The cultural aspects are different, but you get used to living in China after a while. We have a good metro system that is continuously increasing. The foreign expat community is not that large but it makes for a close community of people. We keep getting more and more Western food. Because it is inexpensive to live in Zhengzhou, I am able to travel quite frequently and not spend much money.


What are your monthly expenses?

I do not pay for rent, and my utilities are very little. I spend the most money on eating out and the nightlife, but it still doesn't come close to what i spent living in America. Transportation on the metro is cheap and taxis are as well.

How would you describe your standard of living?

I feel as though I have a high standard of living. I earn enough money to enjoy my social life as well as have a very nice home which makes it feel as though I am not in a foreign country.

In your opinion, how much does someone need to earn in order to live comfortably?

I know people who earn 10,000 rmb ($1500 USD) and still live comfortably but maybe aren't able to save as much. It truly depends what you enjoy spending your money on!

Americans teaching ESL to Chinese Students


What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad? Would you recommend teaching in your country?

If you are up for a challenging, different, yet exciting and rewarding experience, China is a great country in which to live. Sometimes it can be hard living here, but I can easily say the benefits outweigh the negatives.

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