Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Neil Robertson, a Scottish traveler who spent four months teaching in China. Neil, tell us about your background.
Neil: I’m 25, Scottish, living and working in Glasgow now having been travelling for the last five years. I started in 2008 working in Italy and my travels have included trips to China, Japan, South Africa and Brazil amongst others. The experience that had the strongest impact on me was the four months I spent in the little known, but brilliantly named, city of Wuhu in Central China.
TT: Agreed, that is a fabulous name. Tell us more about your travels.
N: It’s a long, long way to Wuhu. Not famous or obviously significant, you can find it in the (relatively) tiny Anhui Province, about 4 hours by train west of Shanghai. But I loved Wuhu for its simplicity, its unassuming personality and its kind and considerate people. It’s also a great place to use as a base if you plan to travel throughout China over a few months. China is an extraordinary country and, for me, the most fascinating country in the world at present. Life in the big cities charges along at breakneck speed, while the calm and considerate approach to life in the rest of the country is just as captivating. My day job was teaching English to local students while in my spare time I was tucking away savings to indulge the adventurer in me and explore as much of the country as I could.
TT: Awesome! How did you learn about this opportunity?
N: I was employed by Aston Language Centre, a small teaching company that sub-contracts native English speakers to educational establishments throughout Wuhu. I came across them via my university careers service. Aston were a great employer and there was a lot of variety to the teaching – one day I could be teaching college students and then the next I could be spread eagled on a beanbag with toddlers. It keeps you on your toes, mentally and physically. Aston also employ other western teachers so I was alongside four British and American colleagues, which helped to reduce the culture shock.
TT: Great resource. How did you fund your travels?
N: My salary, by Wuhu norms, was pretty fair and covered my day to day costs. Accommodation was also provided as part of my contract so if I had just stayed in Wuhu for my four months I would probably have broken even. But to go all that way and not take some time to travel would be tragic, so trips to Shanghai, Beijing et al require extra funds. I had some savings set aside and it remains one of the best investments I’ve ever made.