End of Contract
When I taught English with CTLC my contract ended on June 15th both years. In June of 2009 this was on a Monday, and in June of 2010 this was on a Tuesday. Starting that last short week was always difficult, but if you’ve got a good school they might let you end early. Each public school in China is different and there’s a good chance your actual teaching duties might end a whole lot sooner than that. I’ve heard of some teachers who stopped teaching at the end of May!
You can expect a big dinner banquet of some sort if you’ve had good relations with your school, the headmaster, and the other teachers. Most likely you’ll at least be taken out to a restaurant. Many of the Chinese teachers will just be finishing up with their final exams around that time, so they’ll be ready to cut loose just as much as you will.
Traveling as a Tourist
If you want to travel around China for a month of so following your contract, I’d let it be known early. Your school will probably be able to help you get your visa switched over, either in Hong Kong or right in Shenzhen if you’re lucky. If you are planning on traveling, plan early, unlike how most Chinese people do it.
It’ll be hard for you to save up money throughout the year with CTLC, but if you can sock away 2,000 RMB each month for several months you’ll be looking good. And remember, you’ll also be getting that airline reimbursement money at the end of your contract, perhaps as much as 3,000 RMB. That will go a long way in some of the smaller towns and if you travel by train.
The first year I finished teaching English with CTLC I traveled by train to Beijing for a week. I still had a few weeks left on my residence permit, and you might be looking forward to that as well. From there I headed up into Mongolia, across Russia to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and then by plain to Spain for the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. After that I travelled around the various countries on a Eurail Pass for a couple more weeks. I had to save up quite a bit to do that, and it was hard on just the 5,000 RMB I made each month with CTLC.
Switching employers while you’re in China is difficult but not impossible. I did this after my second year teaching English with CTLC when I began working for English First (EF). I started talking with EF in May and was able to get my residence permit switched over with a lot of paperwork help from my school and CTLC.
You might also be able to find another public school that is willing to hire you for the rest of that school year, a few weeks time, and then have you come back the next year. You might even be able to stay in Shenzhen during that time if you get things switched over with your visa. Many of these public schools will require you to work more, but you’ll get paid more, and perhaps even for the summer months you’re not working.
If you go to a training center like English First, be prepared for a grueling summer schedule that will last 2 months and have you working 6 days a week. You’ll also get paid more, and your classes will be smaller, but that workload gets old fast. Still, you’ll probably also get more support materials provided to you, which is different from planning your own lessons each week. Now you’ll have to do it each day, however.
When you finally do plan to head home, either from travelling or right at the end of your CTLC contract, be prepared. You’ve been in China for a year, which isn’t that long, but it will take you some time to readjust. Reverse culture-shock is almost worse than the actual culture-shock you’ll experience when you first get here.
If you’re going back with plans to return and teach with CTLC again, be prepared to hand over your passport at some time in August. Some teachers are eager to get back home and forget about China, others are looking forward to heading back as soon as possible. And you can be sure that there will be another 100 to 150 new teachers just like you were who are dying to get here, for better or worse.