The program has been operating out of Memphis, Tennessee, since 1997. Their first group of teachers headed over to China in February 2008, all 13 of them! The program expanded quickly, and now has more than 170 teachers each year.
I worked for CTLC during the 2008-2009 school year, and again in the 2009-2010 school year. At that time they were just getting over the 100-teacher mark, hovering around 110. My first year saw about 70 to 80 new participants, and about 30 to 40 returning teachers.
I didn’t know anything about getting over to China, working in China, or living in China. That’s why I felt comfortable joining this program; I knew they’d do all the hard stuff for me. If you’re like I was, then the CTLC program can be a great choice for you. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of joining CTLC:
One of the biggest things that you and most teachers will like is the teaching schedule. I only had 15 classes each week, which is the maximum you can have, as stated in the contract. Many teachers had less, around 10, and one guy I talked to had 5 to 7!
Another thing is that you’ll always have Wednesday and Friday afternoons off. This is supposed to be for your Chinese language lessons downtown, but many people stop going to those after a few months. That means you’ll have more time to travel on the weekend, or just kick back and relax. I really enjoyed those afternoons free.
You’ll often go to your office of classroom and be told you’re not teaching that day. There won’t be any advance notice on this, I find. The reason is usually that the students are having a test, some kind of medical checkup, army days, sports days, parents days, or any other manner of ‘days’ that the school comes up with throughout the year. All of a sudden you’ll have a free day, and you can expect anywhere from 5 to 10 of these each year, without notice of course.
One of the best things about teaching English in China with CTLC is the holidays. You’ll get all the major ones off, just like the rest of the Chinese public, but you’ll get more. Chinese students usually have longer holidays than everyone else, and you’ll have a longer holiday than most of the Chinese teachers at your school.
The big one of course is Chinese New Year. You’ll get anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks off, with pay, depending on what school you teach at. The last week before the holiday will be tests, so you won’t have to do much, perhaps not even show up at all. And the week before school starts again is mainly taken up by administrative measures involving the Chinese staff. Again, you probably won’t even have to show up.
You won’t pay rent. That is a good thing, especially with the ways that rent has been increasing in Shenzhen over the years. You also won’t have to worry about utilities, as those will be paid. Internet should come in each room/apartment, so that will save you about 1,500 RMB each year or more. Your room will be furnished, so you won’t have to buy a whole lot, which will help you save up the money you brought with you.
The program does make a pretty good effort at getting you fluent with Chinese. They have instructors come downtown from Shenzhen University to teach you Mandarin each Wednesday and Friday afternoon. This is about 1 to 1.5 hours, and it could really help you if you put in the work outside of class. If you don’t like it, you’re not required to attend the second semester, although there’s no enforcement on attending the first.
CTLC will take care of all of your concerns regarding visas, residence permits, and medical checkups. That stuff is a pain, especially if your new in China and don’t know how to go about doing it yourself. Paying the program fee might just give you the peace of mind you need in this regard. It didn’t give me much peace of mind my first year, however; my passport didn’t get back to me until the day before I was to fly out of Montana and to the staging area in San Francisco. But then there was a typhoon in Hong Kong and I had to stay in California an extra day anyway.
You’ll be presented with your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate when you complete the August training. This is a very important document to have if you’re looking for a new teaching job in China after your involvement with CTLC. You’ll be paying for it with your program fee, but it’s worth it; I’ve been asked for mine several times after leaving the program.
You’ll get a letter from William O’Donnell, the main program administrator, which allows you to defer your student loans. The interest will still rack up, but this could be a great option for those just getting out of college and with few prospects. I graduated right into the middle of the economic meltdown of 2008, and believe me, not having to worry about paying my student loans was a big draw for me.
Those are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy when you join the CTLC teaching English in China study abroad program. I’ve tried to be objective, and list things that I remember as good from my 2 years in the program. In the next post I’ll list the drawbacks of joining CTLC, and I’m afraid they far outweigh the benefits.