Teaching in Public Schools – What You Need to Know

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I know it sounds cliché, but travelling halfway across the world to teach English in China was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sometimes it was challenging, other times rewarding, but above all, it was an experience that created memories that will last a lifetime.

If you come to China to teach English through a recruiting company, chances are high that you will be placed in a public school. This is good news, as teaching in a public school compared to other learning institutions has far more perks than drawbacks, and I’m here today to explain what you need to know before you embark on your public school teaching adventure. Let’s get started!

Big class sizes

I know this sounds frightening, but trust me, it’s easy to get used to and might actually be easier to teach than small classes! Public school classes in China are big: they average around 45-60 students per class. Don’t let this intimidate you however, as bigger class sizes have their perks. If you’re not a morning person (like me) and you need a jolt of energy to really get you going, a big, energetic class will help you do that. It is much easier to be an active teacher when you can feed off the energy of grade school students hungry for knowledge.

When doing class activities in a big class, you can extend the duration of some activities to make sure most students in your class get a try. An activity that would maybe take less than 5 minutes in a class of 20 can likely go up to 10 minutes in a class of 50! In addition, a big class will likely contain a few students who speak English at a decent level, so when you throw out a question and are met with blank stares from 98% of your students, you can always count on those few whiz kids to help you keep things moving.

Short class times

You’ll be happy to know that an average public school lesson only lasts about 40-45 minutes. This is much, much shorter than my average high school lessons, which went up to 75 minutes! The great thing about having 40-minute lessons is that you can keep your lessons tight, focused, punchy, and energetic, while still giving everyone in class a fair shot at participating. With shorter lessons, you won’t need to do too much prep work as all you will need are four to five well-thought out activities that will keep your students active. And if a lesson isn’t going as well as you hoped it would… relax! You’ll be out of there in less than 40 minutes so you can go work out the kinks!

A (relatively) easy schedule

Compared to some training centres and private schools, public schools won’t require you to spend too much time teaching classes every week. Though it varies from school to school, you can expect to teach up to 17 classes per week, for a grand total (17 x 40 minutes) of just over 11 hours per week in the classroom. Often, this total is less, and you can usually expect to teach around 12 to 15 classes per week.

In addition, some schools won’t require you to stay in the office when you don’t have class, so you can head home and run errands after you finish your last class for the day. However, I do suggest spending time in the office to get to know your fellow teachers. After all, you will be working with them for the whole year and they can be great sources of teaching and discipline advice. And if your relationship with them is great, they may even do you a favour sometime (class swap, anyone?)

Freedom!

If you don’t like following a strict curriculum where you teach lots of grammar points you aren’t comfortable with, you will be well-suited to teach in public schools. Though some schools do require you to teach certain grammar points from their textbook, many of them give you free reign to teach whatever you like! This might be a disadvantage for those of us who would like some order or some idea on which to base our lessons. But for those of us who don’t like being bound by rigid rules, we can design our lessons however we like! The method I recommend is just to pick a topic your classes might find interesting and base your lesson off that. Then, you could throw in a grammar point, speaking practice, funny video, game… the possibilities are virtually endless!

You don’t need to speak Chinese at all… but it helps

Every public school will assign you a “contact teacher”, who will likely be a local English teacher at your school. He or she will be your translator/messenger for the whole year and will be responsible for letting you know about everything that may involve you, such as school events, holidays, or schedule changes.

Having a contact teacher around essentially means you don’t have to learn a word of Chinese to get by at your school. However, your contact teacher may not be the best communicator. You know that afternoon you thought you had free? Well your schedule changed and now you have a class at 3pm that your contact teacher told you about at 2:45pm. Also, your contact teacher won’t always be around to help you tell the printing lady you want 200 crosswords printed out ASAP. A good thing to do is to start learning Chinese and practice by talking to your colleagues. Bit by bit, you’ll be able to do things independently and you’ll have a much smoother teaching experience.

You’ll have to become a “Yes” man/woman

Likely the best piece of advice I can give you to make the most out of your public school teaching experience is: be involved! Yes, I know I said that some schools technically don’t require you to be there don’t have any classes to teach, but you should make an effort to get involved in the goings-on of your school.

Here’s the best way to do that: your school, like any other school, will have a bunch of events scattered throughout the year that you will be asked to participate in. That may be a sports day, a Christmas show, judging a language competition, or playing on the staff basketball team, to name a few. The best thing you can do is ask your contact teacher or your coworkers about upcoming events, and if they invite you to participate, enthusiastically say yes! Unless you have made other plans without any knowledge of said event, you really have no excuse not to join. Now, if you’re feeling event-fatigue and just really don’t want to do them all, just go to the most important ones (Sports Day, Christmas, and English competitions). I’m pretty sure your school will still like you if you’re “sick” on the day of the singing competition.

For prospective public school teachers, I hope you will have as good of a time as I did. What’s the point of coming to China if not to create lasting memories and an experience you will never forget? Remember to check out my blog, Country and a Half , for China advice and more. Happy teaching!

Guest post by Ivan Berezowski

Ivan is a writer/translator who spent three years teaching English in the bustling metropolis of Shenzhen, China. When he isn’t writing blog posts to help newcomers in China, he can be found behind a plate of exotic cuisine or hard at work saving money for his next holiday. Check out his blog Country and a Half (www.countryandahalf.com), or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for more exciting information out of China.

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Shenzhen’s Beautiful Bay Park

8. Sunset Behind Houhai's skyscrapers 2

Before coming to China I expected to find thick clouds of choking smog and fields bubbling with pollution. Upon arriving, I quickly discovered just how effective the steps the country has taken to combat pollution and improve air quality have been.

Now, living in Shenzhen, a literal stone’s throw from Hong Kong, my preconceptions are continuously proven wrong. This modern metropolis has electrified buses whizzing between destinations whilst communal bikes from Mobike and OFO dance through pedestrians and metros rumble below ground.

5. A couple take in the views of Wutong Mountain and Futian's CBD

Shenzhen really does have an excellent, clean public transport network. The city also packs in plenty of beautiful parks within its limits which help to keep the air fresh. One of Shenzhen’s most famous green spaces is the Shenzhen Bay Park.

Shenzhen Bay Park is a coastal park built on a 13 KM long reclaimed stretch of land. Opened in 2011, this park stretches along the south coast of both Futian and Nanshan district, offering spectacular panoramic views. Look inland and you can marvel at Shenzhen’s ever-changing skyline. Turn around and you will witness Hong Kong’s many mountains piercing the sky. You might hear a gentle splash as water sways against the boardwalk, mixed in with the sound of chirping birds and rustling leaves. The park is a peaceful oasis, offering a welcome escape from the bustle of city life.

3. Shenzhen Bay Park, The Shenzhen Bay Bridge, Hong Kong

Aside from simply being a great place to relax, the park is full of people taking in the beautiful landscapes. Photographers frequently gather for misty sunrises and sapphire sunsets. There is plenty of nature, architecture and other attractions to take in too.

It’s not just photographers that frequent the park. The 13 kilometers of flat, uninterrupted pedestrianized walkway is particularly appealing for runners, especially when accompanied by a cooling sea breeze. Toilets and water fountains are conveniently scattered throughout the park  and there are plenty of benches and recycling bins.

2. A Runner Trains in Shenzhen Bay Park

If that’s not enough, the park is seamlessly connected to the new Shenzhen Bay Talent Park, which features a spongy 2.5km circular running track, showers, lockers and a children’s play area. Between Monday to Friday bicycles can be seen racing through Shenzhen bay but beware, the 15km/h speed limit is generally ignored. (Bikes are banned at the weekend and on public holidays.)

1 Shenzhen Bay Cycle Path

As brilliant as the park is, there are a few rules to abide by. Due to it’s proximity to Hong Kong you are not allowed to swim in the sea. There is also a ban on hand-gliding. Tug-of-war is also frowned upon, as are ball games, skating and hammocks. Whilst the rules may seem unnecessary they certainly help to make the park a more relaxing place. A quick internet search of ‘Shenzhen Bay Bikes’ will immediately show you why the rules are a vital way of ensuring the safety of all park-goers.

I am in love with this park and it has greatly improved my stay and general life here in Shenzhen. If you’d like to visit Shenzhen Bay Park, it is served by the Shenzhen Bay Metro Station (Line 9 Exit C). Alternatively, you can walk to the coast from Houhai Metro Station (Line 11 and Line 2 Exit G) or go to Dengliang Metro Station (Line 2 Exit C) for Shenzhen Bay Talent Park.

Guest post by Andrew Isles

Andrew is originally from Slough, UK and has lived in China for 3 years. He has taught English in Shijiazhuang and now lives in Shenzhen. In his free time he likes to play football and travel. You can check out his YouTube page by searching ‘BAIMA Adventures’ or following this link 

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How to prepare for a Skype demo lesson

So you’ve had a Skype interview for that teaching job you want in China and everything went really well (you probably followed our tips!). Now the company has asked you to prepare a demonstration (demo) lesson and give it to them over Skype. You might be asking yourself: How do I do that? What do I need to include? What should I think about? I’ve given a few of these lessons in my time, and there’s really nothing to stress about … if you follow my tips on how to prepare for a Skype demo lesson.

junger Grundschullehrer

Before the lesson

Prepare a detailed lesson plan. You may be an extremely experienced teacher, think this is all a piece of cake, or think you work best a Capella, but you should always have a lesson plan to work from. This will help you clearly map out what you want to happen in the demo, and many interviewers will in fact ask you to submit a lesson plan prior to the demo class.

You might be doing the demo lesson for just one interviewer, or you might be giving it to a panel. You should keep this in mind when lesson planning (and of course while giving the demo), particularly with your interactive activities.

Make sure that you’re absolutely clear on the grammar point (or points) you need to cover in the demo lesson – if you’re unsure, double-check with the interviewer. Don’t incorporate other grammar points if you’re not asked to; be sure to stay on task.

From the grammar point(s), you should be able to work out roughly which level the learner is (beginner, intermediate or advanced) and then tailor your lesson plan accordingly. Again if you’re unsure you can ask the interviewer (but keep in mind that sometimes part of the interview may be to identify the learner level).

Confirm with the interviewer how long the demo lesson should be, and then plan for that time frame. But, always make sure you include extra activities, just in case they’re needed to fill the time.

Ensure you know how old the students at your (potential) new workplace are likely to be (adults, teenagers, or young learners) and keep that in mind when planning the lesson and activities. This demonstrates to the interviewer that you have the ability to teach the students at their school.

Find out how many students would be in a typical class at the school you’re being interviewed for and plan the lesson activities for that number (as well as a few more, and a few less!).

It’s always good to try to include different activities that are tailored for different learning styles – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. This might mean including a mix of mediums like a video, some cue cards, and some writing exercises, for example.

In your lesson plan, highlight any potential problems or challenges that you may encounter during the lesson (for example explaining vocabulary, or a tricky grammar point) and outline how you would overcome these issues (both in a class and before it).

Check everything tech related, as we’ve suggested in our article about preparing for a Skype interview (here).

 

During the lesson

Be yourself and relax as much as you can. Sure you might be nervous, and it can be a weird feeling giving a demo lesson over Skype, but it’s important to give the interviewer as good an idea of your teaching skills as possible.

Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard. There’s nothing worse than having to repeat yourself over and over because the interviewer can’t hear you. It’s embarrassing, and obviously will affect the flow of the lesson. On the other hand, make sure you’re not speaking so loud that you’re deafening the interviewer!

Keep on track with your lesson plan as much as possible, but also have the flexibility to deviate if needed to ensure the lesson objectives are met.

 

After the lesson

Do a quick self-assessment: what went well, and what could I improve on for next time? This will help you with your next Skype demo lesson, and perhaps also help when discussing feedback with the interviewer. Some interviewers may even ask you to discuss the good, and not so good parts of your demo.

Seek feedback. The interviewer may not give you any feedback during or straight after the lesson, so you may need to request feedback in an email after the interview process. In your email, it’s good to be clear about what type of feedback you want, and on which specific aspects of your demo lesson.

 

Skype demo lessons can be a daunting thought, but you’ll find they do get easier the more of them you do. If you go into a demo with the mindset of ‘it’s just a normal face-to-face lesson with a student’ you should be able do it as naturally as possible, and show off your teaching skills! And hopefully these tips on how to prepare for a Skype demo lesson will help you land that awesome new job you want in China. Good luck!

 

Have you had a Skype demo lesson before? How did it go? What tips can you share?

Written by the Travelling Penster

6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing

Beijing, the capital of China, is an essential stop for most visitors to China – it’s likely if you’re coming to China that you’ll fly into this mega city, or at the very least pass through it. There’s so much to see and do there, it can be over-whelming trying to decide how to spend your days. Should you stick to the ‘big ticket’ items, or try to find those more unique, ‘out of the way’ sights? Personally, I think a bit of both will serve you well, so here’s my list of 6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is smack bang in the middle of Beijing, and an amazing part of Chinese history. Whilst some of it is still off-limits to the public, there is some spectacularly quintessential Chinese architecture and artifacts to see in this grandiose palace grounds. Some 24 emperors called this place home over the Ming and Qing Dynasties (mid 1300s – early 1900s), and it feels really special to wander around these once exclusive grounds. My personal favorite is the garden; after a few hours walking around this massive space, it’s lovely to relax in this green area. I can only imagine what it would have been like to sit here in the dynasty days.

My tip: try to find a quiet pocket of the garden to sit down and rest for a bit (and people watch!).

the forbidden city

Tiananmen Square

This is the largest public square in China, and apparently one of the largest in the world. The gate to the Forbidden City (the Tiananmen Gate, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace) lies to the north of the square and is where the square gets its name from. Here you can watch the flag raising ceremony at sunrise or sunset, walk through Mao’s Mausoleum (where the real Mao lies embalmed!), or visit the National Museum.

My tip: include Tiananmen Square in your Forbidden City outing; it’s easy to fit them both in one day.

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven, so it’s a very holy place for many Chinese people.This temple features some of the most stunning and unique Chinese architecture in the city. It takes several hours to walk the beautifully landscaped grounds, and every section is quite different from the last.

My tip: look out for the elderly locals playing cards, mahjong, or dancing near the main gate; it’s a feast for the eyes and ears!

Beijing (2).jpg

The Summer Palace

Whilst it’s a little bit out of the way, the Summer Palace is an easy subway ride from the city centre, and is definitely worth your trip. It’s the largest royal park in China and is UNESCO World Heritage listed. The grounds have a delightfully serene feel to them, with loads of gorgeous trees, a river that feeds into a massive lake, and of course beautiful architecture to marvel at, including temples, pagodas, and halls. It’s quite hilly and there are some steep stairs to climb and weave through, but the views from the top of this palace are simply breath-taking.

My tip: wear sturdy, comfortable shoes as some of the paths are uneven and can be challenging to navigate.

The Confucius Temple

This is the second largest Confucius temple in China. Many people whole-heartedly recommend the nearby Llama Temple, and whilst lovely, my pick in this area is most definitely the Confucius Temple. The Confucius Temple is not nearly as popular (so there are generally far less people there), and it has a much more tranquil feel to it. Here you can slowly weave around the grounds exploring courtyards, the beautiful stone and painted artworks, and admire the truly beautiful ancient trees.

My tip: this is a fairly small temple, so relax and take your time to really appreciate and absorb the vibe here; it’s a lovely little oasis from the hustle and bustle.

The Great Wall of China

You can’t come to China and not see the Great Wall! Set aside a full day for this to allow for transport to and from the wall, walking up and back from your transport, and of course photos, a lunch/snack break, and exploring. There’s a part of the wall to suit almost everyone’s fitness level and taste: some parts of the wall have been restored, some are super touristy, other parts are quite ‘rugged’, and are paths less travelled. You can choose to either walk all your way around, or grab a cable car up and back, and walk a little less.

My tip: for something a little different, try tobogganing down the hill from the wall at the end of your day.

Great Wall of China

One last tip for traveling in Beijing: of course, it pays to check the weather and smog levels before heading out for the day, but sometimes you don’t’ have the luxury of time. If that’s the case, I recommend investing in a good quality face mask to filter the air for you.

So there you have it, my 6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing. Of course, with a city as massive, and historically and culturally rich as Beijing, there are so many more things to do there, you could easily fill several weeks with amazing activities! Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas, and at the very least, a good starting point for you trip to Beijing! Enjoy!

What are your favorite attractions in Beijing? Let us know below.

Written by the Travelling Penster

3 Fun ESL Vocabulary Games for the Classroom

esl-vocabulary-games

Teaching a large group of younger learners in a classroom requires a lot of patience, tolerance, and creativity. When designing a lesson plan for elementary school children, it helps to include some fun kinesthetic activities that promote movement and interaction.

Why kinesthetic learning?

If kids sit at their desks too long, they can often lose focus and become inattentive. Younger learners respond better when there is more variety and physical activity involved in lessons.

Plus, kinesthetic games can break up the pace and increase participation. Games and interactive activities can also facilitate language acquisition by helping students review important points learned in class.

Below are three vocabulary games for the classroom that you can try with your students. They all require the students to move in the classroom, so you should make sure that you have enough space free of any obstructions that could get in their way.

1. Board Races

Board race ESL vocabulary games are excellent for younger learners. Most students love board races because they can compete with their classmates. Plus, they get excited about not having to be stuck at their desk all day.

To start, push the desks and chairs to the sides of the classroom. You want to make sure there is a clear path from the far side of the room to the board on the other side of the room. Get the students to move everything. With their help, it should only take a minute or so.

Next, divide the class into two teams. For larger classes, you can have more teams.

The teams should form two lines at the far end of the classroom.

The first student at the start of each line must run (or walk quickly) to the board and complete a writing task. You can set the task to be anything that you like. For example, they could spell a word, write a sentence, or write the answer to a grammar question etc.

Whichever student answers your question correctly on the board first, scores points for their team. After writing, the students can return to the back of their team’s line.

Then, the next two students in the lines get ready to race to the board.

The game continues in this way until everyone has had a chance to play. You can have multiple rounds and vary the difficulty level of the tasks that they must complete on the board.

2. Memory Races

Another kinesthetic learning game that kids like involves testing their memory.

For memory race ESL vocabulary games, you need to make sure that there is extra space for the students to move around the edge of the room along the walls. They will be moving around the classroom in a circular fashion.

To begin, split the class in half and form two teams. Again, you can create more teams if the class is particularly large.

Next, assign “waiting stations” at different locations in the classroom. Four waiting stations are usually appropriate for most situations. For instance, you can use the four corners of the room. One member from each team waits at each location.

At the first waiting station (usually at your desk), write down five words on a piece of paper. Show the words to the first two students. Give them about 30 seconds to commit the words to memory.

After the 30 seconds are up, they must go to the second waiting station and whisper to their teammate the five words. Then, the second team member goes to the third waiting station to pass on the words to the next team member. Finally, the fourth team member from each team will eventually return to your desk to tell you the words.

The teams score a point for each word that is remembered. You could even reward bonus points for whichever team gets back to your desk the fastest.

3. Word Whack Races

The last kinesthetic learning game that works really well with younger students is the Word Whack game.

Before you start the activity, you should prepare a couple soft objects that could be used to hit the board with. You could pick up some cheap plastic balloon mallets from a dollar store or try rolling up some paper to form a cylinder shape. Whatever you use, just make sure it is soft enough so that it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Once you have everything prepared, you can start the game.

First, do a brief example for the students so they understand what they have to do.

Write (or elicit) a number of different words on the board. Space them out nicely in different locations on the board. You could base the vocabulary on different themes, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or a topic that you have recently covered in the course textbook.

Next, with the “word whacker” in your hand, say one of the words on the board and hit it. Say a bunch of the other words and strike them with the object so that everyone understands the task.

After the demonstration, call up one student from each team and give them their word whacker.

Call out words randomly that are on the board and the first student to hit the correct word receives a point. Give students a few chances to score more points for their team. After a minute or so, the students can return to their seats, then call up two more students to complete the task.

Other Fun ESL Vocabulary Games for the Classroom

Check out ESL Expat’s website if you would like other fun ESL vocabulary games to use in your classes. The site also features additional resources for language learning on their blog section, including teaching tips and personal stories about teaching English abroad.  

Guest Post by Paul Young

Paul is a certified language instructor currently based in South Korea. For other fun ESL games and information about teaching English abroad, visit his website ESLexpat.com.

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How to ace a Skype interview

Preparing for face-to-face job interviews can be nerve wracking. You’re usually deciding what to wear, what to say, and thinking about how you’ll impress the interview panel. When getting ready for Skype interviews it’s likely you’ll have the same sort of thoughts running around in your head, however there are some major preparation differences you also need to think about. Before coming to China, I had numerous Skype interviews while living in Panama. Most of them went really well (and I got offered several jobs!), so I’d like to share my tips for how to ace a Skype interview.

 

Headphones with microphone on white background.

Before the interview

Before you give out your Skype details, think: Do I have a Skype name and profile that is professional? The interviewer doesn’t want to see some party pic in your profile, nor do they want to know what your cute nickname is (no matter how cute you think it is!).

One of the most important things to do is to check your internet connection well before the interview. There’s nothing worse than having connectivity problems during a Skype interview, where your picture freezes, your sound comes in and out, or the call drops altogether.

Check that the camera and microphone are working. This sounds simple and you might not have had any problems with your camera or microphone before, but this is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. Remember, there’s an option in Skype to do a test call.

Turn the camera on and look at what’s in view of the camera. Make sure that your head and shoulders are centred in the view and make sure there’s something neutral behind you (like a plain wall). You don’t want the interviewer seeing your unmade bed, or laundry in the background!

It’s crucial to check the time difference between where you are and where the interviewer is. There’s nothing worse than agreeing on a time to Skype, then either being way too early, or being late and missing the call!

Make sure you wear an outfit appropriate for an interview (at least on your upper body) and you look well groomed. Sometimes the interview might just be a voice call, but often it’s going to be a video call, so you need to make sure you look professional (and not like you’ve rolled out of bed and you’re still in your pjs!).

Test the lighting in the room and how it looks around you on camera. You should make sure there is enough lighting for the interviewer to clearly see your face, but not too much so that all they see is light!

Have a pen and notepad ready beside you. Before the interview it’s a good idea to write down all the questions you have, and you’ll then be able to take notes during the interview on the main things you need to remember.

Make sure you know who you’re talking to! This sounds strange, but you may have several Skype interviews scheduled over the course of the day or week, and it can be easy to confuse who you’re talking to on which day at which time!

White Keyboard with Sell Yourself Button.

During the interview

Look into the camera. There’s nothing worse than Skyping someone who’s gazing off screen somewhere. On the other hand, too much gazing directly into the camera can also be distracting. Just relax and give your interviewer a measured amount of eye contact, as you would in a normal conversation.

Speak clearly and loud enough for the interviewer to hear you. If you’ve done a test call in Skype before the interview, you’ll know just how loud is loud enough.

It’s easy to become too eager and get closer and closer to the computer screen, but don’t sit too close to the camera. You should’ve checked your camera view before the interview, so make sure to try and maintain that distance throughout.

Don’t have any noise in the background. You don’t need your flatmate blasting his favorite music or tv show, your kids wanting your help grabbing a snack, nor your cat or dog craving a cuddle.

Maybe most importantly of all, be yourself. Even though you’re not face-to-face with the interviewer, be sure to let your personality come across in the interview, and don’t be camera shy. Just relax and nail that interview!

student Man sitting and using computer

After the interview

Send a follow up email thanking the interviewer for the opportunity, asking them to contact you if they need any more information, and that you look forward to hearing from them again soon. This doesn’t take much of your time and shows that you’re keen and thoughtful.

Some of these tips might seem like common sense for Skype interviews. But, it’s surprising how many of these things people just don’t think about, or don’t realize how the little details can make the difference between landing a kick-ass job, and being passed up for someone who was better prepared. So follow these tips, and hopefully you’ll be on your way to an awesome new job and be experiencing a fascinating part of the world!

What are your tips for acing a Skype interview? Let us know in the comments.

How I chose where to live in Chongqing

Having moved to a few different cities in China myself over the years, I have, sort of, worked out a list of things that I look for when I choose my apartment. I have been living, a little like a nomad for the past few years, even changing apartments within the same city a couple of times. Most recently that has been in Chongqing where I have lived for the last almost five years, so this is going to be my reference point.

Moving to a new city, especially if you’re also moving to a new country, is a big deal, and I put a lot of focus on where I choose to live because that, in turn, helps decide my experience in that place. Personally, I prefer to live somewhere near the center of the city, well-connected to transport and with everything within reach. Some may be more focused on prices, which is also an important thing to consider, and some would prefer to be near a specific area, close to parks or such. Thankfully, China is all about conveniences and in any major city, there are several websites and accompanying apps that can help you! If you are new to China and not comfortable with Mandarin just yet, Google Chrome’s website translation function will serve you well! If you know basic Chinese and have some basic knowledge of the city you are moving to, the apps will be even more convenient.

My personal favorites are http://www.fang.com, http://www.anjuke.com, http://www.lianjia.com, and http://www.daojiale.com They’re well organized, they offer apartments that you can buy, and also rent either directly from the owner, or you can rent apartments directly through the community that owns the building. These four websites also have apps that allow you to search on your phone.

When you sign a contract with your school or employer, they will undoubtedly help you find a suitable apartment but I like to look into things myself by getting to know the central districts of the city I am moving to and the locations that I will need to visit most, such as my school, nearby supermarkets, public transportation and so on. In Chongqing, my location of choice is 渝中 district. 渝 is an old name for the city of Chongqing, and 中 means middle which means that it is the central district. Living in (or near) the city center is going to be more expensive than living closer to the edges of the city, and with the very efficient subway system in place in Chongqing, you do not necessarily need to live in the middle. Using the websites, you can quickly get a feel for the kind of apartments you can find as well as the price levels in each area.

The area in 渝中 (YuZhong) where I live is called Daping. And one of the main reasons I chose this area is because of the central location. I am close to two of the subway transfer stations, so I have easy access to subway lines 1, 2 and 3 the three main subway lines in Chongqing. On those subway lines, I can reach all 10 school campuses, the airport, the train station and the Jiefangbei, Nanping and Guanyinqiao shopping centers. Also, the subway station, one of the biggest shopping malls and the hospital are within a 10-minute walk from my apartment, and it is about a 20-minute walk to the Chongqing Olympic Sports Center where you can play basketball, bowling, badminton, table-tennis, and tennis.

Apart from being central, another thing I really like about this area is how much there is to explore. The shopping mall has nice shops and restaurants but often when you want something different or more authentic, you need to look along the smaller streets or in the nearby community areas. Attached to the mall near where I live there is a small community of apartment buildings where the lower 4 floors are all small private shops and restaurants. I actually used to live inside of this area in the past, but now live across the main road because it is quieter here. But that community area is full of shops, 24-hour grocery stores, hairdressers, you name it all within a 10-minute walk from home.

But, there are my other very attractive places to live in Chongqing. Shapingba district is considered the educational center of Chongqing and has most of the training schools’ main offices and lots of universities. Jiangbei, north of YuZhong district is very modern and vibrant, home to another large shopping mall area and the city’s most famous bar street. Jiefangbei which is the financial center of the city at the edge of YuZhong district and then there i Nanping, south of YuZhong which is also fairly large and well-connected!