English Teacher Interview: Rachel of Grateful Gypsies

Rachel taught English in China and now travels the world while working for VIPKID! She and her husband, Sasha, write a travel blog called Grateful Gypsies. Read about her experience!

Strolling the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta

1. Where are you from?

Johnson City, Tennessee

2. What made you decide to teach abroad?

I decided to teach abroad after hearing about Sasha’s amazing experiences and seeing his beautiful photos of the all the travels he was able to do as a result.

3. Which program did you work with?

I did not begin teaching abroad with a program. I chose a country and just went there. It helped that Sasha had already been there and knew it was awesome.

4. What country did you choose?

I went to Beijing, China. 

5. Was teaching abroad your first experience in China?

Yes. I had never been to Beijing before teaching there.

6. What grades did you teach?

I have taught students of all ages from 2 years old all the way up to 65 years old. I prefer teaching adults more than anything because I can learn just as much from them as they can from me. Aside from that I really enjoy teaching 8-10-year-olds. I think it’s a perfect age; they’re old enough to have a conversation about their life and opinions but not old enough to have that bad attitude that teens and pre-teens tend to develop.

7. Had you worked with children in education before teaching abroad?

Before teaching abroad I worked in a daycare center in the US during the summer months. I worked with school-age children who’s parents had full-time jobs and needed a place to send them while school was on summer vacation. We would take them on educational field trips so it was fun but they were still learning. I also tutored ESL students as part of an after-school program. 

8. What surprised you most about the education system in China?

There are many things that surprise me about the education system in China but the most surprising thing is that their entire system revolves around test taking. Most of their studies consist of trying to memorize the information. They are not taught critical thinking skills nor do they have the chance to be creative. Even in high school they don’t do group projects or write papers. High school students in China can only take the college entrance exam one time. If they fail they have to retake their last year of high school or work crappy jobs for the rest of their lives. Their entire high school experience is just preparing for the Gao Kao.

9. What were your favorite/least favorite parts of the job?

My favorite part of the job is seeing the difference English makes in my students’ lives. I have seen several university students go on to study abroad in an English speaking country and I have been there when my adult students landed jobs with international companies.
My least favorite part is trying to navigate cultural differences and language barriers. 

10. What was your favorite word or phrase your students used?

“Easy peasy lemon squeezy!” (Said when something is super easy and they know they can nail it!)

11. What was your favorite part of living in China?

My favorite part about living in China was learning the language and history. Exploring all the ancient capitals was always so interesting. We also camped on the Great Wall and the feeling of sleeping on something that ancient is pretty indescribable.

These days I’m living in Mexico and teaching online. It’s the third foreign country I’ve lived in. The number one thing I love about living in any country is getting outside and exploring nature. Plus, I love trying the food and learning about the different cuisines.

12. What advice would you give a prospective teacher abroad?

If you’re considering teaching abroad, just go for it! You’ll never have another experience like it in your life. It’s no walk in the park, but it’s incredibly rewarding. The challenges make the successes that much better. It will open so many doors to other opportunities and it will make you a better person.

Thank you so much, Rachel! Glad to see you are still traveling and making the most of it!

Check out Rachel’s blog, Grateful Gypsies 

If you are a volunteer, language assistant, or English teacher abroad and would like to participate in an interview, let me know via the contact tab!

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