July 13, 2018, by Naomi Imms

A Year on from Graduation: Living and Working in China

By Vanessa Wilson, MA Translation Studies, 2017

As graduation looms, so do thoughts about what comes next. Life after graduation may still seem unreal, especially when you’ve just recovered from dissertation writing and final exams. However, the summer is now definitely upon us, dissertations have (hopefully!) been handed in and graduate life beckons. 

This time last summer I was facing graduation, deciding what to do with my future, and can share the lessons I learned in the year that followed.

What do I want to do next?

It can be hard to know exactly what you want to do after graduation, but setting goals and criteria for a job based on your talents and personal requirements such as location or working hours is a good place to start. When establishing my criteria for a job after graduating I had three things in mind: my interest in linguistics and languages, using my skills and – most importantly – travel.

I also wanted to build on the experiences I’d enjoyed at university. I took part in the ‘Students in Classrooms’ scheme, travelled to Thailand with a university British Council scheme and got a Student Ambassador post through Unitemps in my final year. These opportunities were a big part of what made my time at university so amazing.

Seizing opportunities

I was very attentive to emails from Careers and upon reading about an English language teaching post at a university in China, I was intrigued. Fast-forward to four months later when I arrived in Shanghai ready to travel to Xuzhou and start teaching at China University of Mining and Technology!

Xuzhou itself is perfectly located for a newcomer to China as it is between Beijing and Shanghai and the high-speed trains make it very easy to travel around.

Overcoming challenges

Preparing to make the move to China, everyday living and not speaking any Mandarin were challenges in themselves. The whirlwind of Chinese documentation and stamps in the first few weeks was a little overwhelming, as was standing in front of university students on the first day and hoping they would understand me and my lessons.

Of course they did, and these challenges have made me more confident and able to take problems in my stride.

Reflecting on the experience

I’ve had great experiences that I will never forget. The Chinese New Year holiday provided an excellent opportunity to travel, try different food and immerse myself in the culture.

Although teaching English at a university was not something I ever considered as a career, it filled my job criteria and this year-long placement has provided an invaluable insight into the Chinese education sector.

Now with six months in China under my belt and four more to go, I feel lucky to have been able to start work immediately after handing in my dissertation, in a position which has greatly enhanced my professional and personal skills. Of course, my Mandarin could and probably should be better, but there’s still time!

My advice

Opportunities like this should always be considered even if you aren’t sure that you want to end staying in that line of work. By being proactive in applying for opportunities which came up while studying and being more open to the jobs I wanted to do after graduation, I have had an amazing experience that will only make my CV more attractive to employers in the future.

Interested in following in Vanessa’s footsteps? Contact Jessy Cheng (Global Employment Manager for China) for more information about the English language teaching role that Vanessa did at the China University of Mining Technology.

If you’re unsure about your options, start with our choosing your career pages. You can also make an appointment to speak to us – we’re open over summer 10am5pm on weekdays.


Posted in Alumni StoriesCareers AdviceChoosing Your CareerWork experience