Monday, August 10, 2020

Learning Mandarin Chinese for Moving Abroad

The thought of moving to a country where I don't speak the language has been a little overwhelming. I decided to self study at home and learn what I can. I have gotten my kids in on the language learning as well. Here are a few of the tools we have been using to learn Mandarin Chinese:

  1. Self Study online with Yoyo Chinese (Free to begin)
  2. Self Study book with CD: Get Talking Chinese ($11 on Amazon)
  3. Online classes for kids with Lingo Bus (Free demo class, then $13-$15 per individual classes, there are often special deals on group classes and bundles)
Yoyo Chinese Cover Photo: from 

Yoyo Chinese

I love things that are totally free! So the first thing I did was look for a free resource online. Yoyo Chinese has a lot of great reviews, so I started there. I watched a few videos that were included with Amazon Prime. Those videos were great! The videos explained the different tones. It was really helpful. There are free lessons through the website that are available. There are also lessons you can purchase. Here is the information directly from the YoYo Chinese website about what is free:

"We recommend you start by checking out the free lessons at the start of the Beginner Conversational Course. You’ll start speaking, understanding, and reading Chinese right away, and also experience going through the lessons, reviews, and quizzes, so you can decide if like learning Chinese with us.

The first few units of our Intermediate Conversational Course and Yoyo 300 Chinese Character Course are also available to check out for free."

I just started this program, so depending on how it goes, I may purchase some of the lessons. There are often coupon codes and discounts. I'm going to complete what is free and decide from there. What I really like about the videos I watched on Amazon Prime is that they are just a few minutes long, and really easy to understand. I like things that are short and simple!

Get Talking Chinese Book: Photo from

Get Talking Chinese

This book and CD combo was such a great deal, I couldn't pass it up. For $11, you get a full color language guide and accompanying CD. The book explains the tones, gives cultural tips, and is full of useful phrases. I really want to master the content of this book because it is so helpful. The book is beautiful to look at and an easy read. It's not a text book, but something I would recommend. The only bummer is that there's no online audio. You have to find a CD player or upload it to your computer (if your computer has a CD player). I have been listening to it in the car.

After I become a little more comfortable with the language, I would like to work through an actual text book. I have looked up a few different options for those, but I am not quite ready to invest a lot in a text book. I think this book is a great introduction for beginners.

Lingo Bus Cover Photo: from

Lingo Bus

I am a VIPKid teacher, so I get a discount on Lingo Bus classes since they are sister companies. My six year old daughter loves these classes! She has had three different teachers and enjoyed learning with each one. Recently they ran a special where students could participate in two "super group" classes and one 1:1 class for just $10. I could not pass up this deal. The super group classes were really fun and interactive. She did need some help from me to know what buttons to press and to encourage pronunciation.

I think taking these super group classes before a 1:1 class in an excellent idea. It allows children to become familiar with the words while playing games, so they can get more out of the 1:1 class when it is time. We can't always afford to take Lingo Bus classes, but when they run specials I jump on it because I do love the classes. They also offer a lot of free resources like flash cards, a coloring book, and the FREE demo class. I have a referral link if you would like to try the free demo (I get 5 free classes when someone purchases a bundle), but you do not need to purchase anything to try the demo class. Click HERE for the Lingo Bus referral link.

Will we learn enough?

I am hoping we can learn enough Mandarin Chinese to successfully communicate short phrases with people once we arrive in China. If for some reason our phones die and we need to tell someone something important, we need to be ready. I am also planning to make a few survival flashcards to carry with us in our bag. Something with simple phrases asking where things are, a card containing our new address, and anything else that may help us. We don't know yet when we will be able to travel, so I am doing my best to prepare us in every way before we leave.

Does anyone have any other tips for us? I would love to hear them! Thanks for following our adventure! -Michelle

Sunday, August 9, 2020

What Degree Do I Need to Teach Abroad?

Wow! You're moving to China?

When I tell people I am moving my family to China to teach English, they often wonder a few things: 

  1. Do I speak Mandarin Chinese?
  2. What type of degree do I have?
I Wish I Spoke Mandarin 

I definitely do not speak Mandarin Chinese. Although we are trying to learn some of the language before traveling abroad, I am not a fluent speaker. Right now I can say "hello" and name a few family members. If you are interested in teaching abroad, but are worried that you won't get hired because you don't speak the language, don't worry! Most programs use English Immersion, which means they actually prefer teachers not to speak another language in the classroom. You don't need to learn the language of that country before becoming an English teacher there. 

My Degree is not in Teaching

It may surprise some people, but I don't have a degree in Teaching. I also don't have a degree in English or English as a Second Language. My educational background is Criminology, Psychology, and Counseling. I do have experience working as a personal counselor in a school setting. In one of my previous jobs I facilitated educational groups that taught social skills and substance abuse prevention. I believe my experience working in the school system has been helpful when applying for jobs at schools abroad. 

I have also been an online ESL teacher since April of 2019. The skills I have learned while working as an online teacher have been incredibly helpful. I believe working for a reputable, well known Chinese company has also helped boost my resume. If you are interested in working from home as an ESL teacher with the company I work for, you can find information to apply HERE and message me. I will be happy to help you.

Keep it Legal 

All legal jobs teaching abroad require a bachelor's degree in any subject. So yes, use that Criminology or Theatre degree to be an English teacher! Your bachelor's degree is your ticket to legally teaching abroad. Another thing that schools require is a 120 hour TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Don't worry, this does not actually take 120 hours to complete. I completed my course online through International Open Academy. The cost was $19 and it took about 4-5 hours to complete every module. 

The course is full of helpful information for teaching another language. Once the course is completed, you can download your certificate for free, or order a certified copy for $26. There are a few different companies that provide this certification. Make sure the company you choose is accredited. You don't want to spend time and money getting a certification that you can't use at your school. So far my TESOL has been accepted at an online company based in China and at the school I am going to work for in Hainan, so I believe International Open Academy to be a reliable, inexpensive option. I have an affiliate link for the 120 Hour TEFL with IOA, you can click HERE to purchase with my link and receive a discount.

Read my Motivational Ad

Sometimes I feel like a walking advertisement for moving abroad because I am so passionate about what we are doing. My ad goes something like this: "Aren't happy with your current lifestyle? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have dreams of traveling the world? All you need is a bachelor's degree!".  I know it's a little more complicated than that, but I never realized I was already holding such a big piece of what I needed. Do you have dreams of traveling? Maybe you don't have a bachelor's degree. If you started a degree program now, you could be on your way to teaching and traveling in just a few years. My husband doesn't have a bachelor's degree, so this may be one of his goals while we are abroad. This way we can both work overseas if we want to. 

The future is wide open! There are so many places we want to see and explore. Thank you for following our adventure! -Michelle

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Virtual Interview for Job in Hainan

My First Virtual Interview

I have never virtually interviewed for a job before. I was really nervous about this! I had been in contact with the teacher liaison about the English teacher position in Hainan. He asked me to send him my resume and an introduction video. After reviewing those items he asked me if I could do a virtual interview. Of course I agreed! Having a virtual interview was a really interesting experience. 

The interview was done over WeChat, Chinese social media. We agreed on a time and who would be present during the interview. The school director and the teacher liaison were both present. I dressed professionally and went to my home office for the interview. My home office is quiet and is decorated as a teaching space. The lighting is great, and I have my webcam and headset plugged in that I use for teaching. At the interview time I received a video chat call over WeChat.

Let's Start the Interview

At the beginning of the interview we said "Hello" and introduced ourselves. The school director and liaison took turns being on camera and speaking with me. I was asked to describe my teaching experience and education. After that, they began to explain the teaching position and curriculum to me. They took turns explaining what the teaching requirements are, and I was sent photos of some of the curriculum. They told me about the city where the school is located. I will be teaching at a school in Wenchang, which is close to the major city of Haikou. 

The school representatives explained the benefits that are included with this position. Some of the benefits are: health coverage, housing, utility allowance, flight reimbursement, and holiday bonuses. The job pays a base salary and additional income per class taught. There is also a bonus payment for classes over a certain amount per week. I will be paid my base salary while I am off for two months in the summer, so this is wonderful! Each year I am provided with flight reimbursement, which is so helpful since flights from the USA to China are expensive, especially for five people. 

The interview went great! Everyone was so friendly and easy to talk with. After the interview I was offered the position and sent a sample contract. I reviewed the contract and then sent it to my Teach Abroad Squad mentor. The Teach Abroad Squad program not only offers an educational course, but also private mentoring and services like contract review. I can not say enough good things about this program. At some point I will do an entire post about it. 

The Big Pause 

It was while I was in the contract review stage that my husband and I decided to put the travel dream on hold. I notified the school representatives of our decision. They were so gracious and understanding. They told me to let them know if anything changed (which thankfully it did). We remained in contact over WeChat during the following months. This left the door open for me to message them when my husband and I decided we wanted to unpack the traveling dream. 

The virtual interview was a great experience for me. I am happy that I had such a successful interview. If I ever need to interview for another position abroad, I won't be as nervous. I would be happy to answer any questions about what the interview process is like. Please comment below and I will do my best to answer them. I will also include the video I sent as an introduction. I was nervous about sending this, so it would have been helpful for me to have a sample to watch. I was a little stiff and nervous in this video, but it got the job done. 

Thanks for following our adventure! -Michelle

My Introduction Video

Sunday, August 2, 2020

How do you find a job teaching in China?

Finding a Teaching Job in China 

There are a few ways to find a job teaching in China. If you are new to this teach abroad life, I would recommend joining a program like Teach Abroad Squad, where a professional can provide you with trusted job boards. You want to make sure your job is the real deal. A worthwhile salary and a solid contract are essential! There are also recruiters who work for different schools. If you know a trusted recruiter, this is another great way to look for a job. They may even be able to put you in contact with other recruiters that they know and trust. You don't want to end up working at a school in a terrible location or not making the kind of money you should be making. I chose to join Teach Abroad Squad because I wanted a real life person to meet with, to talk about this journey, and to help me every step of the way. I personally don't know anyone who has taught abroad, and I am nervous about such a big change for my whole family. I actually ended up not finding my job through my mentor there, but once you are in the squad, you stay in the squad. So I know I will be able to ask for help in my next job search. 

How I Found My Job in Hainan

I was looking for a very location specific job, so I went about my job search the best way I knew how: social media stalking!

I did a Facebook search for "Teaching Hainan". I sorted through so many public posts. Finally, I came across a post by a woman who was a teacher at a university in Hainan. How lucky! I decided to reach out to her and send her a Facebook message. I hoped she would receive it and that she wouldn't think I was a weirdo! As my good fortune would have it, she received the message and did not think I was totally strange. She has been so incredibly helpful in every aspect of my job search. Shout out to Carol for being amazing! 

I asked her a million questions. She told me about the university she worked at. She shared her experiences living in Hainan. She told me everything I needed to know. She put me in touch with the Teacher Liaison from the university. I began to message him on WeChat (Chinese social media). He sent me all of the information about the job, benefits, and what I would need to apply. Within a few weeks I completed my virtual interview and I was offered a teaching position! 

Taking a Pause

It was at that point my husband and I talked and decided to put the dream on hold. (You can read more about that HERE) Everyone at the school was so kind and understanding. We maintained contact on WeChat over the past few months. That left the door open for me to message him when our situation changed. Right now I am sending him all of the documents he needs to process my teaching application. 

Where You Can Start

If you aren't sure where to start, I would highly recommend joining this FREE Facebook group: China Teach Abroad Community. There are a lot of knowledgeable people there with experience teaching in China. There are also many new people like us who ask great questions! There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of jobs available to teach English in China. It's just a matter of finding the one that is right for you and your family. There are high salaries, great benefits, and fantastic locations. There is an entire Teach Abroad world that I am just now learning about. Everyone's dream life looks different. Mine involves seeing the world and exploring other cultures! 

Thank you for following our adventure! -Michelle 

What is Document Authentication?

When teaching abroad in China, you will need to get a few documents authenticated. This is verification that the documents are official. When traveling with a family, there are a few extra documents you will need to have authenticated. Your school or other place of employment may ask for a specific list. Here is a list of documents I am having authenticated before moving abroad:
  1. My highest degree: I have a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree, but I am only having the Master's Degree authenticated. 
  2. My 120 Hour TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certification: I obtained this online from International Open Academy. I was able to order a certified copy of my certificate to have authenticated. The cost was around $27. 
  3. My marriage licence: Since my husband is traveling with us, this is required. 
  4. My children's birth certificates: My two youngest children are under the age of 18, so they will need to have their birth certificates authenticated and sent to the school. 
  5. Background checks for everyone in my family over 18 years old. These can be obtained by your county police headquarters. Ours costs $9 each and we were able to have them locally notarized at the police headquarters. 
Now you know what documents to round up. Next is the authentication process. How does this work? It involves sending your documents to a lot of people to have them notarized. 

Step 1: Have a local notary in your city notarize all documents. 
Step 2. Send your documents to the Secretary of State to have all documents notarized by the state. 
Step 3: Have all documents notarized by your state's closest Chinese Consulate

If any document needs to be authenticated by the Chinese Consulate, it will first need to be notarized at the local and state level first. If you are using a visa service company, you can most likely include these documents with your visa applications. 

I will update this post with prices as we get this done. Right now we are in the process of gathering all documents. I'm searching the house for my diploma (I don't know how someone loses a diploma, but I'm the person this happens to. *insert eye roll*). I'm also waiting on my certified TESOL to arrive. 

I hope this was helpful! Thank you for following our adventure! -Michelle 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Family Travel Abroad Documentation: Passports

So you're moving 5 people to China... How do you even begin to prepare the travel documents for that many people? 

One step at a time. 

Start with what will take the longest, which will be your passports. I was so nervous about turning in my passport application. I didn't want to stand in a long line and wait forever. I was also stressed about the picture. Where should I have it taken? Should I take my own at home? Will the quality be good enough? Here I come with some tips that will make this easier and less overwhelming for you! 

  • It's ok to do one passport at a time. Unless you have some money saved up, this may be the only financially reasonable option. We started with mine. The cost was $110 for the passport, $15 for getting the picture taken at the post office, and $35 for the post office processing fee. A total of $160. Getting my application turned in first made it less overwhelming to work on everyone else's passports. 

  • Make an appointment at the post office. Yes, you can make a special passport appointment! Then you don't have to wait in line and it's quick and easy. 

  • Complete your application online and print it. Fill everything out, and have it printed and ready before you go. Don't sign it, you will do that there. 

  • Take your picture at the post office. It's $15 which is the same price as most drug stores. Save yourself the stress and get it done in one place. They will also provide you with an extra picture that you can use for your Visa application. This way you are sure the photo meets all of the requirements. 

  • Make black and white copies before you go. Make a copy of the front and back of your ID or Driver's License, and your Birth Certificate. 

  • Bring your checkbook. The $110 passport fee will be sent separately by check or money order. You can purchase a money order there at the post office, but bring your check book to make it easier. The other $50 you can pay by debit card or credit card. 

  • Picture tip: I was told you can smile a little, as long as you can still see the whites of your eyes. I thought I had a little smile in my picture, but I definitely do not, haha! 

I hope this post was helpful for you and makes the passport process seem a little less overwhelming. Thank you for following the adventure! -Michelle

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Adventure That Almost Didn't Happen

When traveling with a family, everyone's opinions matter. In February, my husband had some big concerns with moving abroad. He was worried about leaving his current place of employment. He wondered, "Would I be able to find anything that pays as much when we return?". He did't want to see our family struggle financially when we returned back to the USA. We decided to put the traveling abroad dream on hold for a while. It was a grieving process for me, since this was a big dream of mine. When you are a single person, you can focus on what you want. When you are part of a couple and part of a family unit, it is important to consider how everyone is feeling. It was a hard time for me, but I got through it and focused on my teaching job (which I love), and on my family. 

Fast forward to July 2020. No one is going to China. The borders are closed. My husband tells me one morning, "I think we should do it. I think we should move to China. Let's go!". I was pretty shocked and I wasn't sure if he was serious. Is he for real? He told me he thought about it and there are a lot of reasons he wants to travel. He told me he is tired of working long hours and not spending as much time with our family. He doesn't want to be stressed out about work at such a young age. He likes the idea of exploring a new country together as a family. Now we are on the same page and ready to begin planning our adventure!

Before we decided to put the dream on hold, I was offered a position teaching English at a University in Hainan, China. (Yes, the exact location I was hoping for!) The university is near the city of Haikou. I contacted the school liaison and updated him on our situation. He told me they were still looking for English teachers. Yes! Now the preparation work begins. I want to be as prepared as we can be before the borders open. What I usually would have spread out over six months, I am preparing to complete in about three months. There are so many factors that are out of my hands. Sometimes you just do your best and let the rest fall into place. 

I will post separately about all of the documents I have been preparing for my school. There is a lot happening there, so it is worthy of a second post. It is going to be a lot of work, but I am so excited to share every step of this adventure. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Six Month Checklist for Moving Abroad

It's February 2020! We plan to be in China in August of 2020, so here is my checklist of  some things to start working on over the next six months. I hope to create more specific monthly goal checklists in the future.

  1. Passports. I want to complete everyone's passport application forms. There are five of us, so this may take some time. My goal is to start buying 1-2 passports per month. Each passport costs about $145. We live in the United States. The cost for the passport book is $110. There is an execution fee of $35, which brings the price total to $145 per person. For more information on United States passports, click HERE
  2. Time to apply for jobs! I have been sending my resume and introduction video to recruiters. I want plenty of time to apply, interview, review contracts, and make decisions about a job. Many schools don't start posting August jobs until March, so I haven't actually applied to any positions yet. I have been making connections with recruiters and getting an idea of the types of jobs available. 
  3. Storage options. I am going to start calling around and getting quotes for a yearly storage rate. I made a list of all of the furniture we will be putting in storage. I have a general idea of how much space we will need. If you have family or friends that can store things for you, even better! With five people and some fairly new furniture pieces, we are going to need a storage unit.  
  4. Visas. Completing the visa application process won't happen until I have accepted a job. What I need to do now is make sure we are saving enough money for each person to purchase a visa. According to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, Illinois, the cost of a visa is $140. You can find the fee schedule HERE. This is a cost I didn't think about at first, it's good to plan ahead for expenses. 
  5. Downsize. This will be a process! We are a family of five who are not minimalists. I need to go through the house and downsize room by room. What can we give away or sell now? What can we give away or sell right before we leave? Is there anything I can pack up now and prepare for storage? Things like holiday decorations and keepsakes can get packed now. 
  6. Survival Chinese lessons. We are looking at apps and books to help us learn a few Chinese phrases and words. I hope if we start practicing now, we will be able to ask where the bathroom is when we get to China!
  7. Kid Prep. I am preparing the kids for our move. We have been discussing this as a family for months, but now is the time where we are really discussing our plans and what it will be like. For my 19 year old we are talking about what types of things he will do when he arrives. For the little ones we are talking about Chinese culture and reading books about China. 
  8. Budget like a Boss. Through my Teach Abroad Course, I have a few different budget sheets I have been working on. I have been planning for how much money we need to save before we leave to cover the start up living expenses, plane tickets, and any other expenses we might have to plan for. 
  9. Preparing Social Media. I want to document the "how" and much as we document the "fun". On social media I see a lot of people traveling and exploring the world. What I don't know is how they got there. Are they independently wealthy? Did they find a remote job? What is going on behind the scenes? So this is why, six months from our anticipated travel date, I have locked down a website and several social media accounts. 
  10. Animal Arrangements. Some people travel abroad with their pets. We are not going to do this. We have two small dogs who are 9 years old. One has diabetes and requires a lot of medical care. Luckily for us, my mom and dad have agreed to take care of our dogs while we are gone. My mom may have thought I was joking when she agreed to this, but either way the pets are taken care of. So if you have pets and you aren't planning to take them, allow plenty of time to find a long term care placement for them. 
I'm sure there are more things I will add to my lists as I am planning. These are a few things that are at the forefront of my mind right now. Has your family traveled abroad? What did you do to prepare? 

Thank you for following our adventure! -Michelle 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Location! Location!

It's all about the location! China is a large country with so many beautiful cities. Narrowing down a location has been a challenge. Our family talked about it, and we all agreed we want to move somewhere warm and tropical. We want to live near the beach because we love the beach! After a lot of research, we decided Hainan would be a wonderful location for us. The island has so many attractions and excellent weather. We are really interested in the city of Sanya. It has beautiful beaches and is a popular tourist area. 

Beautiful Sanya (Photo credit:

Why Hainan, China?

We are looking for a climate that will provide more opportunities for outdoor activities. One of our goals for when we arrive in China is to improve our health. We want our family to be more active and eat healthier foods. Living a life with natural activity is our goal. Walking to local transportation, parks, and even restaurants will be great! Hainan is referred to as the “Hawaii of China” because of its location on the map. Even though the summers may get pretty hot, I will take most of the year being temperate. Maybe we can travel north when I am off work for the summer!

Sanya, Hainan on the map (Photo Credit:

Where we move will depend on the job market. I think I have an idea of the salary I need to make to cover the cost of living. I have also thought a lot about the type of job I want. Teaching jobs are available at training centers, kindergartens, international schools, high schools, universities, and more! At the moment my plan is to look for a job at a university. I love teaching my little students, I'm just not sure I am up for that as a full time job. I might change my mind, but for now teaching older students is what I will look for first.

It will be interesting to see where we end up! Thanks for following our adventure! -Michelle

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Big Questions, Short Post

If you don't really feel like reading through all of the pages about who we are and what we are doing... here is a short summary that will answer some of your questions.

Who? We are a family of five from St. Louis, Missouri, in the Midwest, USA.
What? We are putting our belongings in storage and moving our whole family to China!
When? August 2020
Where? Hopefully a warm city with a beach in China
Why? Adventure, Lifestyle Change, Affordability, Financial Relief
How? Planning, Allowing Time, Saving

This is our first post! I thought it would be important if we documented this process from the beginning as much as possible. Some of these details might change, like when and where. I hope things will stay how I plan them as much as possible, but I have learned to go with the flow! Thanks for following our adventure! -Michelle