(note: some of this may be a bit old )
Pros: Actually paid on time (within a day or 2, depending on what day it falls on, holidays, etc); single unit accommodation that is ‘liveable’; free (old) computer and internet in your unit; low hours (max of 18 teaching periods x 45mins); central location within China; REAL job (ie, not a scam); ZERO accountability; almost zero responsibility; some admin staff can be really helpful; many colleagues helpful; foreign teachers generally get on well; students can be cool; a teaching assistant; students to help guide you around when you first get here; airport pick-up.
Cons: Absolutely NO pay scaling for qualifications or experience; Possibility of being ripped off on your money!; classrooms can be filthy, cold, hot etc; Director of FAO – corrupt/dishonest; completely unorganised; students’ accommodations horrendous! (ie, not allowed to have any electrical devices in them, including heaters (Jiujiang gets to minus 6C in Winter); teacher’s accommodation is getting old, and failing; it can take ages to get something done; the weather can be extreme…
often isn’t Spring or Autumn; everyone passes; lack of communication; going without water 1 in every 3weeks on average (for hours at a time, with no warning – and this does NOT include the nightly shut-offs); going without electricity every 2 months (for hours at a time, with no warning); internet connections often crap (D/C’s fairly regular); (jump to the summary at the end if you don’t want the full run-down just yet)
Details: Jiujiang University (JJU – is actually Jiujiang Xueyuan – which is part-way between a university and a vocation/technical college) is located in Jiangxi, about an hour’s flight west from Shanghai.
It sits on the south of the Yellow River (which is relevant – see below). It is home to the famous Lushan (Mt. Lu), and has cultural significance (if you consider the “Cultural Revolution” to be ‘culture’).
It has a nice lake in the middle of the city, a couple of McDonalds and KFC’s, and a Walmart. It is also on the major North-South, and the East-West trainlines, so it’s fairly easy to get a train to somewhere.
It’s got a small airport, so not many flights into there, but only a 45 min train ride up from the capital of Nanchang. The weather – goes from lows of -6C in Winter to +36C in Summer… and often without a Spring or Autumn in between. While many weather sites may tell you Jiujiang (JJ) has an average temperature of 16 degrees, it doesn’t actually stay at that temperature…. Basically, it’s the halfway mark between the min and max.
The air tends to be moist, so in winter, everything stays damp and wet (including the walls and floors ), and in summer, it’s hot and wet (and sweaty). But, days like today are great!!! (*I’m from Brisbane, Australia, and other than winter cold, it reminds me of home… oh, other than the ….
Traffic – it’s horrendous! People have no respect for the traffic laws here – or the police (who don’t care about the traffic laws either!) For that matter, I think many of the locals have no respect for anyone else at all! Spitting is still common (including in the classrooms… ewww!) So is throwing your rubbish wherever you like it.
Jiujiang is NOT particularly westernised! Good coffee is not easy to get, and tends to be expensive. If you like lamb, as I do, you’re pretty much out of luck. You can get beef, but it’s a luxury. They do have plenty of fish, chicken and pork. And vegetables!!! If you like your steak well-done, you’ll need to send it back 3 times (and this at a ‘western’ restaurant where the steak has been imported… so it’s been cooked, deep frozen, then micro-waved, and if you’re lucky, cooked again).
There are NO good quality western restaurants in JJ. Yes, you can get salads, and bad pizza (apparently, Hawaiian pizza has peas and corn… I never knew that), and meh lasagne, to escape Chinese food when you need to, but you need to change cities, or make it yourself, if you get desperate.
The S&N hotel is JJ’s only international 5-star hotel, and does a good buffet for 88RMB. Mostly pretty good eating, but again, western-style cooking is lacking the subtleties that we all know and love. (update: There is a restaurant that has opened up in ShiLi – a pretty short bus trip, and a 5RMB taxi. It now has a new floor manager who spent 30 years in Australia.. he’s trying to make it good, and completely has our sympathies and understands our needs! Give it a month or 2 from now (July 2011), and it should be real good for western food!)
“South of the River”… it’s a term that says, money will be spent on making your life more comfortable in the bad weather – like central heating, etc, if you live NORTH of the river, but not for SOUTH of the river. JJ is on the SOUTHERN bank of the river. Someone forgot about JJ’s weather! Here, there is NO central heating or cooling. We, the wealthy teachers, have air-cons, but the students and classrooms do not! They do have ceiling fans. The walls to the classrooms are covered in mould, the whitewash is peeling, the ceilings on the top floors drip water when it rains, and some of the masonary is coming down.
The toilets… OMFG!!!! They are the old style squat toilets – into a channel! Which only sometimes has the water flush all the shit down the drain. They STINK HORRENDOUSLY!! Even at 8am Monday morning!!!!! The Chinese students’ dorms….
I HATE JJU for this!!! In winter, I hate seeing my kids come into class with blisters on their fingers, hands and lips cos it’s so cold they’re getting hypothermic… because they’re not allowed to have heaters in their rooms. Rice-cookers get confiscated if they’re caught with them (and, they will go through their rooms while the kids are in class). They’re often (or is it usual??) having cold water showers – even in winter.
There are a couple of tertiary education centres in JJ… and JJU is apparently the best… that comes as a complete shock to me! Firstly, according to a website which I can’t easily find now, out of 100, JJU got… 15! (ok, sure, it and a lot of others as well, but still…). All the students know it’s not a good university, and they are there because they didn’t do well in their College Entrance Exam (gaokao).
The university does not like students to fail… so don’t be surprised if admin wants to talk to you about changing their grades if you do so. They have built a new library, which looks great on the outside, but apparently is nothing special inside. The books are, of course, old. They also built a new gate… so that looks all nice and pretty for the visiting dignitaries…. (does nothing for the quality of the place, though). JJU does have a sizable population of foreign students from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and even a few Americans of late.
They have had other students on an exchange program as well. They live in their own, separate, dorms, which are better than the Chinese students’, but worse than the foreign teachers’ (maybe about the same as the Chinese teachers’??) On campus are a couple of small-scale supermarkets selling normal daily items (but not rice!), 4 canteens (food is ok, not really as bad as the students will suggest, but still not great!), a small mall type thing that has lots of tea shops and some fruit and vegetables, a couple of photocopy shops, a bundle of computer type shops together, the occasional tent outside selling mp3’s etc.
The same building has a pool hall and some ping-pong tables. There is an athletics track, and soccer field (full of weeds), and a gym (small), and plenty of basketball courts, another (fake grass) football field, indoor running track and stuff, some tennis courts, another gym with basketball, ping-pong and badminton, and 2 swimming pools (with no water in them). There is yoga available (one of my ex-students is the teacher.. way to go TT!! ), and a couple of martial arts styles available (but, they usually don’t speak a lot of English, but you should find 1 or 2 of the students will).
There is a small shopping area straight outside the school gate, two supermarkets, plenty of street food vendors, a pile of restaurants, a couple of banks, a couple of bars, some pool halls, tea shops (nai cha, etc) lots of clothes shops (including sports stuff), an unbelievable number of hairdressers! A couple of the restaurants have an ?English menu (ie, someone has written English in it… 1 or 2 even have it typed up!) Also, there is a bus-stop straight outside the gate, and large numbers of taxis at most hours of the day or night (beware, they know the academic year, and prices will jump when holidays begin and end, to take you to or from the train station).
There are two buses that run past the uni – both go to the city centre. One goes past, and stops at, the train station. You will, however, normally need to grab a taxi to get to Walmart, though you can bus and walk for 10 mins. A lot of students will speak English with you, but your taxi drivers and other shop staff won’t (well, it’s extremely rare!). There is another larger supermarket about 5 mins up the road by bus, if you don’t get what you want at the local one. There are also other restaurants, and other banks there You will get looked at at first… but it usually wears off pretty quickly.
It’s mostly just the freshman (1st year students) who come from out of town who have never seen a real live weiguoren… (and you will hear them say it too!) the local shops are used to us. There is also a kung-fu school outside the gate, where you can learn kung-fu or taiji (They’re not too good with the English, though, nor are most of the students, but you might get lucky ) Admin….
The Director of the FAO, Sam Shuai, is lazy and incompetent. You will find his name has come up on other forums, and in similar contexts (or worse!!!). When I mentioned the CELTA to him, he had no idea what I was talking about (“CELTA? What’s that?”).
He will also lie point-blank to your face (although, you can tell when he’s lying, he blinks a lot….). He will lie, he will cheat, he will do anything he can to not honour your contract (for which you are due), and he will make baseless threats and ridiculous assertions if you try to point out what the contract says. He will say ‘no’ to just about anything you ask of him.. or send you to Wendy (see below – this is not a punishment or threat, just him choosing not to deal with something that is clearly his responsibility).
If you push him, he’ll BS about rules and processes, and all that. If you push harder, he’ll still BS, but things can suddenly get a lot easier (or done) (example – last summer holiday, they weren’t going to pay us until we got back. I said otherwise, and he BS’ed. So, I said I’ll just go have a chat with the president. He said ‘Oh, you can’t do that, there are processes, and blah blah blah….”. We got paid a few days later).
OTOH, one of the other teachers has said that his opinion of Sam did increase a few months ago, when he went out of his way to do something (which, personally, I think was because he was only trying to save his own face). You may be ‘threatened’ with the results of your ‘assessment’…. Which amounts to basically nothing.
Your teaching assistant may come to your class once (twice, if they care), write a few notes, get the names and numbers of the class monitors and speak with them, write up some more notes… all part of the game. (funny, he never thinks about MY assessment of HIS university… well, probably not until now :P). I know of teachers who got their pay docked the last 2 weeks of the academic year.
They had completed all classes – on time and in accordance with the schedule, done their exams, and handed in the results – but because they weren’t there until the last day of the contract, they got their last pay docked! I know of one other teacher who told me she got stung for 10000RMB (because she didn’t count, and signed off on it). And another who said he needed a plane ticket cancelled, and they didn’t do it – so it cost him a few thousand RMB as well!
IF you choose to come here (you were warned!), have as little to do with him as you can! (I did – except for contract issues) The rest of the FAO admin consists of 3 people – Wendy (fairly cool and easy to get on with once you’ve gotten on her good side, which really isn’t hard), Oscar, who is permanently lazy (his job consists of watching movies, playing games, and occasionally checking what’s wrong when you’ve made a complaint in detail about your accommodation… oh, and translating sometimes with the repairmen (I think…. Not sure if he actually translated anything…), and is supposed to be the FAO computer genius… whose suggestion for making a pc run faster was Format c:\ ), and one other who can change from semester to semester or year to year. Of late, this has been a teacher. Said teachers are usually quite helpful, when they can be (why are teachers doing admin…???).
So, while they are new, and don’t know the ropes, they will try hard (probably because they know the feeling!) They will get Americans to teach an IELTS-preparation type course (you know the one, IELTS – for ENGLISH, AUSTRALIAN and NZ universities…. before they are supposed to go to ENGLAND…. so, of course they ask Americans to teach it! Ok, there was a Canadian as well…..). And, yes, there are English and Australian teachers here who could do it. (no, there is no pay difference ). (NB: this is NOT a shot at the teachers, but is just telling you about the organisation and thinking the university has). Faculty of Foreign Languages… there is no curriculum.
You will be given some books, and suggested to look over them. Only a couple of the teachers bother with them, and even then, not a lot. The FFL doesn’t care. The dean is easy to get along with, and her English is pretty good (you can often drop in for a coffee and chat). The other (Chinese) teachers can be easy to get along with, although you may only actually meet a couple of them… there’s not a lot of mixing going on. The FFL will at least sympathise with your plight with bad students, and have at least accepted when you kick them out and to go explain to the dean why they are lazy (ie, no repercussions… so far).
FAO and FFL don’t communicate very well with each other. I said to FAO that I was interested in a specialised teaching program, before the summer holiday. More than 2 months later, and only a few days before the year began, FFL still didn’t know if I was teaching the specialised program, or the normal one… You will teach whatever you want (which has included sex, so I’ve been told), how you want (which has included hung-over). There are no guidelines for assessment…So, basically, you make it all up as you go, and give them a mark at the end (you’ll hear conflicting information as to whether you should give a mid-semester exam or not).
You won’t know your schedule until maybe the day before… if you’re really lucky, you’ll get it a few days before! Maximum of 18 teaching periods, which is actually 9 x 2, with a 5 minute break in between. Some teachers get shafted, and are ‘sent’ outside to some middle or primary school (if they do this to you, refuse!). You can move classes around, and classrooms around too… just chat with your students. Ah… the students! The joy and bane of every teacher’s life (well, other than admin…). As mentioned previously, this is at the lower end of Chinese university rankings, and so the students aren’t the best. But, you will have some really really good kids… and some really lazy ones.
They all know English, but how well they speak and listen is variable. You will find a couple in each class who will go out of their way to help you, to chat with you, to go where you need to go and translate for you… and buy you drinks, lunch and dinner Some might become friends (I know I’ve made a few). I think it’s about a 40:60 stay:go ratio for teachers. A few (4??) have been here for a few years, and there are usually a couple of teachers who will do a couple of years before leaving, while a couple of others will go after just the first year (or, in the case of one experienced and PROFESSIONAL teacher, 6 months, after he got sick of the incompetence and apathy here).
The other teachers… For the most part, I got on really well with them all (only a couple of exceptions, and I wasn’t the only one – but as anyone who does this for a job, that’s not unusual!). The time I was there, we had a lot of laughs, and some great times! The camaraderie was great! (not everyone will agree, but hey, that’s life!) We have a great little social scene going, lots of parties, lots of gatherings, lots of dealings with each other (I was less social, so I missed out on lots ).
They choose to stay (after all my warnings :p) because it is an easy life! If you ignore the BS, and the incompetence, and just live your own life outside of the uni, it’s pretty cool Tell Kyle IN ADVANCE that you are coming, and he will try to ensure you get what you need … like toilet paper! (a basic necessity that my unit was missing when I got here).
Summary: If you’re just after an easy lifestyle, or a lazy working holiday, you can do worse than JJU (and, obviously, some have experienced much worse…). You will get your 5000RMB paid to you on time (within days – unless it’s long vacation, but even that can be arranged!), and you won’t get hassled (though you will get BSed). Watch out for other losses though! If, however, you’re a qualified, experienced and professional teacher, steer clear of this place! The pay for such teachers is crap, they don’t care that you can actually teach, and there is no curriculum of any type. There is NO pay scaling for qualifications (not that the FAO even recognise them), nor for years of experience… your years of training and slaving are completely irrelevant. Your only role in this position is to be an advertisement… “Look, we have real foreign teachers”.
End. Of. Story.
If you’ve got any further queries, just PM me.