Life for an international teacher with a young family in China
Adam Wunker from Canada at Harrow Beijing with his wife and daughter
TIC recently caught up with Adam Wunker, a teacher from Canada who we helped to get a teaching position at Harrow International School Beijing. You can read the first interview about Adam and his life at Harrow here. We wanted to find out more about another side of Adam’s life – living in Beijing with a very young family. Below Adam shares the benefits, and challenges, of life with his wife and two young children in a new city and culture:
“We have always lived overseas as a family, and never in Canada. My wife and I moved to India immediately after getting married, and both of our children were born in India. I actually think family life in Canada would probably be very similar to family life in China: most the week is taken up with sleep, work and regular household activities! The main difference would probably be our social circle. It’s probably less diverse than it would be if we lived in Canada, as it mostly consists of teachers and spouses of teachers.
Settling in as a family in Beijing
It took a while for us to get used to Beijing. This was mostly because of the language difference. It is, without a doubt, the biggest hurdle. Very few people speak English and signs are not in English in general. Without conversational Mandarin or a personal translator, it can be hard to get things done. People are often very helpful however, and once you get used to navigating the metro system, it’s great.
Anything you want, you can find in Beijing…eventually! Things will definitely improve as I’m learning more Mandarin. I’ve been interested in learning the language for years but have never had enough motivation to pursue doing it, until now. It’s a challenge, but I’m getting there! The other challenging factor are the occasional bouts of homesickness; they have dampened spirits on occasion but that’s to be expected when living overseas.
Opportunities for our children
Living in Beijing is providing many opportunities for our children. My daughter attends nursery school at Harrow and my son will start there next year. Learning a foreign language from a young age is certainly a major benefit; our children are both bilingual in Mandarin and English. My daughter is as close to fluent as can be expected for a four-year-old. My son speaks more Mandarin than English as he approaches two and a half.
Both our children are well-travelled, without being old enough to fully appreciate what that means! I think as they get older they will start to understand just how few people really comprehend how others live around the world. I think the experience of being outside the bubble of Western democracy and culture is a benefit for our children.
My daughter is one of a handful of non-Chinese students out of more than thirty in nursery. I know being in a minority will be challenging at times, but I think it will also have its benefits.
We now have the opportunity to travel easily in China and throughout Asia.
I went diving in Borneo this past summer, which would have been impossible on a teacher's salary in Canada! Many amazing experiences are open to us and on our doorstep; visiting Xi'an to see the terracotta warriors, walking in Tiananmen Square, on the Great Wall, and through traditional Beijing hutongs.”
TIC helped Adam find his job and be selected for his teaching position at Harrow International School Beijing. You’ll find plenty more advice about teaching in international schools in our Teacher’s Stories section. Register free with TIC now as the main recruitment season occurs in January, February and March.