Appreciating Chinese Art While Teaching English Abroad


As any good student of art history knows, fine art isn’t something limited to the West. In fact, the ancient art that has come from the Orient far predates anything found in Europe.

My love and appreciation for all theses art was the primary motivating factor that led me to teach English abroad—and to go somewhere that was a distinctly foreign culture to my own. Being the son of European immigrants, most of Europe did not fit this description, as I have been there numerous times to visit family members and do some sightseeing.

However, I have never been anywhere in Asia. I had never been to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or anywhere else. Everything was completely foreign to me—and that was precisely the appeal of it all.

Now that I had the idea in my mind to do some traveling abroad, the next hurdle that presented itself, was how am I, a struggling artist living in San Francisco going to afford my way all the way to a different country to take in their culture and art in any meaningful way?

After doing some digging, the answer appeared to me with bright lights, clear as day. I found a number of organizations that offer PAID programs to teach English in Hangzhou and elsewhere.

There it is! That’s the ticket! Are you telling me that I can actually get paid to go overseas, live out a lifelong dream, and learn all along the way? Sign me up.

It didn’t take much time at all and I was on my way to mainland China to teach a classroom full of eager students who wanted to learn how to speak and write in English. Don’t get me know, this wasn’t something that just anyone could do. I always excelled in English, all throughout high school and college. And, in fact, I have a minor in creative writing, so this was something that was right up my alley. But, all in all, if you get the certification to teach English in Baotou, and you meet all the other requirements, you can do the same thing.

So, off I was to a new land, full of learning, adventure, and a new culture I had never experienced.

After teaching for a few months, a few of the other schools affiliated with my placement organization came together to have a mid year teacher meet up. It was great to get together with other teachers who are doing this for the first time, just like me. I spoke with some of the teachers from the programs to teach English in Nanjing, China and they had many of the same experiences that I had, which was reassuring to hear.

When you are new at something, you wonder if it’s just you making the mistakes or having the problems or questions that you do, but really everyone is thinking the same thing. It’s never easy your first go at something, so it was great to connect with these other teachers to hear about the experiences they had with their students.

Even though I’m not quite done with the program yet, I have been to so many different art museums and exhibitions. China and the surrounding regions are scaling up big time the amount of money they invest in cultural activities, so it is a booming place to be. Very exciting stuff!