The following is a guest post by one of my Teach Abroad Squad members, Michelle!
Michelle plans to move to China with her husband and three kids as soon as the borders open up! Michelle isn’t alone either: teaching abroad with the whole family has become more and more common.
So many people have reached out to me asking if it’s possible to teach abroad in China with kids and what the process is like. So rather than write something second-hand, I figured I’d ask Michelle to share her experience with all of you!
In this guest post, she’ll share the reasoning behind why she and her family want to move to China, along with the steps that they’re taking to make that dream a reality!
Moving to China With Kids
Hi, I’m Michelle! I’m a 34-year-old stay at home mom and online ESL teacher. I started a blog called Family Adventure Abroad, where I document our family’s journey to China.
Here’s a little information about me: I’m married to a great guy and the mother to three really cool kids. I used to think that traveling the world was only for young, single people. Like the kind of people fresh out of college with very few responsibilities.
Wrong! Families can travel the world and have big adventures too! It will take a little extra planning and preparation, but the payoff will be amazing. Let me take a minute to introduce you to my family of five.
|Michelle: Stay at home mom and online ESL Teacher|
Our Family of Five
Before becoming a stay at home mom, I worked in the counseling field. I was a counselor for teens and adolescents. After that I worked in the rehabilitation counseling field, assisting people with barriers to employment to find jobs. Staying home full time was hard for me. I loved being home with my kids, and not going to a traditional job, but I missed making money.
When I heard about the different online ESL teacher jobs that are available, I was excited! I have been teaching online since April of 2019 and I absolutely love it. Teaching kids in China planted the seed to travel abroad.
My husband is an IT professional. He has been in the IT field for about 15 years. We have three children. Our oldest is 19. He graduated high school last year and is working to figure out his next move. We are really excited for him to get to experience new parts of the world. Our two little girls are six and three. I homeschool/unschool the little ones. Since we don’t have to worry about a traditional school year, this is the perfect set up for travel. I can’t wait for them to meet new friends and experience another culture.
|Our Family of Five|
I Could Never Teach Abroad
Teaching abroad was never on my radar. I had no idea there were so many opportunities available. I became friends with a recruiter for a Chinese school on Facebook. He posted about the different job openings. I was so impressed with the beautiful locations, high salaries, and benefits packages. I thought to myself, “Wow! We could move to China, save a lot of money, and have an awesome experience!”
But then I told myself no. That would be crazy. How would we move five people to China? Would our teenager even want to come with us? I don’t even speak Mandarin! I tucked that idea away for months and went about my life.
My husband and I constantly talk about how nice it would be to spend more time together as a family. What if my husband didn’t have to work so much? What if we could be home together with our children more? How can we make this happen?
This has been an ongoing conversation for years. We try to make small changes in our lives. We have moved to different locations in our city and tried different jobs. But it’s the same pattern over and over again. We feel stuck!
|Our three children: ages 19, 6, and 3|
What if we move to China?
One day I said to my husband, “What if we move to China?”
He looked at me like I was a little bit crazy. Then I told him about the job opportunities there and how well most of them pay. I told him I could even work part-time somewhere and we could still afford the cost of living. After a few conversations, he was temporarily on board with the idea. We agreed that family time and travel are both really important to us. We were excited to start planning.
Then reality set in and he had a huge fear of leaving his job. He was (and still kind of is) afraid of what his employment options will be like when we return to the United States. It’s a real fear to come back home with no job lined up and a year-long gap on your resume.
Eventually, we figured out how to address these fears, but at the time they were overwhelming. So we called off the travel dream. It was a hard time for us. I had been so excited about this idea, and not having that to look forward to was rough. I focused my family, our home, and on teaching my students online, which I absolutely love.
|Teacher Michelle’s online classroom|
Loss and the Importance of Family Time
Fast forward a few months and everyone has been impacted by COVID-19. My husband worked from home for three months. We all loved having him here. It was an amazing feeling for me to be able to enjoy time with my kids and have him here for backup.
My husband was able to take the kids outside to play during lunch breaks. When he wasn’t on phone calls he could color with them and play dolls. I could run somewhere with my teenager without bringing two small children. It was really great for us. Even with the severity of the situation, we found a silver lining and valued this new family time together.
Over the months that followed, we experienced a lot of loss in our family. Within several months, my husband lost his mother and sister to cancer, and his father passed away from a heart attack. My husband had a few personal realizations at this time. He knew he wanted to do whatever it takes for us to spend more time together and enjoy our lives. He also realized that he did not want to spend so much time at work. He didn’t want the stress of his office job to continue to impact his life and health.
I was completely shocked when he told me he wanted to move to China again. I had mentally packed up this dream and put it away for sometime in the distant future. I probably asked him a hundred times if he was serious. Life-changing events can really put things into perspective.
|My husband and our three-year-old daughter|
We have decided to move to China!
Now we are a family of five trying to make our way to China! I was offered a position with a university on the gorgeous island of Hainan. It is often referred to as the “Hawaii of China”. After some discussion and research, we decided this location would be a great place to start our travel journey. We all love the beach, warm weather, and water activities.
The position itself is exactly what I was looking for. The job is teaching English anywhere from 14-18 hours per week, with no office hours. This completely “checks the box” of one parent not being gone all day. We will live on campus, and I’ll be teaching an average of three hours per day. I love my young students, so I still plan to teach a few classes online. How nice it will be to be in the same time zone as my students, yes!My husband and my teenage son don’t have bachelor’s degrees, so they are planning to do some private English tutoring to bring in extra income. My son is athletic and loves sports, so he hopes to get involved with something sports-related when we arrive.
Our girls will continue to be homeschooled/unschooled. Our older daughter is a little nervous about leaving our family and traveling (totally understandable). We talk with her daily about what moving will be like, and that it’s ok to be scared of something new. Even with their worries, both girls are excited to meet new people and make new friends. As a family, we are all looking forward to days at the beach and many outdoor adventures together.
|Me with our three children|
How do we get to China?
Now the work begins! We need to get passports and travel documents together for five people. We are not independently wealthy and don’t even have a savings account, so we are buying one passport at a time as fast as we can. At the time I am writing this we have completed three out of five. We are getting there!
Because we are traveling as a family, the school has requested that we have some additional documents authenticated, like our marriage certificate and our children’s birth certificates. Since our teenager is an adult now, he is required to submit a background check and health check, like my husband and I will do. Each week I set some goals for what documents I need to gather and what tasks we need to complete. It has been a lot of work, but it is work that I am happy to do because I am so excited for this adventure!
No one knows when the borders will open in China, or even when the Chinese Embassy will open to authenticate my documents. Right now they are only accepting documents for emergency situations. I am trying to hurry and get as much done as I can, while also preparing to wait as long as it takes for this adventure to begin. The university mentioned the option of having me teach online until the borders open, so that will be a really exciting opportunity for me. This will give us a chance to set more money aside for plane tickets and the move, which is something we need.
From Dream to Reality
It is hard for me to believe that this little idea is finally becoming a reality. It went from “oh we could never…” to “applying for passports” and that seems so incredible to me. On my blog, Family Adventure Abroad, I am documenting what this experience is like for our family. I make it a point to mention the “hard work” things just as much as the amazing adventures we have.
Most people love a good beach picture with a sunset, but I also think people want to see how we made it happen.
We aren’t rich or glamorous. I started dreaming about this with very little knowledge of traveling abroad. I did some research, followed people online who were living the life I was interested in, and I educated myself by joining Teach Abroad Squad (an online course that provides everything you need to know about moving to China). I took little steps along the way to make this dream happen.
Our family is just five people who want to see the world and spend more time with each other. Thanks for following part of our adventure! -Michelle
Let’s Hear From You!
Did you move to China with kids? I’d love to hear your experience of finding a job and getting a visa below! What’s it like to live in China with your family? Are you glad you made the move?
Do you want to teach abroad in China, but aren’t sure where to start? Firstly, you’re going to want to grab my free guide 10 Steps to Landing a High Paying Job in China, and join my Free Facebook Group: China Teach Abroad Community. I’d also love to have you in my personalized course and coaching program: Teach Abroad Squad!