After 4 years in total, including the past 3 consecutive, I'm leaving this university. In fact I'm leaving China, at least for the near future. I'm told that they still need English teachers for next September. Read the following and send me a pm if you want a contact email at the International Exchange Office (read: FAO). They haven't been hiring anyone over 59 years old but they have hired "working students" through an exchange program with a British university (at a reduced salary.) Salary for a bachelor degree and two years or more experience should start at 8K/month less tax and utilities. No pay for July, Aug and airfare has been limited to 6,500. Of course you are free to negotiate whatever you can get. Foreign English teachers have been asked to finish exams by the 17th week of the term with no other duties after handing in student marks. Contest judging requests are common and appreciated. English corners have been far between lately.
This uni generally has about 5-7 foreign English teachers. They also have a foreign Japanese and Korean teacher at the moment. I'm the only American currently. I'm 50 something and was the oldest this year. The rest are from the UK and Australia. Most of the foreign teachers teach and live on the main campus which is a crowded 2 yuan, 25 minute bus ride from downtown. There is one teacher downtown at the satelite campus which currently houses the freshmen English majors, among other students. The main campus is fairly well maintained and there are supermarkets, restaurants and all manner of shops located outside the school gates as well as a morning wet market and an evening covered barbecue/beer garden. So going downtown isn't necessary except for western groceries or cabin fever or for those who want the nightlife a city can provide.
Downtown has some larger supermarkets (including RTMart and Walmart), the usual fast food, a pedestrian street and is generally a good sized city for negotiating on foot or by taxi. The regular train station is one stop before the central downtown stop and is convenient for getting to Guangzhou (2.25 to 3 hours). The G-train station requires an additional bus or taxi ride and at least 20 minutes by bus to get there. Not worth it to Guangzhou in my opinion since the GZ South train station is not in a good part of town. It's only a 45 minute trip, but when you add in the extra time before and after the 45 minutes, it's not a lot of savings. Shenzhen North Station is 1:30 though, so definitely worth the trip to the G-train station. And it's convenient to places north in Hunan and Hubei and on up to Beijing. The bus stations are located next to the old train station and across two rivers and the peninsula in between (about 1km total) so pretty convenient. All in all it's a pretty good smaller city but it won't make you forget Shanghai. Foreigners aren't around every corner but they are present and you won't provoke a double-take very often, if you don't look Chinese. There are some nice parks in the surroundings; parks that westerners would call parks, not overly-manicured, muzak-blaring parks. Tourist highlights include Danxia Mountain (look it up: "is that a rock formation or are you just glad to see me?") and Nanhua Temple.
Ok, more school specific.... I recommend this school with a few caveats. First, the new foreign affairs officer recently had to retire due to a serious illness. (Update: last year's foreign affairs officer has returned from his illness, so they have an experienced manager again for getting visa/residence permit issues resolved.)
That means there is a new foreign affairs officer. She may be excellent but I haven't worked with her enough to have an opinion. I would expect there to be a learning curve in getting things done smoothly, regarding work permits and residence permits etc. I've never had any bad dealings with the office and they have always responded promptly when I needed something fixed in the apartment or when I had a question. The people who handle the day to day stuff are two lovely ladies who have been doing their jobs for many years. That also goes for the Foreign Language Department secretary who provides the schedule and rosters and asks for the student marks at the end. (You may need a translator to talk with them.) Second caveat: The apartments are not my favorite. We foreign teachers in the main campus have retrofitted comfortable apartments in an old building. The are comfortable (hot water, throne toilet, furnished kitchen, two bedrooms not shared unless you prefer) but I don't like them. The location is fantastic: right near the teaching buildings where most of the English classes are. Tree lined and nice and shady. In fact they are too shady. The large trees block out the sun and keep the rooms cold. There are new apartments at the other side of the campus that are slotted for the foreign teachers and others but there has been some kind of bureaucratic hold up preventing us from being moved there. If the teachers are moved there, I would remove the caveat since I have been in those apartments and they are very nice and light. They are a bit far from many of the teaching buildings but not ridiculously so.
Students: lovely, friendly and not usually pushy. Chinese teachers: same. Most teachers do their jobs and go home. But quite a few go out of their way to invite foreign teachers to join them. There is also a growing population of small business people who serve the university population outside the gates. Some are related to the school population in some way and others are not. Class sizes have been about 30-35 for English majors. Other departments vary. English majors have generally been serious and diligent students. Other departments vary. Likely classes include oral English, business English, and not too much else. A teacher may also be assigned to teach double majors (main major + English) in the evening, usually, and "international students" which are Chinese students who will be finishing a four year bachelor degree in England for the fourth year if business, and in Australia if IT. I haven't heard of foreign teachers being assigned any literature or writing courses but that is possible. I've taught a class on culture as well. Business related English classes seem more and more common now for foreign teachers. Generally speaking, the school has not been very restrictive about the lives of foreign teachers. There is no curfew or gate to jump over or wall to climb if you come in at 4am. The teachers have skewed younger lately and are more inclined to night life, so that may change if things or people get out of hand. But generally speaking, foreign teachers are trusted and left alone.
And the number one reason I won't be returning: the weather. Shaoguan is cold and wet in the winter (down to just above freezing at times); wet in the spring; and hot and humid in the spring and summer. Care must be taken to keep things over the summer from getting mold or mildew damage (when not using the air conditioners - and may be less of a problem with the new apartments when the move finally happens). I'm from the US west coast and like dry weather. Guangdong and Zhejiang for me have been too humid. I need a break from this type of weather.