Meet Rachel: Creating New Adventures in Chengdu

I might be the exception to the rule as most Disney English Foreign Trainers go. The majority of my colleagues are relatively new to teaching and are young enough to be my children.

Me? I taught at a private school in the U.S. for 15 years prior to joining Disney English. Ever the late bloomer, I didn’t start my teaching career until I was in my mid-30s. Before entering the classroom, I was a stay-at-home mom of two rambunctious, but adorable, boys.

At the age of 50, I was offered the prestigious position as head of the English department at the school I worked for, where both my boys had attended from kindergarten to graduation. But I turned it down!

My sons at the age when they attended the school I previously taught at.

My sons were grown and on their own. I was craving adventure and teaching abroad was an aspiration of mine in college. After turning down the department head position, I admitted to myself that my heart was no longer beating for that wonderful school. I needed a change!

I began looking for work in other fields, but I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me. Being a teacher isn’t just what I do; it’s who I am. After six months of being unemployed, an advertisement for the Foreign Trainer position appeared in my email inbox. I thought, why not?

Two weeks later, I was offered a contract and began working on my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. Six months later, I was putting my house up for rent. My older son told me I was crazy, while my younger son was all for it! As the plane took off, I had a fleeting panic attack and wondered if my older son had been right: maybe I was crazy!

Twenty-five hours later, the plane touched down in Beijing. It was my first experience stepping foot outside the U.S., except for a couple of visits to Canada.

Seven hours later, I landed in Chengdu – a total of 32 hours from the first leg of my journey to my arrival at 10 p.m. local time. I was exhausted but enthralled by all the colors of this beautiful city at night! I’ve visited many major cities in the U.S. – from New York to Los Angeles and from Chicago to New Orleans – but I’d never seen anything like Chengdu, a metropolitan area of more than 15 million people and billions of lights.

At night, the shine and the glare of the lights can be seen throughout Chengdu.

Chengdu is a sprawling city of high-rise apartments and skyscrapers with some of the most magnificent landscaping I’ve ever seen. The people of this beautiful city take great pride in their town and their pandas. There are scenic waterways to bike or stroll along; and the people are so welcoming to Westerners!

You can find beautiful parks to explore all around Chengdu, and a lot of them feature a waterway like this one!

I’ve been in Chengdu for three years. I’ve learned that teaching English as a second language (ESL) is NOTHING like traditional teaching. Thanks to Disney English’s commitment to staff development, I have achieved my Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA certification).

I’ve also learned what it feels like to be illiterate (in Chinese!). Living abroad in a culture so completely different from my own has had its challenges. But I realized after teaching in the same school for 15 years that what I craved – in addition to adventure – was an opportunity to be stretched and challenged. Teaching ESL and living in a culture wholly unlike my own has provided me with opportunities to grow, learn and explore in unique ways.

In China, you’ll come across amazing traditional architecture just by simply going about your day.

China is a land with more than 5,000 years of history. Its story is told in their fascinating traditional architecture juxtaposed with very modern elements. Some of our team-building excursions have taken us to charming villages surrounding Chengdu that make us feel almost like we’ve stepped back in time. And China’s highly developed public transportation system makes visiting other exotic places easy and affordable.

But come and see for yourself! It’s never too late!

Foreign Trainer, Chengdu