My First Year with Disney English

Moving to China is an incredible experience! Our Disney English Foreign Trainers make a commitment to work with us for one year in one of six major cities we serve. A lot can happen during that time!

Of course, each person’s individual experiences will vary, but I’d like to share my story with you about my first year with Disney English in Shanghai.

Like other new Foreign Trainers, after I arrived in China, I spent the first few weeks “onboarding.” During this time, we learned about the inner workings of a Disney English lesson, and we were assigned to a specific center within our city.

We had some time to observe other Foreign Trainers at our center as we prepared a “mock lesson,” which we practiced with our peers who served as learners. We also found apartments which met our individual needs (e.g., neighborhood, amenities and selecting roommates or deciding to live alone).

Within three weeks, we moved out of our hotel rooms into our apartments and became acquainted with our new neighborhoods. We had time to bond with each other as we got to know the city together.

Being in a new city is fun and exciting! I was fortunate to have a good friend from college who lives in Hangzhou, who came into Shanghai right after I arrived to show me around. He helped me get acquainted with the metro system here (which, in my opinion, is incredibly easy to follow compared to the public transportation systems in many U.S. cities!).

Me and my friend, Ping, exploring The Bund in Shanghai.

Going “live”
After finishing our onboarding, we had to wait a few weeks until our work permits were issued. During this time, we observed classes and began to get into a regular work schedule.

As Foreign Trainers, we are contracted to work 42.5 hours per week. Everybody works Monday and Friday from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m. The other weekday we work depends on when our “weekend” is. Half of the trainers do not work on Tuesday/Wednesday, while the other half do not work on Wednesday/Thursday.

On Saturdays and Sundays, we have one “short day” and one “long day.” A short day is roughly 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., while a long day is roughly 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. A full schedule consists of 10 two-hour classes. (However, “Scholars 1” classes are just 90 minutes).

A sample schedule for a typical week with Disney English.

Once we had our work permits, we “went live,” which meant that we began teaching classes and wearing our “blues” (official Disney English polo shirts with our own khaki pants). We integrated into life within the center as we become better acquainted with our coworkers and participated in social events with our teams.

By the way, there is a social committee in each city that plans monthly events ranging from Halloween parties to lip-sync competitions to dodgeball tournaments to trivia nights. These events are optional, but they are an awesome way to interact with trainers from other centers in the city in a fun environment.

And, of course, we always have celebrations for Chinese New Year!

In fact, the social events have helped me make some of my closest friends in China.

Celebrating my birthday with friends at Shanghai Disney Resort!

Another great thing to do during “weekends” is participate in Disney VoluntEARs activities. For example, there are weekly visits to the pediatric hospital where we can spend time with the patients. We might watch a movie with them, do a handicraft, teach a short English lesson or show them how to draw Disney characters.

Disney English also hosts a monthly VoluntEARs event at schools on the outskirts of Shanghai. We typically teach short lessons and put on a “show” for the learners. This is a wonderful way to give back to the communities we serve!

Putting on a Thanksgiving-themed show during a VoluntEARs event.

There are many holidays in China. The Disney English centers close in observance of several holidays so our learners – and trainers – can enjoy the time with family and friends (and travel if desired).

The holidays we typically recognize are:

New Year’s Day – January 1
Chinese New Year – Approximately two weeks near the end of January and/or beginning of February
Tomb Sweeping Day – One day at the beginning of April
Labor Day – May 1
Dragon Boat Festival – One day in the beginning of June
Mid-Autumn Festival – One day in the middle of September
Golden Week – One week at the beginning of October

Traveling within Asia is very efficient and can be done during any of the holidays. Many people will utilize the longer holidays to travel to places further away. For example, during my first year, I traveled to Hong Kong for Tomb Sweeping Day, nearby Suzhou for Labor Day, Europe for Golden Week and back home to the U.S. for Chinese New Year. Many of my coworkers plan long weekends and travel to various locations within Asia.

My partner and I spent quality time together in Europe. Here we are at Neuschwanstein Castle!

Making memories!
Your first year in China is what you make of it. I have made lifelong friends, and the times that we have shared together have created lasting memories. I truly value my time here in China as well as my experiences working for Disney English.

Language Learning Director, Shanghai