Getting to China: Murphy’s Law

Programs for this blog post

Teach In China Program

Authored By:

Mariah H.

If you’re unfamiliar, Murphy’s Law basically states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Usually, I wouldn't indulge in such thoughts and consider myself more of a realist. However, in the weeks leading up to my departure to China, I seriously felt like the universe was working against me. I was well behind on my projected departure date, the first day of school was approaching, and I didn’t have my work permit notification yet. If signs are real, it felt like a big one.

To backtrack, the process to obtain a work visa in China is long and difficult (and fairly expensive). This was stated many times before I started, but it didn’t sink in until I was in the throes of it. I started my application back in August 2018 in preparation to depart in mid-January 2019. This was supposed to give me plenty of time to spare. I didn’t leave until March.

After months of doctor’s appointments, authenticating documents, fingerprinting, FBI background checks, back and forth emails and more, I was nearing close to the expected departure date. I had quit my job and was back at home waiting to leave. After sending in all of the required documents to the Chinese embassy they quote you 4-6 weeks. So, unfortunately, there wasn’t much to do but keep waiting at that point.

I finally received confirmation for my work permit notification the day I was supposed to start teaching. Say goodbye to the week of training, acclimating and sleeping off the jet lag! I would be jumping right in. After receiving the work permit notification, I was concerned that the district listed on my permit was for the wrong school. The headquarters of my school is in Wanzhou, which was the listed location. However, I would be at a satellite school in Shapingba, so they had to check with the local police to make sure the work permit was legal. Cue the wait and back and forth emails, my two contacts had significant time differences - a 17-hour time difference from Shanghai and a 4-hour time difference from Portland. Headaches ensued.

A few days later I got the go ahead from the local police. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. A smoggy light, it was Chongqing! I expedited my passport and application to the Chinese embassy (boy is that expensive- thankfully the school would reimburse the cost!). I was religiously checking my tracking number only to see that my passport was delivered to the wrong zip code. My passport! I spiraled for a minute, and drafted a strongly worded tweet to the United States Postal Service only to get an email saying ”No prob. We received it yesterday.” Apparently it was delivered correctly.

Before I knew it, I received my passport back with the work permit inside. I was headed to China… tomorrow! The wait was over.

Was it Murphy’s Law or me? Mostly me, but it set my expectations. Things in China have been largely out of my control and it requires a strong mindset to not let your thoughts run wild. There is a ton of red tape to cross, but with a strong relationship with your new school they'll handle all of the police interviews, registrations and visits required of you.