How I Found the Best Job Teaching English in China – at First Leap

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After several months of traveling around Hawaii, Thailand, and a surprise visit to New Zealand; we found ourselves in Chiang Mai, Thailand ready to search out a job teaching English in China.  There are many ways to find a job teaching English in China, luckily most of which involve the internet, which was very helpful for us since we were living in Thailand at the time.

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After many long days of scouring the internet reading various blogs, job boards, and sending out resumes, I was contacted by a recruiter with First Leap.  First Leap is an after-school English school based in Beijing, but with many locations all around China. What was key for me was to learn that they are a legitimate English school (not all schools are the same in China…that’s for sure!).

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Easy Conversations and Skype Interviews / Demos

There can be a lot of questionable establishments who are looking to recruit teachers, but after a lot of research and talking to many different people, the opportunity with First Leap felt right.  Luckily the process was easy for me to go through, we used email and Skype for interviews and teaching demos.

After several conversations with my recruiter Sally, she felt as though I would be a good fit as a teacher with First Leap. It was at that time that I had the chance to choose the destination where I wanted to teach.  This was key for us, because we wanted to have a say in where we would live for the next year.  Not all schools have enough locations to offer the option for a choice.

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First Leap is a Big School, With Many Locations Around China

“Wow! Where do we want to live?” I asked Liz.  After doing some more research on different cities around China (and weighing the pros and cons of each), we decided that Guangzhou is where we would want to  live for one year.

So I contacted Sally and told her that Guangzhou is where we would like to go. Luckily for me, it just so happened that the school in Guangzhou was in need of a new English Teacher very soon.  So everyone was anxious to get the process started.

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Getting some teaching experience in Koh Samui, Thailand with TEFL World

I then contacted the Director of the School in Guangzhou, Gigi. I did a live demo class for her via Skype to show her some of my teaching skills. Giving a Skype teaching demo was definitely a first for me, but overall, I felt that I didn’t do too bad since I had just recently done a lot of teaching on Koh Samui, Thailand and with TEFL World while I earned my certification.  After my quick demo, we said my goodbyes and I felt good about it.


A Job Offer in Guangzhou, and an Earlier Start Date!

A day later, I was contacted again by my recruiter Sally and they wanted to offer me the job in Guangzhou!  Very good news to hear.  But instead of my original desired start date of March, they wanted me to come in just a couple weeks because they had a teacher going out on maternity leave.

Luckily for us, I was nearby in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  So aside from tying up some looks ends more quickly than we had originally anticipated, it wasn’t a big problem for us. We really wanted to be in Guangzhou, and it felt like something was drawing us there…we didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.

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My fun and awesome teaching staff at First Leap – Guangzhou

And So It Begins…Life Teaching English in China!

Before we knew it, we were on our way to Guangzhou to start our new lives teaching English in China. They promptly sent me over my contract, which I was happy with, so I signed it and emailed it back to my recruiter. To make the transition even easier, the school put me in touch with the other foreign English teacher at the school, Steven from England.  He had been a teacher with First Leap for over 2 years, and he was super helpful in answering all of my questions about China and my contract.

I must say, it was really comforting to talk to another teacher who was actually there at the same location where I would be. I really feel like the whole staff helped to make my experience a good one, and it reassured me about my decision to accept the job.


A New Job, New Life, and New Friends at First Leap in Guangzhou

When we landed in China, we were immediately greeted by new friends who would quickly turn into family. Not only did everything seem to fall into place well for us, but we felt as though we had made the right decision in pursuing our dreams and quitting our jobs in the states to travel to China to teach English.  It has been awesome to work with such great people, who are happy to help us adjust to life in China and invite us to be apart of their culture.

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And even though I felt great as soon as we arrived in China, it was when I received my first big hug from one of my new young students that sealed it for me.  I was finally realizing my dream of being a teacher, and it was everything I had imagined.  I really had found the best job in the world!

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40 thoughts on “How I Found the Best Job Teaching English in China – at First Leap”

  1. Hello, I am planning on going to China this year and after the interview with first leap, I have been offered a job. I am a little hesitant due to the handbook they have sent, I was wondering if you can give me a clearer idea of what a normal day works out like and how you have found working for first leap.

    1. Hi Natalie! I think I have the best schedule as far teaching goes. Wednesday and Friday I work from 3pm – 8:30pm and Thursday from 4:30pm – 8:30pm. Saturday and Sunday is our busy days we work from 9am – 6:30pm, but we get roughly around 1.5 hours for lunch and sometimes more just depending on your class schedule. There is time you will have to put in for class prep, but honestly you mainly follow a script and slides that First Leap provide you to teach. It is up to you to bring the creativity. I love my work schedule and having Monday and Tuesday is nice, because it is less crowded out and frees you up to do more. Hope that helps! Welcome to the Team! Let me know if you have any more questions!

      – Josh

  2. Hi there!
    This September I’m gonna start working for First Leap. I was excited and all, but today I found some bad reviews of this school, saying that they’re quite shady when it comes to money-related issues. May I ask how it is for you? (if it’s not too rude of me to ask about it, of course!)
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Marta,

      Welcome to the team! I have realized that with one negative comment comes 10 great ones that no one talks about or cares to publish. I can honestly say that my current 8 months of working with First Leap here in Guangzhou they have fulfilled everything they said they would. Also my other Foreign English Teacher is currently about to sign his 4th year teaching contract. First Leap is a big and creditable company here in China. Where will you be teaching? You will have so much fun. Once you get to know your kids your days will become instantly brighter 🙂


      1. Thanks so much for your reply! It really made me feel better and helped to calm my nerves! 🙂
        I’m gonna work in Chongqing! I’m really excited cos I’ve never been there before!
        May I ask you bout the Z visa process as well? How long did you wait for the documents to be sent to you from China so you can take them to an embassy?

        Have a nice day!

        1. Thanks Marta. That is good to hear. Everyone has a different Z Visa story. Mine was a little different since I can over in a rush. You should be going to training in Beijing first before going to Chongqing. They will help you with your visa stuff there and answer all of you questions. Once you have signed your contract they will then put you in touch with a visa specialist that will walk you through the process. This can be a little nerve racking, but don’t worry. First Leap will want you and everyone working with the company to have a working “Z Visa”.


  3. Hey, first of all, love this site, very useful and inspiring too.
    I was wondering if I might be able to ask you a few questions about first leap? I was talking to them recently about a school in Guangzhou but things didn’t seem quite right. If you could get in touch I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you,

  4. Hey Josh, I have just had my first interview with Alma at First Leap. I am now looking into where I should head to in China to teach. I have been offered a place in Suzhou. Have you visited Suzhou? is it a great place to live?
    Does anyone on this site have any recommendations of areas in China to move to?
    Also I have no experience teaching as yet, but have a degree and have completed my 140-Hour TEFL certificate. I have read that I will need two years teaching experience to gain my Z visa?
    Any advice would be great.

    1. Hi April.
      Thanks for checking out the site and our posts. We have not been to Suzhou yet, but we have some friends moving there from Guangzhou (promotion). We have heard it is called the Venice of China. Once you have signed your contract and started planning for you training at HQ in Beijing; your recruiter will put you in touch with a visa specialist. They will then help in making sure you have the proper working Z Visa for your job with First Leap. Just make sure you specify *Working Z Visa* in your contract. They followed through on everything they said they would with me. Don’t sweat the experience. We technically didn’t have that either. Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂


  5. Hello Josh!

    I am very thrilled to have found your blog–like others I have been offered a teaching job in Beijing in September. After trying to find reviews about First Leap and seen some negative reviews, I began to feel a little apprehensive. However, reading your blogs, I am now feeling sure that this is the school I want to work for and teacher for. I thank you. 🙂 I know this is not related to First Leap or teaching, however, I was wondering, I primarily use Google email for my emails and I was wondering, do you use a VPN software? If so, do you happen to know which ones are good to use? I thank you for your time! 🙂

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Welcome to the team! You will enjoy your time at First Leap and being in Beijing you will not be bored. Lots of fun. As far as VPN goes we actually just posted a post on VPN. We did tons of research before choosing one. The one that stood above the rest is Vypr VPN. We have had a great experience with them and have had no problems connecting all of devices. Read more about here Click on the banner in the post to get to their site. Let me know if you have any questions.


    1. Hi Ziyyah,

      I found FL through Dave’s ESL and then I was in touch with a recruiter names George who worked for the recruiting agency Oden. Oden is FL’s recruiting agency. I believe they may recruit for other, but not 100% sure. Hope that helps. Let us know if you have any questions. We can help put you in touch with head of recruiting and help you through the hiring process if you need.



  6. Hi Josh, I have just been offered a job with FL and after researching them have heard all sorts of horror stories. People having been given the wrong visa, FL forging documents and lying about the contract. Is all this true?

    1. Hi Lloyd,

      When I was getting hired I read all of the same types of stories. They have been nothing but up front with me about everything. They got the me the proper working Z Visa and they have followed through on everything. I have had nothing but a great experience working with First Leap in China. If anything you can also make sure by writing in your contract about acquiring a working Z Visa. You just have to be up front with them on everything so they then can do what they need to do to get a Z Visa for you. First Leap is a credible company and I would highly recommend them to anyone. You will always find that more people write about negatives than positive experiences. Plus there is usually more to the story than what they share with everyone. Hope this helps! Best of luck to you and please let us know if you have any more questions.


  7. Hi Josh,

    I have been offered a position to teach with First Leap in Beijing this upcoming school year. Thank you for all the information you have posted about your experiences. I was wondering if you know of a facebook link or skype group of fellow teachers that have also worked or still work with First Leap, as I would love to hear about the transition process from Western to Eastern culture, and how it was working for First Leap.


    1. Hi Morgan,

      Thanks for checking out the site. I loved my time at First Leap and the transition from Western culture to Eastern was not too bad for us. We were lucky to have an amazing staff at my school to help us get adjusted. There are differences for sure, but with everything in life you get use to it after a while. There are no groups that I know of. Keep in mind that Facebook doesn’t exist in China (unless you have VPN) and its all about WeChat, which is there social media and how we all communicate with one another. At orientation you will meet so many other westerns that are in the same boat as you are. So you will meet new people and make new connections with fellow new teachers. Also depending on the center you are going to there are several other western teachers there that will be your close friend. Also there will be several Chinese Teachers at you school that will be your good friend as well. They will help you get adjusted the most and help you get use to the customs. I hope you it goes well for you. Please let us know if you have any other questions.


  8. Hi Josh, I was wondering what recruiting company u went with when you found this job? Great info. thanks for writing! -Kate

    1. Thanks for checking it out Kate. When I was getting recruited I was going through a company called Ogden. They followed through on everything they said they were going to do and made for a great experience. We are currently helping others find placement with First Leap so if you want more guidance and want me to introduce to head of recruiting then let us know.


  9. Hi! I was told about a First Leap opportunity in Hohot. I was excited about returning to China with a possible future in teaching, but I researched it and there arent many reviews on First Leap and most of the ones I’ve found were negative. Some peopke said it was scam, Oden recruiting agency was a scam, and some teachers were treated as being replaceable and sometimes not recieving pay over a period of time. So I’m now kind of skeptical. I want to know were/are there ANY cons about working for First Leap? Are any of these claims true? Should I be concerned about ANYTHING? How long have you worked there?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Carla,

      Thanks for checking out the site. I was with you when I was doing research on First Leap when i was going through the hiring process. After working there for 15 months I realized that those people may not have done the #1 thing I tell everyone… ASK TONS OF QUESTIONS & MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE COVERED. Meaning do your research. I never once had a problem with pay or visa issues. If I did or had a question I asked the Center Director, International Teacher, and head of International Teaching Dept in Beijing. I would soon have my answer and everything was all good.

      Since you know where you are going, ask if you can speak to one of the International Teachers there now. China uses WeChat app so maybe chat with them prior to coming on how your center is ran. I spoke with my other International Teacher for weeks leading up to me coming to Guangzhou. I asked him everything to how is laundry done to setting up bank accounts. We were able to build a good relationship prior to finally meeting. The teachers will be your best friends in China and help you get adjusted quickly and smoothly.

      Hope that helps. Teaching at First Leap for me was an experience that I will always remember fondly as one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. I cried like a big baby when I left…


  10. Hey there,

    I just had my first interview with First Leap and straight after googled it and came across your blog haha. Because I dont have a degree only the 120 hour tefl certificate I can’t get a working visa but they said they could try and get me a different visa. I was just wondering if you know if this is legal or not haha? And any other recommendations or tips for making the process smoother would be greatly appreciated too – feeling a bit anxious but excited about it all!

    Thanks heaps

    1. Hi Kelsi,

      Thanks for checking out the site. I know things have a changed a little since I was there teaching. I too did not have a degree and only had 120 TEFL, but I insisted to have a proper Z Visa (working) and they came through for me. I was 31 at the time and well over the age required for a Z Visa (25 yrs.). This was not fully legal, but I got it and it was in the passport with multiple entries. So I didn’t ask too many questions. When it comes to China and working there sometimes its best to not ask too many questions, but at the same time you want to make sure you cover yourself. The bad War stories you read on the net are cases where people didn’t watch after themselves or didn’t ask the proper questions. I was on top of all my visa stuff and continually over and over and over made sure that I was going to get my working Z Visa and asking tons of questions. I know that things have changed a bit and it is really based on your age now days. One of my co-workers before I left was 21 and had to go through many hoops to get a special visa to stay and work, but he got it and he was OK with everything so it was all good for him. I always would tell him to cover himself no matter what and have it in writing.

      I think ultimately it comes down to what you feel comfortable with and your center will help you in making sure you are covered with proper visas to start work. My center helped me out a lot. Think of it like this… It takes a lot of money to get you over there and lots of money on making sure you can stay in the country to work with a proper visa. So they will not screw you over, because in the long run it will only screw themselves over too. Just make sure to cover ALL you bases and ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS and GET IN WRITING. Thats what I did and I had an amazing experience and worked with them for 15 months and if I ever need to go back and make good money I would go back with them in a second. One of the most memorable experience I have ever had!

      Hope all goes well and hope this helps!


  11. Hi Josh,

    I recently was offered something (or so I guess) with leap. I have two offers I am looking at right now and well Leap seems great. My major concern is Visa. I am not a degree holder and the reviews I have read were pretty daunting regrading those without a degree.

    Please advise what you would do in this situation.



    1. Hi Haseena,

      Congrats on the offers. My advice to you is that if you are wanting to stay in a big city like Beijing then you will need a proper working Z Visa, but if you are wanting to get outside of Beijing and into a smaller market then they will be able to work with you on your visa. I know this is a bit vague, but honestly you have nothing to worry about. What you are reading on line is old and outdated and honestly from what i have read they (the teacher) did not understand the visa process. Do you research for sure, but know thaT First Leap is a big company and have hundreds of foreign teachers on the payroll and don’t want to jeopardize that.

      Hope that helps a bit. Stay in touch and let me know if you need anything. My WeChat is joshwilson52


  12. Hello!

    I was just offered a teaching job with First Leap in Nanjing. I had two questions. How is their calendar? My first priority is to have experience teaching in China, but I would also like time to travel to nearby countries. Would I have time to go? Another question is my fiancé does not have a degree and they said he cannot get a working Z visa, but he can get a business visa. What is the difference between the two? Is this illegal in Nanjing?

    1. Hi Holly,

      Congrats on the offer! The schedule is pretty awesome in my opinion. You will get Chinese Holidays off and during the Chinese New Year is the biggest time you will get off. Close to 2 weeks. Although this is the busiest time to travel in Asia because all the Chinese travel too. You can still go to amazing places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, etc. You will just have to plan way in advance to make sure you get good rates, etc. Also after some time there you can work out to get time off to travel from your center to travel. That of course has to be worked out with your AD and your other teachers to make sure everyone is not taking the same time off.

      As far as the visa goes each city is different. If you are being told that you can get a normal Z and him a business then it will be OK. Otherwise they would have told you that they couldn’t get him a visa. With you being there too they know that you guys are a pair and wouldn’t jeopardize that by trying to be sneaky. I would just do you research on the subject and be an expert on it. First Leap is a reputable company and they want you to be happy and stay so they will make sure of that.

      You can always ask to speak with another teacher at the center they want you to join via WeChat. Also you can chat with your AD to get a better an idea, but in my opinion I think you guys will love it!

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  13. Hi Josh, I am considering a couple of different companies to work with in China and I noticed that First Leap has by far the best pay. I am wondering if there is a catch to this. Also I am wondering why the other companies would not pay as much. Any insights are appreciated.

    1. Hi Dustin,

      Thanks for reaching out to us. First Leap does offer more than most ESL Learning Centers in China. They have done a really great job at coming up with an offer that rivals most companies in China. They want to be the leader and they are doing a good job at doing that with incorporating on going training at the corporate centers in Beijing & Nanjing and much more. They want the best and they know that it will cost more to get the best. The packages they are offering are great too to get new teachers started and set up in China.

      Hope that helps a little. Let me know if you have any more questions.


  14. Hi Josh, I am considering applying for First Leap and I had a question about salary. Many other companies I’ve seen are pretty transparent about this at the start of the application process but I haven’t been able to find any information about First Leap’s salaries. Money is not a big issue for me nor is it a deal breaker but was just wondering if you knew a rough ballpark figure for entry level teachers with Bachelor’s degrees and TEFL certificates.
    Also, I’ve never taught a class before so doing the lesson plan and demonstration required for the interview seems a bit daunting. What would be your advice for preparing for the interview?

    Cheers, Jake

    1. Hi Jake – thanks for reaching out!

      You can find First Leap salaries on some of the recruiting websites, like this one: — although, sometimes the salary can vary slightly depending on if you work for a corporate center or a franchise center (as well as the city). The website linked to here is what they pay entry level teachers with degrees and TEFLs.

      Overall, the pay is quite competitive – if not quite good for the industry. But again, it could vary slightly.

      The great thing about First Leap is that they offer awesome training for new teachers! However, you don’t actually need to create lesson plans — because First Leap’s curriculum is all pre-developed. You just need to learn how to present it and come up with fun activities to reinforce it.

      Regarding the interview, the first interview is just a “get to know you” session & to help answer questions and explain the job more. If you move on, then they will ask for a teaching demo — which is a very short demonstration of your teaching ability (sometimes it can be on video – other times it is live via Skype). It’s not a full class, just a very short activity / demo to show your personality and see you up and moving around so they can get a feel for your ability and enthusiasm. They will give you guidelines for the demo, but you don’t need to do a lesson plan or full class.

      I hope this helps.

      Good luck & let us know if you have any other questions. We are also happy to put you in touch with someone at First Leap if you want to move ahead with an application.


  15. Hi My boyfriend and I are going to china in april to work for first leap. We have a few questions and were wondering is we could have a chat with you before we leave.

    Please send me an email and we can sort out communication from there on.

    Thank you so much in advance and hope you have a wonderful day.

      1. Deneille Louison

        Hi! My name is Deneille and I will be working for First Leap at their Hebei location in August. I truly appreciate this blog! I have been seeing a lot of negative reviews on the internet that have me questioning my decision but your blog has given me hope.

        1. Hi Deneille.

          Thanks for checking out our experience with First Leap. Everyone has a bit of a different experience in China, but we can not speak more highly of our own personal experiences. We loved it there. Hope you have a great time! – Josh

          1. Hey Ron – thanks for reading!

            A lot has happened since we wrote this blog post. The experience teaching in China (and at First Leap) was something special that we will always remember. We had an amazing experience!

            Upon finishing our contracts, we spent some time traveling around Asia before we were lucky enough to get offers to come back to First Leap in a different job. So that’s what we are both doing now…and loving it!

            Kind regards,
            Josh & Liz

  16. Hi Josh

    Love the blog! I applied to FL through a recruiter and I was turned down because apparently for Jan 2019 they are not hiring non-white people, which sucks. My recruiter contacted me and said a franchise of FL has offered me a position. Do you know the difference between the franchises and corporate centres?

    1. Hello Ari – thanks for reading!

      Hmmm, I’m sorry to hear that your recruiter told you that – because it certainly is not a policy at the company. There are many teachers at First Leap with diverse ethnicities from English-speaking countries.

      With regard to your question, First Leap is a big company with a lot of schools all over China. Some cities, such as Beijing / Nanjing, etc. are corporate centers – meaning that they have essentially the same ownership and operate through the corporate office and their regions. However, there are also centers in other cities that are Franchise – this just means that they have a different owner.

      I actually worked at a Franchise center in Guangzhou. Overall, much is the same. The curriculum, working hours, benefits, support, etc. The main difference is that the franchise owner has more responsibility / control over the center and the marketing and operations in their local market. There can be some differences in operations, but for the most part the experience is quite similar for the teacher.

      I hope this helps. While some franchises can vary depending on the ownership, my experience was really good because I became good friends with my franchise owner – and she and her husband were like my extended family. They took good care of Liz and I and were always there for us.

      Best of luck to you!

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