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Blacklisted: Chi Cheng International English School (Gallop), Xi'an, ChinaThere are only so many positive things one can say about Gallop International English School (Chi Cheng International English School) in Xi’an, China, none of which have to do with the corrupt management, dirty apartment, way in which the underpaid salaries are distributed, or the city of Xi'an itself. I enjoyed my kids, my Chinese co-workers, and the salary is paid on time each month... But, that's about it. The negatives of this school seriously outweigh the positives--if you are set on coming to Xi'an, do yourself a favor and look for opportunities at more reputable training schools. Chi Cheng International English School was previously called Gallop International English School (they changed their name to counteract bad reviews of their school online) and is still referred to as Gallop everywhere except for towards foreigners they are trying to recruit. If you need more reviews to convince you to look for work elsewhere, you can search Gallop online and find plenty more arguments against ever working in this dump.

First, and probably the most important drawback of the job is the job itself. If you are looking for a teaching job in China and enjoy working your butt off for sub-standard wages, then this job may be for you. If not, look somewhere else. For me, I was looking to do a little traveling as well as work, and Gallop presented itself like a school that would allow me to do so. I was totally wrong in my assumptions, though--during my year there, I was only allowed minimal time off after long and winded arguments with the management, even when days off were owed to me. My time off was usually granted (eventually) but I was always heavily fined for it. Of course, working in China is not all fun and travel and I know I am expected to work, but I really spent all of my time working with not much time to do anything else. For me, not giving my best is unacceptable so even for all of the ridiculous requests that the school asked of me, I still did them. I tried the best I could to complete the school's schedules as asked because even though I was overworked, I did fall in love with most of my children and wanted them to learn English. The problem is, I was so overworked that even when I had free time, I was too exhausted to do anything but sleep. To understand my criticism of my schedule, you have to understand that Gallop is a Training School that only offers classes at its school during the weekend. So, during the rest of the week, Gallop contracts its foreign teachers out to private and public schools during the week. This meant my schedule during the week consisted of me being at Gallop Training School by 8:00 a.m., drive to another school 40 minutes away and start teaching at 9:00 a.m. I would teach until 12:15 p.m. with two unpaid 10 minute breaks and one unpaid 15 minute break. Even though I was at work for 5 hours in the morning--from 8 am until 1 pm (when we could arrive back at Gallop in the afternoon), I was only paid for my teaching time, which, according to Gallop, was a measly 2 hours and 40 minutes. In the afternoon, I would have 30 minutes to gather my things before I would be driven at 1:30 to the next school that started at 2:00 p.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m. Most of the time, I would either skip lunch or eat it in the car because I didn’t have any time to eat it at one of the schools I was at that day. This was my schedule every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Thursdays, though, had the bonus of a weekly meeting held at the morning outside school. While I would finally be able to sit down and enjoy my lunch, I was forced to stay for an hour and a half unpaid meeting there. I would sit there with nothing to do while the schoolmaster of that school and my Chinese teacher would talk about me and my teaching style in Chinese. All in all, every work day would be spent at school or in a car. I would consistently work for 9 hours in a day, but because of Gallop's cheapness and inability to negotiate, I would only be paid for 4 hours and 15 minutes in a day (some people even had it worse). Gallop's basic salary pays each of its foreign teachers about 70 yuan per hour teaching. With this little arrangement, though, I was making a little over 35 yuan an hour for a full working day. Gallop's administration will try and convince you that you will only work a few hours a day at an outside school, so you'll have "plenty of free time". This is never the case--the reality is that you will only be paid for a few hours a day while spending the majority of your unpaid time in the car or in unpaid mandatory meetings.

On the weekends, I would be at Gallop by 7:20 a.m. so I could be driven to Gallop’s second location to start class at 8:20 am (again, this time was unpaid but required that I be at school this early). I would work for 3 hours and be driven back to Gallop’s original location at 12:30 p.m. to prepare for class at 2:00 p.m. My foreign coworker and I would eat our lunches in the car. I would teach 3 more classes that afternoon and leave by 7 p.m. So, to do the math, I would be at Gallop for about 12 hours in a weekend and only be paid for 6 hours of work. I would also spend 4 days a week eating my lunch in a car. This is the kind of stuff you have to deal with on a consistent basis. When I tried to bring up my problems with my schedule, the management (which, by the way, speaks no English so a translator is always needed) would smile and tell me I'd "just have to wait" and would reward me with scheduled hour-long demo classes in the evening during the week. So rather than give me a break after I was so tired and had been teaching all day, I would be forced to stay at the school until nearly 8 pm. This brought my total paid working hours on these days to a whopping 5hours and 15 minutes, even though I was expected to be at the school and stay around for 12 hours in a day.

The second thing I will discuss is the management. They are the most awful Chinese people I have ever met in my life. You will read some reviews that tell you that they are almost like parents. Pay attention to these reviews: you will notice that the English in them is terrible because they are written by Gallop's own Chinese teachers. Rather than just treat their current foreign teachers humanely and respectfully, the school finds it easier to force their Chinese teachers to write good reviews to promote their school. During my year at Gallop, I was consistently lied to and cheated by the management there. My coworkers and I were being overworked and we told them nicely that we wanted to work less hours (our contract promised 18 working hours a week, while many of us were doing upwards of 30+ paid teaching hours a week), but even though they promised to fix our schedules the next week we were rewarded with more hours and more demo classes. At one point I even brought in a translator so we wouldn’t have any translation problems (the owners do not speak English and most of the Chinese teachers there will not translate your problems correctly), and the management pretty much told us in a nice way, thanks for telling us what you think but we are still going to do what we want. Makes you feel good as an employee, especially in another country when your bosses are looking for ways to screw you. Just to give an example of how we were screwed: if you were sick or needed time off, instead of the school not paying you, you would pay someone else to work for you. Confused? I was. This means, if you miss 2 hours of teaching, instead of not paying you for those two and having 2 less hours to add to your paycheck, they would subtract the 2 hours from your pay and give that to another teacher. So in reality, if you missed 2 hours of teaching, you were actually losing 4 hours of pay instead of 2 hours. All of the foreign teachers at Gallop were unhappy, and the owners knew this, so they told the Chinese teachers to complain to us about how bad they had it and how we were treated so much better than them. Instead of creating a good working environment the management created resentment in the working place. Just want to mention that in my year there, 6 Chinese teachers broke contract and left and 2 foreign teachers left unannounced because they too were treated badly and knew that bringing their problems up the management was a waste of time. There are so many more problems with awful management at Chi Cheng/Gallop. This school is so awful to all of its teachers that no one enjoys working there for a year. If you'd like proof, I urge you to ask the school for an email contact of a foreign teacher who has worked there for more than 4 months. I guarantee they will not give one to you because no sane Gallop employee would endorse that school, especially one that has been working there for a long amount of time.

Third, as if I wasn't unhappy enough working at Gallop, I really did not enjoy living in the city of Xi’an itself. Xi’an is a nice city to visit for 1-5 days, but any time spent there after that is a complete waste of time. There are so many better cities to live in while you are in China. Now, most cities in China are polluted, but none are more polluted than Xi’an. All of their Power Plants are located in the western part of the city so all of the smoke coming from the smoke stacks are blowing into the city and creating a thick layer of smog in the air. If you can see 400 meters in front of you, then it was a clear day. Most days you could see 50-100 meters in front of you. There is also constant construction in the city that adds to the pollution. Last, Xi’an is in Shaanxi Province which is where most of the coal in China is located. So, you can imagine the dust and pollution from all of those coal mines are creating. Every time I went running outside, I honestly could wipe a layer of dirt off my face. It was pretty disgusting, but funny as well because you just don’t realize how polluted a place can be until you actually visit Xi’an. There is a good foreign Expat community in Xi’an, but most of them do things together on the weekend, which you will never have off while working at Gallop. I still was able to make friends with them and many of the Chinese workers who worked at the Hostels in Xi’an. You will notice though, that most of the Expats in Xi’an are alcoholics because there is nothing to do in Xi’an. The few things you can actually do are sight see, but you can see most of the sights in 2 days. Also, you can go hiking, but you don’t really have the time to do that because they are way outside the city and you have to pay 100 RMB ($15 American Dollars) to hike on any of the trails outside the city. Xi’an isn’t located near any cities: it is really located in the middle of nowhere. I live in Nanjing now, and I am so close to things that I have taken day trips to Shanghai and Suzhou. Xi’an is really just not the place you want to live in while you’re in China.

Of course, there are always other schools in China that are worse than Gallop, but this is one of the worst. If you are still adamant about working in Xi'an, do yourself a favor and look for other opportunities, because there are much more reputable and better-paying schools in Xi'an. There is so much more I can tell you but I think you can get the picture of what kind of school you are going to deal with if you accept a contract with them. This is the only place of employment that I have truly hated and wanted to fail due to the complete mistreatment of all of its workers. I have worked bad jobs in America and in college, but I have never felt such contempt for a working place until I worked at Gallop. I completed my contract at Gallop only because I couldn't afford to leave and knew I wanted to continue teaching in China. This year I found a much better opportunity with less hours, better pay, and more time off, where I'm treated like a human being and not as an endlessly-working robot. Do yourself a favor and if you are sent a contract from Chi Cheng International English School (or Gallop International English School), delete it from your inbox and never look back. You will thank me for it.

 

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