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Strong International College, Hangzhou WARNING

 
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only1life



Joined: 09 Jan 2005
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:45 pm    Post subject: Strong International College, Hangzhou WARNING Reply with quote

Strong (or should I say “Limp”) International College is a private concern, funded by a Chinese pharmaceutical firm making Chinese Viagra… hence the name Strong. The parent company should stick to what it’s good at because education is an area in which it has nothing to offer. Any serious teacher should never consider employment at Strong. They are lazy, incompetent, devious and dishonest.

The attractive point was the salary and location. Working in Hangzhou at 18,000RMB/month was quite attractive. However, this is the only thing going for the job. The college is located in a recently developed part of Hangzhou and there really isn’t that much going on over there. This is only a minor inconvenience. Getting decent food is a problem. The cafeteria food can only be described as swill and the food in the market nearby, which I dubbed, “The Sewer”, is not much better.

Let me get to the heart of the real problems with Strong. They said they wanted to create a “first class” TESOL course, so they recruited properly qualified/experienced TESOL trainers… hence the higher salaries. There were two TESOL trainers. For the 1st TESOL course we had 2 students, for the 2nd, 1 student and for the 3rd, 1 student. In addition we did PD workshops for local middle school teachers. The whole time we were told a bunch of BS about the trainee teachers’ “needs and wants”, none of which squared with reality. That’s because the people who roped these teachers in for their week-long PD sessions didn’t know what they were doing and hadn’t done even a basic needs analysis. We just went along with all this crap and none of it phased us like the more serious matters I will describe next.

They asked us to come to China on tourist visas (at our expense) and to fly to China on return tickets (at our expense). Then in the contract we were to later fly to Hong Kong (at our expense) to have our work visas processed (at our expense). To do this we needed a health check (at our expense). Once in Hong Kong we were to be given 1 night in HK (at our expense) and to fly straight back to Hangzhou. Of all these expenses we were to pay upfront, we had to eat the costs of the tourist visa and the health check. The return air tickets to China would be reimbursed at the end of the first year and the flight and 1 night in Hong Kong would be reimbursed in the salary of the following month. However, as it turned out my colleague who went to HK didn’t get all his expenses reimbursed and he was forced to stay more than 1 night in HK. All this was relatively mild compared to what you will read next.

Shortly after I arrived I was told a new visa law had been introduced. That law now requires work visa applicants within China to return to their home country (at the teacher’s expense). This was a force majeure for the contract, which stated HK but I still didn’t kick up a fuss. I’m quite sure Strong already knew this change was on the horizon but even if they didn’t, Strong should apply for the proper visas BEFORE the recruit arrives in China. They don’t do this because they want to put the burdens and expenses onto YOU the teacher. This is where their laziness, incompetence, deviousness and dishonesty begins.

I had to get an extension to my tourist visa. My passport languished in the Huangsha Rd police office for 2 weeks. By this time I was sick of the whole farce that was building up at the college. The college kept insisting that I get a police check from Australia and have the health check done BEFORE going to Australia. I pointed out that these would be things the Chinese consulate in Australia would require NOT the bureau here in China. I asked for clarification on this but they kept fudging the story about. Moreover, the college was telling me my tourist extension would expire on the 12th and I would need to return to Australia by that date. The 12th is 3 days BEFORE payday on the 15th! I decided there were too many red flags, so I went to the police office to ask about my passport. They asked for the yellow receipt, which the police never gave me. The college's Director of Foreign Affairs, who by chance happened to be at the police office at the same time, had a sudden anxiety attack when the police officer spoke to me in good English. He rushed to call the college to get the officer to talk with the college office. I had to walk away WITHOUT my passport. I went back a few days later and was told that the yellow receipt for my passport had been given to someone at the college! I objected. The police officer (a woman) said I couldn’t get my passport and if I have a problem with the college I should come together with them to the police office so they can arbitrate! I was livid! The Australian Embassy response was utterly, utterly useless. Don’t expect them to do anything for you unless it becomes a media circus event… but I digress. The ONLY information I got from the police was that my visa extension was valid until the 17th NOT the 12th as claimed by the school. They wanted to play me every which way financially so that I would be so out of pocket I would have no choice but to stay.

THAT folks is Strong International College. It is fit only for unqualified itinerants and exactly the group Strong should stick with. They should stop pretending they could run a “first class” TESOL course. If Strong stuck to offering grungy work for people who don’t mind running the gauntlet and copping some abuse along the way then there wouldn’t be a problem.

Finally the aforementioned Director of Foreign Affairs has the character of a strip club tout. We wondered why a guy like that is in his position but over time it became more apparent. His character is perfectly at home screwing people around personally, professionally and financially. It is where his mind is set and a sleazy approach is certainly not beyond him. I can only assume that suits the purposes of Strong’s senior management. After I exploded at him and the school administration, calling them out for their incompetence and deception, he stood in denial (naturally). The lie about the visa dates, using us to risk all our money… was all met with, “No, no, no, no, no… you misunderstand.” He gave us virtually no guidance on transportation, shopping or restaurants. He was constantly claiming to be “busy”. The only advice we got from him was where to buy a chicken sandwich on Friday night. Not speaking any Chinese, it was quite difficult for us to navigate the transport system, find decent restaurants, places to shop, etc… I even found an English-speaking clinic myself. The college did virtually nothing to help us settle.

I told the college waiting for my salary was pointless and I would leave the college and China post haste. I took the yellow receipt for my passport from them, got my passport back and got out of China as soon as I could. The strip club tout/Director assured me any outstanding salary would be paid. They owed me at least 6,000RMB even if they extracted maximum penalties. But that money was NEVER deposited into my bank account. They failed to pay me on the first payday, too and I had to point out the salary hadn’t been paid. Strong has employed people who have no due diligence. They are generally immature and are simply grateful to be collecting a paycheck. The same old story… only in this case it can have very negative consequences. Do not believe or accept any enticements they may make in the future. The character of Strong ranges from rotten to weird with little to no redeeming qualities. Even the section with other foreign teachers (known as IFU… I’ll leave you to image what that acronym stands for) threw out some very strange signals.

I feel sorry for the decent folk there who sit and continue to languish at Strong. But we make our bed… we lie in it. In summary if you are a nut case, lazy, don’t mind sleaze, enjoy self abuse, are unmoved by dirty money games, are desperate and willing to call into any port in storm... then maybe you won’t mind rolling the dice. If you are not of this ilk then you will find Strong a difficult place to stay. Different strokes for different folks. However, to professional teachers not wanting to self-flagellate in a dump like Strong, take my advice and give this place a wide berth.


Last edited by only1life on Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:29 am; edited 1 time in total
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johntpartee



Joined: 02 Mar 2010
Posts: 3233

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
They asked us to come to China on tourist visas


In the future, let that be a red flag for you.
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roadwalker



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Posts: 1546
Location: Ch

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two or three things-

What's PD (professional development?)

Thanks for pointing out a bad work situation with specific reasons, such as the 'come over on a tourist visa' ploy which has been a bad idea for teachers now for at least several years, not just very recently.

Finally, though it must be difficult to hold back, it's better to stick to the offending facts regarding company/school behaviour and avoid the personal animosity. When I read what a cretin so and so is, my first thought is: 'is this just a story of a teacher who can't get along with colleagues/bosses?' You've highlighted actual bad behaviour but it gets lost a little, in my opinion. Sorry you had a bad experience but thanks for naming and shaming. Good luck in the future.
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sui jin



Joined: 08 Feb 2008
Posts: 184
Location: near the yangtze

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Strong should apply for the proper visas BEFORE the recruit arrives in China. They don’t do this because they want to put the burdens and expenses onto YOU the teacher. This is where their laziness, incompetence, deviousness and dishonesty begins. "

I sympathize with your bad experience. Dealing with incompetence, lying and cheating is devastating .

But you should have exercised much more caution (about the visa) and your expectations about China were unrealistic :
I have never seen or encountered 'professional' TESOL training here. Maybe it exists, but frankly most EFL provision in the private sector is the business of extracting money from gullible /rich parents, or gullible/rich companies. The whole industry seems to be the very definition of 'unprofessional' (maybe someone will correct my impression).
Why would a pharmaceutical company have the necessary experience and professional staff to set up such an operation? Obviously the 18K salary is a huge draw, but really ?
Finally , Hangzhou, even in its farthest suburbs, is a developed city , so by chinese standards , the 'swill' in the canteen, and the 'sewer-like' market are probably standard- to -good for here.
It's just something you have to get used to .
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kungfuman



Joined: 31 May 2012
Posts: 1510
Location: In My Own Private Idaho

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

johntpartee wrote:
Quote:
They asked us to come to China on tourist visas


In the future, let that be a red flag for you.


yeah I think people who post on Daves should warn others not to come on tourist visas
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vikeologist



Joined: 07 Sep 2009
Posts: 543

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In many places around the world, it's ok, even normal, to come on a tourist visa, and in China there are lots of rules that get bent.

However, it is rarely, if ever, a good idea to come to China on a tourist visa if you plan to work.

Misunderstandings about returning to your home country and criminal checks are, to be honest, understandable. If you check the relevant threads, you can see that there's still a lot of questions and confusion. On the other hand, this confusion is why I wouldn't invite a teacher to come to China on a tourist visa, (or for the moment send someone already here to Hong Kong). Sometimes as a manager, it's important to know what you don't know.

So if anybody is reading this and thinking about coming to china, I really think that coming on the correct visa is a golden rule. It doesn't matter what the school say or what they've done in the past. With two new sets of laws / regulations / guidance in the last 3 months, the only sensible way of doing this is the Z Visa way.

I'm isolating one part of the OP's story, because I think all the other issues stemmed from that.

If someone wants to create a first class anything, then becoming a part of that will always be a roll of the dice, especially in China where the standard of language teaching is so terrible. If you're a professional teacher coming to China, you have to be ready for the shockingly low standards. I've never seen a competent language lesson delivered by a Chinese teacher, (either in English, mandarin or Spanish). That's not to say there aren't good teachers here. By all accounts there are good teachers at my Uni, but I can't get to see their classes because they usually teach the same time as me.

But there sure as hell aren't a lot.

The third problem may have been that China can be a big adjustment. That's true of a lot of places, but even if everything else had been great, if your location and facilities suck, it can be a very bad experience.

I'm not sure the OP really justified the scorn he cast on the school, but hey, it was obviously a complicated situation. As soon as you feel you can't trust an employer who's brought you into the country, then it's game over.

This is the advantage of taking a low level job in China for a year to get the lay of the land. (The disadvantages are of course many). China is a tough country to parachute into a good job.
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:13 am    Post subject: Re: Strong International College, Hangzhou WARNING Reply with quote

almost as interesting as some of your other posts. have you ever had a pleasant work
experience?


only1life wrote:
I'm currently working in an environment that consists of a delusional management with a handful of butt kissers helping them to maintain their delusions.


only1life wrote:
I think there are often shady deals done between officials and business that result in inappropriate appointments in positions of leadership.


only1life wrote:
I assume you interviewed me as a lackey. ....I'm certainly not going to support what looks like a misguided, ineffectual and probably devious management. Get your act together!


only1life wrote:

What on earth gave you the impression xxxx was well managed in Malaysia? It was a farce and I'm writing an article now to explain why it was.
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doogsville



Joined: 17 Nov 2011
Posts: 700
Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:11 am    Post subject: Re: Strong International College, Hangzhou WARNING Reply with quote

only1life wrote:
I’m quite sure Strong already knew this change was on the horizon but even if they didn’t, Strong should apply for the proper visas BEFORE the recruit arrives in China. They don’t do this because they want to put the burdens and expenses onto YOU the teacher. This is where their laziness, incompetence, deviousness and dishonesty begins.


No, you should have applied for the proper visa, with paperwork provided by the school, before you even left your home country. The deviousness and dishonesty might apply to the company, but the first two could equally apply to you.

only1life wrote:

THAT folks is Strong International College. It is fit only for tattooed gypsies,

Gypsies are a race, so that remark is racist. As a tattooed person who is a professional teacher, I find it offensive too. Judging people by their appearance is both stupid and ignorant. Maybe there are other reasons why other people seem to be able to hold down the job but you don't?
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only1life



Joined: 09 Jan 2005
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have I ever had a positive experience in EFL? After 5 countries and 20 years I should hope so. I don't spend my life in here making hundreds of chitty chat posts. I write only when there is something significant to say... most times I don't bother writing even when I have something to say. I'll have 2 more posts up soon... on Oman (grab the chance to come here if you can) and Malaysia (a comedy/tragedy/farce). EFL is a people business, the culture in which they are situated the theater. It's always the character of the most responsible parties that makes or breaks any operation. This is Strong's downfall. Be as eccentric as you like... be whoever you want to be... not a problem. It's the odd bods who make the workplace interesting often times. But don't deceive or politicize the work environment, screw around with money or passports. People's patience will wear thin quickly... as it should.
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A593186



Joined: 02 Sep 2013
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Screw the "red flag" concept. It's amazing how people come online to "ask for information" only after the fact. Smart enough to investigate visa issues after they voluntarily violate the law, but not to do it before committing a crime.

There is zero credibility to the OP - blaming others. Knowingly submitting a visa application fraudulently.

The fact you consider yourself a TESOL professional and then resort to name calling in your post removes any credibility on your part.

You accepted verbal conditions? Is that right? Why?

"IFU", I think most would agree is only an abbreviation and not an acronym, but I suppose some could argue in the pronunciation of it making it so.

All these "strange" signals" and yet you got on a plane, after fraudulently obtaining a visa to enter the country for a purpose other than your intended one, etc.

Why should we take this seriously and not a disgruntled employee who go in too deep for something they weren't prepared for?
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2013 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

only1life wrote:
Have I ever had a positive experience in EFL? After 5 countries and 20 years I.....


.....still don't realize i need a work permit and
valid work visa to work legally.

really.....the only thing missing from your post
was a cornucopia of spam web addresses all
backed by the full faith and credit of the china
foreign teachers onion.
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