Going to China as a volunteer is experience of a lifetime. It opens your eyes to a whole different culture and way of life.
So how did this experience happen? Well, around February 2018 I started to investigate possible summer jobs and volunteering programs, because I didn’t really want to sit at home for 2 months. I came across an offer to teach English in China as a volunteer. This caught my eye because the idea of going somewhere like China seemed quite cool. Everyone these days is travelling to the States or Continental Europe and China sounded different. I discussed this with friends and family and they all said things like “Are you sure you’ll be safe so far away?” But I am so glad I didn’t listen to them. I began filling in the application form and a month later I got a reply that stated that I have been accepted by the organisation. So, step one was done.
Step two was waiting until an English school in China chose me as a volunteer. In May I was contacted by Miss Jenny, who was the principal of an English school. We had a video chat where she asked me various questions about my previous experiences with kids and teaching in general (you don’t need prior teaching experience). Everything went well and she told me that they accepted me to the program! So, it was official – I was going to China over the summer to teach English!
On 3rd of July, I flew to Hong Kong. It’s a pretty long flight, 12 hours of sleeping and watching movies. The school sent a driver to pick me up from the airport. He drove me to a train station where I jumped on a train to Shantou. I was genuinely afraid of travelling solo in China because I had no idea if there would be English road signs. But everything was in Chinese and English and it was well organised, so it was easy to get on the correct train. Then another driver took me directly to the school. I met Jenny and other volunteers at the school. Man, I was blown away by everything.
First of all it was so hot. Like, you have no idea. Luckily all the school facilities and rooms had AC. I had packed hoodies and long trousers which I didn’t use throughout my entire stay. Another difficult factor for me was food. Chinese people do not really eat meat as much as I normally like to. Which is a good thing, I guess. But for me it was hard, the food they make has a lot of flavour and they use a lot of sauces. It is not your typical Chinese takeaway meal in the UK. So I ended up eating rice with tofu for the first week. But overtime I became more resilient and began to try different foods which I enjoyed it in the end. Improvise, adapt and overcome right?
The first week we received training from the Chinese teachers. We came up with games to play in classrooms and practised teaching in front of the other volunteers. At the school there were about 30 other volunteers from around the world, but most of them came from London, Cambridge and Oxford. This was easily the most stressful part of the stay because nobody really knew if we were doing well. However, the Chinese teachers were pleased with our demos and after the first week of training we were assigned classes. I was teaching 5 days a week, twice a day and I genuinely loved it. Chinese kids are cool and energetic. They really want to learn from you and get better. I felt like I was making an impact in their lives and I could see the progress they were making.
At the end of my stay there was a big English festival that was organised by the school and every volunteer was required to create a performance with their classes. The parents come to see what their kids have learned while you’ve been teaching them. I taught my class to sing a song “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson. They loved it. We also created a dance that went with it. It was hard to say goodbye to the kids as they had started to grow on me over the weeks.
Overall, it was one of the best summers I had in my life.
How expensive is it?
The only thing you as a volunteer must pay for is your flight. Every other expense such as food, transport in China and accommodation are paid for by the English teaching school.
How long is the program?
Between 3-7 weeks usually.
Author: Lukas Vavrecka, Czech Republic