Verity Musselwhite Steel, Durham University
Verity joined our programme in the city of Chongqing in the summer of 2015, please read on for her feedback
Can you tell me about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
A highlight was definitely a trip to Chongqing’s Ronghui hotspring. There were many different small pools/baths where the water had different flavours (ie. eucalyptus, rose, chocolate, coffee and milk), different types of sauna rooms and even a selection of fun water slides. It was one of the most relaxing days I’ve ever had, which was much needed after a solid 14 days of non-stop teaching. Also very memorable was watching the pandas at Chengdu’s panda breeding centre being fed; my friend and I had a perfect view of the adolescent pandas fighting over the bamboo and getting very excited by the food. Cycling around the Xi’an city wall one morning was also very enjoyable- a great, leisurely way to see the city before it got ridiculously hot! Finally, the 7 of us in Chongqing had a great, fun night in a karaoke bar, which surprised us all in terms of how much fun it was!
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
As cliché as it sounds, I learnt a lot about myself in China. Whether I was dealing with immigration officials on the Hong Kong border, or successfully teaching and engaging children in a month’s worth of lessons, having never done any teaching before, I learnt that I am much more capable at things than I had previously thought, which proved to be a huge confidence boost. The trip also benefitted me by expanding my global awareness and understanding of a culture so different from my own. The trip was also great for developing communication skills, underlining that you don’t purely need a common language to understand different people.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
While my teaching experience, a combination of challenges and enjoyment, was enormously satisfying, the best thing about my China experience was probably my absorption into Chinese culture. Learning about Chinese culture was stimulating and unremitting: each day I would learn new facts about Chinese culture, history, politics and traditions, picking up information from observation or chatting to my students, teaching assistant or random local people, often on the subway. My experience in China, such as eating at local places rather than franchises, provided me with a strong and deep insight and understanding into the country, one that would not have been as rich had I simply been a tourist.
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
I would absolutely recommend participating to a friend. My 5 weeks in China in Chongqing with the New Oriental School are unrivalled as the best 5 weeks of my life. The experience was by no means easy, with each day presenting challenges in both the classroom and the local unfamiliar culture. However, overcoming these difficulties and gradually becoming accustomed to Chinese culture made the trip infinitely more rewarding. Whether it was the pride of witnessing the marked improvement of students’ English skills or personally increasing in confidence when communicating with the locals, the trip was hugely rewarding and stimulating, a huge learning curve on both personal and cultural levels.