Hugh joined our programme in Yangshuo (Zhuoyue English College) in the summer of 2017, please read on for his feedback.
Please can you tell us about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
The trip was incredible. By far the most fulfilling aspect of my time in China was the time spent with the kids themselves. Full of personality and eager to learn, I found it very easy to engage with classes in a productive and personal manner. The school’s balance of academic work with outdoor, external activity made plenty of room for bonding – both with students, other foreign teachers and the school’s staff.
Which were the highlights of the lessons, cultural excursions and outdoor activities?
In partnership with our TAs we were able to teach in a manner that was fulfilling ans enjoyable. For me personally, a favourite moment was watching my class perform their production of Cinderella in front of the entire school – a class that, to begin with, had proven unruly and disengaged. With the help of my Teaching Assistant, we turned the class around and channelled the class’s energy into creative and academic pursuits – it was with this class that some of my most meaningful relationships were established.
The outdoor activities that took a substantial amount of space on the school’s curriculum proved very beneficial. As mentioned in my TEFL documents, such activities injected the programme with a degree of variety which certainly worked to sustain and enhance a student’s motivation in learning English. Sports events held by the school on Friday afternoons worked very much in this way. In our first week, after the kids had concluded their performances, we began a sports afternoon that quickly devolved into a school-wide water fight. This was a very entertaining afternoon for everyone, and I thought it great that the school’s staff had permitted the spontaneous battle – it was a great bonding activity and allowed kids to enjoy a well-rounded experience at Zhuoyue, as both a summer camp and facility for thorough learning.
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
I was anticipating my summer in China with excitement, but needless to say this opportunity lay far beyond my comfort zone, and would certainly embody one that would be a great personal challenge. The proceeding weeks vindicated my decision, and I have been able to take a great deal from my time in China. First and foremost, as mentioned in my application video, I am an International Relations student greatly interested in Chinese history, politics and culture. This experience has fulfilled a desire to explore these three areas to an extent I hadn’t anticipated. Again, as mentioned in my application, I believe the academic study of a state contributes only to a partial understanding. To achieve a thorough knowledge of a nation the researcher must supplement theoretical study with direct engagement, with the local sphere. My time in Yangshuo permitted me to explore this sphere extensively.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
The best thing about my experience in China has been China itself. As mentioned, I’ve always had a fascination with the country and GOTOCO have provided me with the opportunity to explore my passion directly. There are innumerable elements that together epitomise the experience of a lifetime. The people, the food, the environment. Everything.
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this experience to a friend. Teaching English in China is unlikely to ever be a negative experience, and I would certainly recommend GOTOCO as a suitable carrier.