Anna Berry joined our projects in Nanchang Longre
Please you us about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
Travelling to China was the first time I had left Europe in my life, the first time I had travelled a substantial distance (more than a few hours on a train) on my own, and only the third time I had been in a plane! Needless to say, the entire experience was new to me, which I absolutely loved. Being immersed in a new culture, especially one so different at times, was fascinating and unforgettable. Each day was unique and interesting. One of the most memorable moments was racing through the torrential rain on the back of an electric scooter driven by one of the teachers, in order to get to a different campus on time for my lesson. Clutching an umbrella in one hand and my laptop in the other, and desperately trying to balance on the back of the bike dodging people and cars was exhilarating and seemed to epitomise the entire trip: enjoyable chaos.
Which were the highlights of the lessons, cultural excursions and outdoor activities?
The lessons themselves were a lot of fun. My students were great, many of them were my own age or a few years older so we connected well which added an extra element to teaching. It was strange to be amongst peers in terms of age, but to have such different experiences and backgrounds. Nanchang is not known for its touristic attractions but there were certainly some hidden gems. Shengjin Pagoda, for example, was lovely, and just walking around the city itself was incredible. The variety of food available was huge, we went to a few different places including a Korean BBQ restaurant and several places that served hot pot, which became my favourite dish very quickly.
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
There is no doubt that this experience has benefited me hugely. Personally, I feel a lot more confident in myself and in what I am capable of doing and being. The self-reliance necessary to live in another country for two months has altered the way I approach obstacles in everyday life, whether academic or personal. My first real experience travelling, I have since visited Warsaw on my own, and plan to visit many other places in the future. The difference between before going to China and after is that before, I would merely plan but never bring to fruition, whereas now when I plan to visit a city or country I know that I truly will.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
It is impossible to choose one aspect that can be labelled "the best" because the entirety of the trip was, for me, amazing. Perhaps just experiencing an entirely new culture and being completely immersed in it was the best part. It is not an experience that many people seek because there are of course negative aspects such as the stress at first of establishing yourself and feeling comfortable. Once this has passed, however, you realise that it was totally worth it. Even little things, such as having to learn how to use chopsticks because western eating utensils aren't available anywhere, is part of the immersive experience. Adapting to local culture, too – I used to hate spicy food but after two months of being unable to avoid it I now add chilli to everything I eat!
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
I would definitely recommend participating to a friend. It is an unforgettable experience, and the TEFL qualification you earn can open so many doors in the future. The skills you use while teaching are extremely transferable and can be used in so many situations. The experience of travelling to China and staying there, immersed in the culture and landscape, is incredible. Spending time in Yangshuo after my programme finished was also amazing. The landscape was so beautiful, and I met many lovely people at Monkey Jane's Hostel, where I was able to stay for free courtesy of Gotoco.