Freya Plummer joined our projects in BOB Foreign Language Vocational Training School, Shantou
Please you us about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
I had the opportunity to experience authentic Chinese culture in Guangdong province, an area which I probably would not have visited as a tourist. I was lucky to have the opportunity to teach at 3 different schools in Chaoyang, Chenghai and Jieyang where I worked with a wide range of different students, from young children to adults. During my spare time I enjoyed exploring the local area, in particular Jieyang where I visited local landmarks and admired how the local community came together on an evening to socialise and dance by the riverside. At the beginning of the trip Poppy, Susannah and I spent a few days teaching in Chaoyang where we were made to feel like one of the family and shown around the city by our students, who even took us to a vegetarian restaurant! It was a really special experience and one which I will never forget. I made some lovely friends and was warmly welcomed by the Chinese teachers.
Which were the highlights of the lessons, cultural excursions and outdoor activities?
In lessons I particularly enjoyed teaching English cultural topics to the children and learning about Chinese lifestyle, holidays and traditions. The students in Chaoyang had never met a foreigner before so it was really rewarding to receive positive feedback from them on my lessons. I was part of a large group of international volunteers in Shantou which made it easy to settle in. Once a week we were taken on day trips to different locations like Nan’ao Island, which was great! The school organised lots of cultural activities like making dumplings, pottery classes, visiting cafes, swimming and bamboo rafting. We even had a Chinese cupping massage which was an interesting experience! Between classes we had spare time to explore the local area – I enjoyed visiting Jieyang temple, Jieyang palace and Huangqi Mountain. After our teaching placement we spent a few days in lively Yangshuo exploring the beautiful surrounding scenery on electric scooters, we hiked to moon hill and visited traditional villages.
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
The whole experience really broadened my horizons, I learnt a great deal about Chinese culture and lifestyle. After teaching in Guangdong province and visiting Yangshuo I spent a month travelling throughout China which was one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt so much about China’s rich history and traditions. Travelling opened my eyes to the rural beauty of China in contrast to its exciting modern cities and growing superpower status. I had a few lessons in Mandarin Chinese and learnt some basic phrases which helped me during my travels. The experience has improved my leadership skills, confidence and CV. I worked towards a TEFL certificate which I may use to teach English abroad in the near future.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
I had a fantastic summer in China and have fond memories of my time there. I love travelling so being immersed in a totally different culture with a difficult language barrier was a welcome adventure. I visited some amazing places (including the Great Wall, Terracotta warriors, and Chengdu panda breeding centre) and got to teach in parts of the country that most tourists would not see. Whilst working as a teacher I experienced daily life in China e.g. eating out, going to the hairdressers and massage parlour, using the gym, visiting the local swimming pools and beach. It was great to experience so many different aspects of Chinese culture (restaurants, museums, and Sichuan opera) and make friendships with the local people.
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
Yes I would definitely recommend GOTOCO to my friends. GOTOGO provided me with all the advice and support I needed to begin my volunteer placement in Shantou. It was a great way to spend my summer after graduation and I met some lovely people. I really enjoyed teaching and travelling throughout China, the experience was beneficial to my CV and I gained a TEFL certificate which I may use to apply for teaching positions abroad. I gained many transferable skills and the placement gave me the confidence to embark on my first solo travel trip. We were warmly welcomed by the Chinese teachers and made to felt appreciated with gifts and a goodbye party at the end of our placement. When I was ill the staff helped me to buy medicine and were generally helpful with any other problems. Last summer I participated in Camp America but much preferred my experience in China with GOTOCO. At the end of my placement I told the head-teacher that I had a very positive experience and asked if I could go back next year. I would love to go back to China in the future.