Can you tell me about some of your most enjoyable moments of the trip?
The meal out with the other volunteers and our Chinese Teaching Assistants (TAs) at the end of our placement was great. It was really nice to chat in an informal and relaxed environment (after having intense school days). It included lots of toasts and pictures and ended in a Chinese nightclub. Doing activities with the kids was great – highlights being making dumplings, and a trip to the cinema. In Yangshuo (the holiday week after teaching in Dongguan) there were so many amazing moments! Including: cycling by the river Li and having a water fight with Chinese swimmers when we stopped for a swim, climbing TV tower for the sunrise, barbecue and swimming on secret beach.
Which were the highlights of the lessons, cultural excursions and outdoor activities?
The lessons: seeing the kids getting excited by an activity you’d prepared – for example making snowflakes whilst learning about the weather. Seeing the kids get incredibly competitive at class games to learn vocabulary!
The cultural excursions: (visits to museum and Guangzhou were cancelled but) we went on excursions to a shop and to the cinema. These were both very entertaining as it was slight mayhem with over a hundred excited kids rushing around excited by the experience.
The outdoor activities: highlight was swimming, as all the children were very surprised by the fact I donned my swimming costume and got in the pool. They had an absolute riot of a time and it was rewarding because I feel I was able to help some kids gain a lot of confidence in the water.
How would you say the overall experience has benefited you?
I have definitely grown in confidence a lot as being faced with a class of 34 7-year-old Chinese kids to teach was incredibly challenging but I stepped up to it. I feel like I’ve gained a lot of other skills also
Obviously I also now have experience in teaching – including a TEFL qualification. This is beneficial for applying to any similar positions in the future, and also looks good on my CV for other applications.
What was the best thing about your experience in China?
Just being in an entirely new environment – new country, completely new language, very different culture, and actually living there for 3 weeks. I find that often when travelling you only see what the country/area decides the tourists should see. Whereas in this scheme, I got to really get a feel for China. Partly because we were working so closely with the Chinese TAs, both during the busy school days but also exploring Dongguan together on our days off, and a final meal and night out together, but also partly because we could wander Dongguan in our own time. We had basic Chinese language lessons, which we made great use of when attempting to work out the buses in the city centre, or shopping in the market near our school.
Would you recommend participating to a friend and if so why?
Yes. It was something really interesting and enjoyable to do over the summer. I really enjoyed being in China, and the week’s holiday in Yangshuo afterwards. It is also a really great place to plan further travels from (I then travelled down Vietnam) as you have already paid for flights to China. Despite being a very fun experience, it also felt very productive. I feel like it is just as beneficial to my CV to have this experience and qualification on, than an internship that so many people spend their summer doing (and often disliking). As well as just CV points, I really did feel like I grew in confidence and gained so many skills – in motivation, in organisation, in improvisation, etc. I also met a lot of great people – other students mostly, but also my Chinese TA was lovely and I have kept in touch with her.