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Volunteers' Stories




Teaching English in Schools in Yangzhou, China


I am gaining more and more confidence in teaching as expected. My project involves working with a wide age-range of students, the youngest being less than two years old and the eldest being in their fifties. I am also becoming more confident at communicating with groups of various sizes (from 1-1 lessons to 40-student classrooms)

Of course the best aspect about this project is having an excellent organiser like Tim around! I have had the perfect balance between teaching time and time off, which has meant that I have been able to really take in the Chinese culture. The best thing about my placement is definitely the variety. It is particularly helpful to have another class of eager students, when one doesn't go as well as I have hoped.

I would definitely recommend this placement to everyone - anyone with any interest in teaching English abroad, to anyone who wants to visit China and learn about the Chinese way of life. I am very glad that I decided to do this placement, even though I originally wanted to coach sports - it has really been worthwhile.

Another good thing is the location of the project. Firstly, because it is in Yangzhou, where not as many people speak English, I have had to learn some basic Chinese. Secondly, Yangzhou is better placed (than say Beijing or Shanghai) to plan trips into the heart of real China, whilst still being close enough to a major city (Shanghai).

As most people have probably said before me China is an amazing country. People often say that going to a country whose culture is so different to our own is like going to another world; I think this is truer in China than anywhere else. Everything that we get at home is available here, but just with a different name (and a much better price) - for example on TV there are 55 channels but none that aren't Chinese, so once I get used to the language and culture a bit more, I think it will really feel a lot like home!

I was strolling down the streets of Yangzhou yesterday evening, and it could well have been the streets of London or Cambridge, but for the people and the language. Another thing that took me by surprise was that before I left England, I always thought of China as a developing country (much like India or Latin America), but it actually feels almost as developed as a European country, especially in Yangzhou and the little of Shanghai I have seen.

Everything that I thought about the food has also been true - it is absolutely amazing (especially what Tim orders). I don't think I've had an unpleasant dining experience yet. Street food is abundant, more (if not equally) flavourful compared to that in restaurants and extremely inexpensive.

The placement in Yangzhou is very much an authentic Chinese experience. I have not seen a single non-Chinese person other than Michelle and Chris (who themselves have only seen 2-3 in their six weeks here). As you may expect for such a place, a good phrasebook is absolutely indispensable and future volunteers may benefit immensely from learning spoken Mandarin before they start. Having a conversation is extremely difficult even with some knowledge as it is hard to progress beyond one sentence (!) but communication is getting easier, especially with food and street hawkers.

Yangzhou also seems really safe as a city. The main extra-curricular activities here revolve around the parks, gardens and lake

Can you describe a typical day? Every day has been completely different (no exaggeration) so I'll give you an example of one of my Thursdays. I wake up at around 7 and do some exercises/running/skipping. Then I head over to food street for breakfast. I usually go to a dumpling place and the ladies know me there so they throw in an extra couple of spinach dumplings for the resident laowai. T

hen I head to the primary school. I get there at 9 o'clock for my 9:15 lesson. I have 3 lessons there every Thursday and teaching is usually basic stuff such as colours, family, animals and parts of the body. I then head to Shangri-La for lunch, typically comprising of spicy chicken with peanuts, cucumbers and noodles with a glass of green tea

In the afternoon I have some time off, so I catch up on some diary-writing, spend some time at a traditional Chinese garden or play badminton with Tim. In the evening, I go to Tim's house for dinner where Tim's mum has cooked up a sumptuous feast.

In the evening I go to the Web Center for my English lessons - I have a Social Club (7-8) and a 3-student Salon class (8-9). After this, I'll go back home, read my emails and perhaps plan my next sightseeing trip away from Yangzhou - a three-day visit including sunrise at HuangShan (Yellow Mountain) before retiring for the day.

The placement would suit any of the following types of person:
(a) Anyone who wants to teach English as a foreign language.
(b) Anyone who has an interest in China/Chinese culture.
(c) Anyone who wants to learn Chinese.

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