This summer, to start off my post-uni gap year, I volunteered as an English teacher in Yangshuo China at a summer camp. Despite not knowing how to speak Mandarin nor having any previous teaching experience, I had an absolutely incredible time getting to know the children through leading lessons as well as participating in activities such as camping and cooking bamboo rice.
Without any teaching plans, textbooks or even adequate supplies of paper and pens, the task of leading entire lessons to class sizes of twenty children was challenging for a first-time teacher that was me. At the beginning I must admit I struggled a lot. However, over the first week I got to know what activities the children enjoyed, what they didn’t like and how to plan better beforehand to be able to run the classes more smoothly. The children were all very sweet and eager to learn, and befriending the Chinese assistants made my time there even more enjoyable.
I feel like I improved my adaptability and independence skills through the teaching and even learned some Mandarin through the children!
One of the most memorable moments of this trip to China was when I lost my mobile phone while exploring the town during my time off. This was an overwhelmingly stressful moment but thankfully the person who had found it informed me of his location so that I could go and collect it back. Without my phone, it was very difficult for me to navigate my way around but fortunately I came across a lady who saw that I needed help and offered to give me a ride on her moped to the location for free.
Thinking back now, I am still in awe and thankful for this stranger’s kindness.
Although the cultural differences took some time to adjust to, this experience gave me an honest and eye-opening insight into how life is life for the local people and the kindness of the people. What I have seen and learnt would not have been possible from travelling to China simply as a tourist. I’m still in touch with some of the children who want to practice their English skills through WeChat. Overall, I am grateful for what this experience and what the people I met have taught me and am so happy that I had decided to sign up for this.