Living and volunteering in China will give you a unique insight into the world’s oldest continued civilisation. Its unique traditions are steadfastly upheld while it develops at an unparalleled rate.
China is a vast country that stretches across expansive cold deserts and through hidden valleys, temple-topped mountains and sprawling cities. Its diverse landscape, climates and culinary delights need time to explore and get to know. China is fascinating in its fast-paced development and ability to build towering skyscrapers overnight, but it prides itself in its history and traditions. The country is of huge importance on the international stage and with 1.4 billion people, it is a nation of significance. However it is the individuals you’ll meet that will have the most impact on you.
As a volunteer in China you will be hosted by a school and most likely live in accommodation on the school site, in a teachers’ dormitory building. Rooms are well equipped, often with bathrooms and kitchenettes attached. This position will allow you to get to know students inside and outside the classroom and form bonds with teachers also living close by. Whether you’re based in a ‘rural town’, or sprawling city, the schools are large and tend to be in more bustling, built-up areas. For many, the countryside is not far away though and weekends may be spent hiking to local temples or visiting teachers family homes in small villages.
Though facilities to cook for yourself will be available, school canteens will provide your lunch and evening meals, unless you’ve been invited out for a banquet – a traditional Chinese formal meal with teachers or friends.
As a volunteer in China you will be teaching classes in spoken English. Your role is to improve the confidence of students in Spoken English. Chinese students work extremely hard during their school days, studying from the early morning to well into the night. What they learn in your lessons will not be examined at national level so your class provides students with an opportunity to learn in a more relaxed environment.
It is likely that you will teach large classes and this brings with it challenges in engaging all. You’ll teach large numbers of students in a week so you’ll need to good at learning names!
You have the opportunity to bring new and exciting teaching methods to the classroom. You’ll have fairly good resources to work with and you’ll need to be creative in how you use these to engage a class of 60. Having you in the classroom enables students to practise their English with a native speaker. You can have fun with them – involving them in drama skits and debates – as long as they’re enjoying the class, they are learning English.
You will need to be sensitive of the pressure put on students and teachers but a little proactivity can go a long way. You have a real chance to impact a Chinese student’s future. The ability and confidence to speak English will open doors for them.
You will have to be responsible in the classroom, acting as a teacher and role model for the young people you work with.
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. Your time spent volunteering in China will likely impact you for the rest of your life. Gaining an understanding of one of the most important players on the international stage and an insight into its cultural practices and etiquette will show you a perspective from an entirely different side of the world.
You will also have the opportunity to learn Mandarin Chinese with lessons often organised through the school. If you are interested in other aspects of the culture, such as Tai Chi, calligraphy, painting or table tennis, then volunteering in China will provide a chance to hone these skills.
Rosie Macgill | India 07/08Country Coordinator for China
Rosie is a Returned Volunteer (India 07/08) who spent an exchange year in Hong Kong as a student. During this time she spent any holiday or study period travelling in China, experiencing what this vast country had to offer.