3 – Learning Mandarin Chinese is a real challenge for our Volunteers. Being a tonal language, and a completely different alphabet, means you really have to put a lot of effort into it. What’s great about the China country programme is that the schools will dedicate a member of staff to set aside some time each week to go through different aspects of the language and while it is a long process most of the volunteers come on a huge way over the course of the year. Language is so often a gateway to getting a much richer experience overseas and having 12-months in China really does give you the opportunity to see that.
4 – I was really impressed with the level this year’s Volunteers are teaching at already, which I think is an endorsement of the developments made to the induction. This year the Volunteers spent three weeks in Beijing learning about Chinese culture but also having quite an intense programme of teacher training. Seeing the Volunteers at their projects you could really see that they’d put a lot of time and effort into their lesson plans and they understand that it takes hard work to become an effective teacher. It’s a real privilege of my job to see Volunteers performing well at their projects and it made the visit really enjoyable.
Ava volunteering as a teacher in China
5 – I’m fortunate in that I flew between provinces: when the Volunteers travel they will almost always choose the budget train journeys which become the stuff of Project Trust legend due to the distances involved. The first train journey the Volunteers take is when they head to their projects from Beijing, which can take between 14 and 34 hours. Sometimes they get a seat, sometimes a bed but sometimes they have to stand. The Volunteers are all about to head off on their winter travels and they’ve planned some really exciting and elaborate routes. A lot of them are taking in the Harbin Ice Festival, where a city is seemingly consumed by gigantic ice sculptures. It’s really worth seeing, but for some of them getting there is the equivalent of travelling the length of Europe and treating the train journey as a test of endurance seems to be par for the course.