A Year in China

After school I spent a year volunteering in China as a middle school English teacher with Project Trust. I lived with another volunteer in the far North-Western city of Karamay, in Xinjiang province.

This page is all about my year and how I got there with Project Trust. I kept a blog, on another page of this site, as well as a newsletter and the occasional YouTube video.

Below are some links to scroll to sections lower down on the page.

Selection with Project Trust

I completed Project Trust's Selection Week on Coll in September 2014 and started fundraising for a year in China. The week was hugely exciting and is definitely what inspired me to go! I had until July 2015 to prepare.

Fundraising

I had to raise £5900 to cover the cost of the year overseas. Below are some of the things I did to raise the money - click on the headings to learn more.

Cakes
Quizzes
Trusts
Cards
Clothes

Calum and I worked together on several Cake Sales at school. Going to a boys' school, cakes were highly popular with most of the student body, and we usually managed to sell out by the end of the day.

Particularly with his mum's baked delights, Calum and I gained a (good) reputation which made it increasingly easy to flog our wares - almost 10% of my total came from them!

I would also like to thank the following local businesses for their kind help:

There are too many individuals to name whose support enabled me to go overseas, but I am eternally grateful to everyone who supported me in any way. I'd particularly like to thank: my family; the Wivenhoe Gilbert and Sullivan Society, who did a whip-round after their show; and Colchester Royal Grammar School, which not only introduced me to Project Trust, but was accommodating in allowing me to fundraise within the school community (especially through the guidance of Mr. Chambers, not a relative, who was always willing to hear our ideas and help us reach our target).

Training

Once the total had been raised I attended the China/India training course in July 2015. It was hugely exciting to meet the people with whom I'd be spending the year (not least my volunteering partner, also called Tom) and incredibly informative; the week prepared us as best it could for what was to come.

Beijing Induction

Leaving the UK on August 13th, the group of 27 (to be spread across China) were given a few days to rest before the two-week induction in Beijing. We visited Tiananmen Sqaure, the Zoo and attended a couple of TESOL lectures, all while adapting to the time zone, food, country (and August heat!).

Mi Yun Summer Camp

For most of our two weeks we were on a summer camp in a rural area North of Beijing. The school campus was essentially fortified, so we didn't leave except for an organised day trip to a water village.

Teaching in pairs, we got to practice TESOL to classes of 20, planning lessons and getting to know each other at the same time.

Train to Ürümqi

Too soon we were saying goodbye and splitting up. 11 of us took a 32-hour train journey from Beijing (North-East) to Ürümqi, Xinjiang (North-West).

The train was surprisingly comfortable! Most of it was spent playing card games to pass the time and watching the varied landscape of mid-Northern China rolling past.

My Year in Karamay

I lived in an apartment with Tom about 20 minutes from our school on foot. We lived next to Century Park and HanBo (a massive shopping mall), as well as a large outdoor market which was closed in the freezing Winter.

Number 7 Middle School

I loved my job! I taught each class in 8th Grade once a week and had complete freedom to cover anything. I realised quickly that I wasn't going to change their lives or transform their understanding of English. Instead I worked on spoken English (not covered on their curriculum) and making lessons fun to combat their punishing and exam-centric Education system.

Ultimately I didn't make anyone fluent, but I saw an improvement in the confidence of my students' English. They seemed to enjoy my classes and I always rewarded effort over results to create a fun and welcoming classroom environment. I was far from perfect as a teacher, but I'm happy with what I achieved!

The Oasis that is Karamay

Karamay is an exception in every way: bursting with plant life in a desert; rich in a generally poor province; and welcoming to foreigners in a relatively restricted area of China. Everything there is manmade, from the oil pools (a tourist attraction), to the river, even to the hills themselves. It is clean, safe and ripe with Western imports and luxuries.

Making Friends

Tom and I made friends with a number of locals and expats, some of whom happened to live right next to us! Occasionally we were visited by other volunteers (we played host to the whole province group once), and everyone managed to visit sooner or later.

Travelling

Section coming soon!

Newsletters

I wrote five newsletters in total, spaced throughout the year, which can be accessed below:

YouTube Videos

We made a Christmas Video to send home, which I put on YouTube, but that spawned several other videos with musical accompaniment. I also started filming One Second Everyday, so I got Winter Travelling and the last six months in China.

You can watch them all below:

Merry Christmas from Xinjiang