Teaching Intern: Laoshi, Laoshi, For You!| 7 min read

Millie with her Students

Sitting silently atop the stupendous rocks bordering the peak of one of China’s 5 Great Mountains, an assortment of accomplishment, inspiration and realization strike me like a bolt. I’m permeated by the accumulated energy of 3000 years of culture, history and highly regarded leaders who have graced the very grounds I spent the last 4 hours and 1500 meters conquering. To my right, the descending sun shimmers fiery shades of light, spreading a hypnotic honey-orange glow among the wisps of white that decorate the skies, forming a sacred fog that swallows me into a state of utter peace and bliss. Such is a state I would’ve deemed almost impossible to reach a year ago in the erratic, fast-paced life I’d come to live prior to venturing into the Eastern world, a state which would form only one of the remarkable experiences of my travels in China.

Photo of stunning sunset on the peaks of Taishan

“But Millie, you’ve never taught before! Is it even legal, I mean, are you qualified to go do that?”
“You’re going to the other side of the world? On your own? Bloody hell, I thought I’d already seen it all from you!”
“Oh my, a grand adventure awaits!”
“How on earth have you managed that one? We’re going to need to arrange a coffee date for this Mills.”

Just a few of the remarks I’d received from friends and family after revealing plans of abandoning the life I’d come to know in a small countryside town of Yorkshire. 11 months had passed since the return from my homeland in Africa and I’d found myself caught up between 2 jobs, about to take on a third, recovering from a great loss in the family and almost completely losing touch with my sense of enjoyment for life – not quite how I’d imaged my third decade to unfold. Fast forward a few weeks and an opportunity had arisen which ticked a multitude of the boxes that formed my ideal adventure.

Beijing Orientation Week, Day 1. A crowd of weary interns begins to form at our base – it transpires that I wasn’t the only one who had endured an arduous journey. Despite the unanimous urge to retire for a few hours, it was a simple query of just 2 words that led to a night-long exploration of a fragment of the city – “Beer, anyone?” Little did we know this query alone would send us sprawling into the beckoning boulevards of Beijing, gallivanting for several hours into bars, shops and night markets before finding ourselves inevitably lost within the fast approaching hours of dawn.

Millie and a few of the interns celebrating their first KTV experience!

The days to follow were far beyond what I’d imagined – a 7 day Orientation with 90 fellow interns, moving from Tai Chi and Mandarin classes to hikes up The Great Wall of Juyyuangang, Acrobatic Shows at the popular Chaoyung Theatre and a cultural performance over traditional Chinese dinner, followed by the inevitable KTV appearance! An ideal introduction the country we’d be calling home for the upcoming 5 months.

The halfway mark through my internship passed just a few days ago and it has quite honestly been a phenomenal 10 weeks of  wild adventure, endless learning, continuous adjustment, vast and varied experiences and for me personally, a whole lot of growth! The coastal city of Yantai, which lies halfway between Beijing and Shanghai, is where I’ve come to gain my first teaching experience. A golden beach sits just a stone’s throw away from my apartment which neighbors the placement school, so no excuses for being late – a huge bonus for me! I teach a group of wonderful primary school students and an adult conversational class every 2 weeks. My students are truly delightful, they brighten up the days with such ease, from their exuberance as I enter the class the enthusiasm and hunger they have to learn and improve their skills. Their continuous efforts to assist me in class, be it with remembering a student’s name (or in some cases, naming a new student!), is beyond me and the experience would be but a fraction of what it has become if it wasn’t for their eager young minds and cheerful faces that come along with the challenges they offer a first time teacher!  I won’t forget 8 year old Snow approaching me at the end of a class with a satsuma shouting “Laoshi, Laoshi! For you”. Such moments are what make the hurdles along the way entirely worthwhile.

“The friendliest most welcoming students I’ve met –how they remained so energised during our overnight journey is beyond me!”

I think I can speak for many of the interns by saying that the experience of being plunged into a world that contradicts all you’ve come to know is one that will stretch you far beyond what you deemed possible, one that leaves you with a dropped jaw and sometimes forces you to surpass your comfort zone. You will be tested, you will laugh, you may even want to cry but more importantly you will learn, you’ll experience and be truly immersed in a culture entirely alien to your own.

An ultimate highlight for me thus far in my journey has undoubtedly been the people of China; from university student Kate, who along with her friends at a train station, helped me get the last available ticket of the night, accompanied and taught me basic mandarin on the journey to furthermore, escorting me to a hostel at 4 in them morning! To the man on a bike who kindly gave me a ride to the station when I was utterly lost,  the stranger-turned-tour guide and friend at a street-side restaurant in Jinan who acted as a translator when the waiter and I failed to comprehend one another and Jasmine from Henan Province, a pretty face I won’t forget – my first encounter who stayed up all night to share laughter and stories whilst also suggesting Taishan for a day of adventure. Each one of these encounters as well as those with every other delightful citizen has evaded the unfamiliarity and unease one would expect of a foreign land and has additionally humbled me greatly. It’s because of them that I feel at home in a country, which a couple of years ago, I’d never thought I’d come to visit, let alone live and work in.

Millie’s students learning about seeds and plants with a very happy bunch!

If I were to say one thing to anyone contemplating the Immerqi internship it would be this –  be sure to arrive with an empty mind for the People’s Republic will fill you to the brim with all that you may and may not expect, fear or anticipate and about 12 times more! Prepare for 5 months of a unique opportunity to explore the wonders of China, gain extensive teaching experience and absorb one of the most captivating cultures you’ll come to know.

Who knows, it could be you sat on the other side of the world, writing of your adventures for a blog this time next year…


Millie Beazley, a teaching intern from Teach & Travel China Program Summer 2016 intake, is placed in Yantai, China.

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