The entire flight over to China it didn’t really feel like I was going to a different country and experience a different culture. As I was in the airport it hit me when I tried to fill my water bottle and was only given the option for hot water, I guess this is where the adventure begins.
I applied to do this internship back in October and it is possibly the best thing I decided to do. After I received an email to confirm that I have been accepted I was ecstatic.
I landed in January and stayed in Beijing for the first month to complete the theoretical part of the course. During this time so many exciting things were happening!!! I climbed the Great Wall, saw the Bird’s nest, experienced lots of different types of traditional Chinese food, bargained in the markets and even went to KTV a few times. The people I met in China were great everyone would always try and say hello, some would even want to take pictures with me. The people I was with in Beijing were great everyone was really excited to be in China, the ImmerQi team were also great fun having a balance of professionalism and a social side when they took us out to places.
Already four weeks into my time here in China and I’m just loving life, everyone out here seems to be so true to themselves and are not afraid to smile back at you or wave. It was time for me to get sent to my placement, was sad to leave everyone but also excited to go out and teach. I left Beijing on the 9th February and arrived in Guangzhou south station, the journey was a whopping 22 hours, yes that’s right 22 hours. When I arrived at the station my contact person was ready to take me to my school along with a few others. None of us had ever really met before but we were all unsure what to expect. We arrived at our city Dongguan, which is in the Guandong province, we ate lunch together and then we went to our apartment. From looking at the area I could already tell I was going to enjoy the rest of my time in China living here.
I live in a village like town, which was in itself its own city, called Houjie which contains just over a million people out of the 6.5 million that live in this city. The area I live in seemed like it had strong community everyone seemed to know each other or at least acknowledge each other. It was a place where everything I needed was in walking distance, having a street BBQ area 2 minutes away, one of the largest shoes market in China was also useful, there was a huge shopping mall 10 minutes away with a subway station near also. There were a few local bars, few of which were expat bars which was nice as they’d serve home comfort food.
The school where I was sent wasn’t a very large school but had about 2000 students, ranging from grade 1 all the way to grade 9, it was a mix of primary and middle school. I taught grade 2 and 4 so my kids ages ranged from 7-11, at first it was a little challenging as I needed to get used to the kids and vice versa. The teachers in my class were always great help however and would keep them calm which can be difficult when your class have about 45 children in them and they don’t speak fluent English or I being able to speak fluent Mandarin. As the weeks went on the lessons became more active and enjoyable for both the kids and I, this was because I was able to tailor myself to teach for their level and they had gotten used to my method of teaching.
Every now and then we’d be asked to do something different, whether it is taken to another school and do a presentation for them, or an annual event such as Easter, or mother’s day, it was all good fun. During Easter we spent the entire week painting and decorating eggs, the kids had such big smiles on their faces that it made the smell of a few broken eggs worth it, a few kids even bought in Goose eggs.
Going away from teaching for a moment, on the weekends in my free time there was lots to do, and thanks to the Chinese and their amazing transportation system I was able to get to other cities easily and quickly. Every other weekend I would visit somewhere other than my city, be it somewhere where other interns were or somewhere on my own. I would usually have to get a train to Guangzhou South station I order to go to other cities which was no issue as it was a 17 minute train ride away which is next to no time. I’ve been to other cities in my province such as Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, and Shenzhen; I had also been to Guilin which is just outside my province. In each of these cities there was always something different to see. For example the rice terraces in Guilin, the beaches in Zhuhai, the richest city being Shenzhen and there amazing attractions of the world park, Guangzhou was usually the area where all the other interns met up and got together which was great fun.
The weekends when I didn’t leave my city I would often explore places myself or with friends. There are many things happening around my city and many places to see, one of my favourite places I had been was the Buddah Mountain, which had a spectacular view and an adventurous walk, it had a great surprise of a rock slide which was tremendous fun.
In my town there is a village which holds the only dry dragon boat festival in all of China due to the river drying up. It has different teams which contains generations of family, who always return to take part every year, and what they do is they would go to their temple and light lots of firecrackers make lots of noise and create such a great display. They do not race each other on land sadly, however they do create a tremendous show and are then judged based on the best performance. It truly is something special and I am lucky to have been taken there as me and my friend were the only two foreigners at the entire festival, which at first I felt rude as it seemed to be something hidden and sacred to them but they were very welcoming. Another area in my city kept to the traditional dragon boat races which is held on a large river, when I arrived it was too late and all the races had ended despite this I still got to partake in a huge water fight at the end which left me soaked.
Overall I had a great time on this internship and was extremely happy with the city I was placed in and the school I was placed in. My time out here was how I expected if not more and I feel as if my character was well suited to this trip. Everyone was extremely helpful, the staff at ImmerQi were always there to check on us to make sure nothing was going wrong and would always sort out minor any minor issues that I had. All in all, I had some amazing times and there never was a grey day, other than during monsoon season when nearly every day was grey but it also created some of the greatest Lightning storms I have ever witnessed.
Omar Mostafa, a teaching intern from Teach & Travel China Program Winter 2017 intake, is currently placed in Dongguan, China.