China is a mysterious country because it is so inaccessible. Isolated in terms of language, politics and culture, it has recently been opening up to the rest of the world, but most can only glimpse the well-worn tourist trails which show nothing of the real China.
My distant relatives live in the tiny countryside village of Beitang, in a dilapidated old mansion in need of rebuilding. Thanks to their hospitality, contacts with medical students in China, and the support of Bristol university, students have gone out most summers since 2000 (apart from SARS 2003 epidemic and the 2008 Sichuan earthquake) to live in the house and teach English to the local schoolchildren.
If you are enthusiastic about:
- learning Chinese
- adapting to a rural Chinese farming lifestyle
- making friends with Chinese medical students
- teaching English to the Beitang children.
…you may be brave enough to initiate your own project in rural China. However, think carefully – the project will be set up by you, it is not a question of just joining on for the summer…
…there are huge differences in culture and language
…you will need to work closely with people both in England and on the other side of the world
…the project takes a year –ie. preparing for the trip and the follow-through on return to UK.
The first step is to get together a team of people as enthusiastic as yourself, who want to learn Chinese. They don’t have to be medical students. Having a group of people with a common interest may open up lots of opportunities for new ideas (e,g, historians…photographers…English students…Chinese society members…) but don’t worry if you end up with completely random people –they will become very special.
The following is an action plan based on my experience back in 2000, just to give you an idea of how to get started. I hope you can make this site your own, and add your tips/updates when you come back for other teams to use. Good luck!
Before you go:
While you’re there:
Living in Beitang
Back in the UK:
Share your experiences