Richeldis Brosnan reports ahead of year in Jiayuguan

September 14th 2018 was the day I announced to my parents that I wanted to do a gap year in China with the Project Trust. They were immensely supportive and in October I went off to Coll for the Project Trust Selection course. I remember the day when I got the email saying that Project Trust had accepted me as a volunteer, I was on the bus unable to open the email on my phone and had to wait until I got to school to find out I’d been accepted. The waiting was excruciating.

It’s hard to comprehend that after all this time it’s only ten weeks until I depart for Jiayuguan, China. Frankly, I still don’t fully believe it’s happening. Perhaps after the 18 hour flight to Beijing it might become more real.

Early expectations of arrival in China

When I land in China it will be roughly 32°C, here begins my first challenge. I enjoy hot weather just as much as the next person. However, I will have had barely any experience with temperatures at that level. For the first couple of days I will most likely be covered head to toe in factor 50 sun cream, which most certainly will be reapplied every five minutes as well as me wearing numerous hats and carrying multiple sun shades. All jokes aside I know I will have to be very careful not to burn or dehydrate especially during the first few weeks in China.

My next challenge will be the summer school in Beijing where we teach English for two weeks. It will be my first real experience of teaching English to foreigners and that is incredibly daunting. However, from what I have heard from current volunteers in China is that wherever you go the children are always willing and eager to learn.

The long journey to Jiayuguan

Following my time at the summer school brings a 38 hour train journey to my project in Jiayuguan in the Gansu province, just south of Mongolia. The journey sounds gruelling and horrible,. However, at least I will have others with me to keep me company as well as the fact that I will get to see lots of China during the journey. Currently I still don’t know who my project partner is and I won’t meet her until July. Of course I’m worried that we might not get on but at least we both have the common interest of wanting to live abroad.

Once in Jiayuguan I expect I’ll spend the first few days being touristy; visiting the part of the Great Wall of China which runs through Jiayuguan and Rouyuan Tower etc. The Qilian Mountains are located as a divide between Gansu and Qinghai. One of my main hopes for my year will be that I can climb these mountains.

Term time and teaching starts

The real work starts once term time begins. I’m teaching 15 to 18 year olds in one of Jiayuguan’s high schools. There tends to be an average of 60 pupils per class, which is huge. I’m not sure how many times a week I’ll be teaching or how many classes I’ll be teaching but I’m really excited to begin. I already have a few lesson ideas as well although I’m not 100% sure if they’ll be possible with classes that big.

When winter hits temperatures in Jiayuguan can drop to -30°C at its worst! Luckily in the part of China I am in central heating is present, however, I will definitely have to adapt to the weather when venturing outside.

I’ll be a student too

On top of teaching English myself I’m also provided the opportunity to take Mandarin classes in the school as well. I’m definitely going to take that offer up as learning a new language while fully immersed in the country that speaks it sounds like a great way to pick up lots of the language.

While in China I also plan on improving my cooking skills. Currently I can just about make toast without burning it so I have a long way to go with my cooking. I’ve tasked myself over the summer before I leave to eat everything I possible can with chopsticks. Hopefully by the time I arrive I will be an expert with chopsticks.

Extracurricular activities in Jiayuguan

I also hope to either assist or create a school choir at the school where I’m placed. I’ve always really loved music and have been involved in my own school choir which has benefitted me greatly, and I’d like to share that with the pupils at the school I will work at. From what I have gathered from the research I have done on China the stereotype that there is a lot of pressure on children to do well in school is very real. Having come from a family who have always taken a somewhat relaxed approach to exams, instead letting me be responsible to motivate myself and make myself work, I would like to help the students develop a different perspective on their exams and academics.

I’m not exactly sure how and where I will practise my Catholicism, from some reports I’ve heard in the news is that the Chinese governments is quite wary of Christianity. I will suss out what the situation in Jiayuguan seems to be in relation to Christianity and either practise in my bedroom or go to the local church.

A year full of promise

Throughout my whole life I have always had the ambition to live abroad and I am really excited to be ticking this off of my bucket list. I know my year in China will be one of the most rewarding and difficult things I will do. There will definitely be times where I will want to come home however, I will keep myself busy and remind myself that I am lucky to be in the position I am. Overall I hope to achieve many things from my year; proficiency in Mandarin, lifelong friends and to make a real impact on the pupils I will be working with. Hopefully to help them develop a wider outlook on life, confidence in spoken English and interest in foreign cultures and customs also.

I’d just like to thank Hazel’s Footprints for supporting and having faith in me. I hope I will meet your expectations and that you will receive interesting, frequent reports on my time abroad.

One Response to Richeldis Brosnan reports ahead of year in Jiayuguan

  1. Pingback: Richeldis Brosnan updates on her first 4 weeks in China | Hazel's Footprints Trust

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