Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

29th August 2010

Waiting to Leave for China by Natalie Smythe

Home | Footprinter Reports | Waiting to Leave for China by Natalie Smythe

Hi there! In about 3 weeks I’m going to be getting on a plane and flying off to spend a year volunteering in China. This seems like a very daunting prospect, but at the same time I’m so excited! I just think it’s amazing that this kind of opportunity is available to young people like me, if you told me a few years ago I would soon be teaching in rural China for a year I would not have believed you. I have made myself three main aims for the year and these are…

1) Not to leave early!

2) To make the most of it, I think it is true that a year away is only what you make it.

3) To be a good teacher and also to learn a lot myself while I’m there.

Coincidentally, I’m taking over Alice Hunters project, who was a footprinter last year, so I’ll be taking over teaching conversational English lessons in Dingxi No.1 Middle School in Gansu. I’ve been told classes range in size from 60 to 80, and in ages 12 to 20. Again, I’m feeling both hugely excited and very nervous about this! In all honesty, I can’t imagine what standing in front of a class that big is going to be like, especially after having only left school myself a couple of months ago. Thankfully I’ve already had a bit of teaching experience, having taught some English classes in local Hungarian schools during my holidays (we spend a lot of time in Hungary visiting family,) and I think this has given me an idea of how to teach well. Lots of people tell me how well behaved and eager my students will be, but I’m expecting differently! I’m expecting school teenagers to be school teenagers whether you’re in classroom in China or the UK. I think it’s up to the teacher to make lessons interesting and to keep students enthusiastic and I hope I can help the kids with their education as much as possible.

So, I’m excited for loads of different reasons, but overall I can’t wait to experience a completely different way of life. Everything from food, clothing, history, manners, housing and the language is going to be totally new and I can’t wait to get stuck in. For everyone who knows me back at home, keep checking here and I’ll let you know what’s going on and how I’m doing!

On the other hand, what I’m doing hasn’t properly sunk in yet, it still seems like I won’t be leaving for AGES… The main bulk of fund raising is over, but there’s still a bit more to raise, I need to start packing (I’ve started a collection of things in my room but no actual packing as such yet) and I need to sort out credit cards, and other small things like buying a camera before I go. At the moment I’m painting some portraits to raise some more money, deciding what to do about university, and just trying to prepare myself for leaving in general.

My main worry, or the thing I’m most nervous about, is saying goodbye to my family and friends and not having those same home comforts when I’m having a bad day. However, I went on a training week a couple of weeks ago (which was amazing, I had so much fun) and met my project partner Jane, who is lovely, so happy about that and I’m so much more confident that I’ll be ok without my family and friends for a year. Also, I hope my host is nice, and that I get the opportunity to meet and get to know lots of different people at my project. One big thing for me is going to be leaving my boyfriend, we decided it would be for the best if we break up when I go away and I know that’s going to be really hard. However, I was talking to my friend who volunteered in Uganda last year and he told me leaving family and friends at the start is hard, but even worse is saying goodbye to your project at the end!

Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hazels Footprints and Project Trust for making this possible, what you do is amazing! I’m so thankful that I’ve been privileged to have so much support and for this opportunity. I can’t wait!

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