First Impressions - Daniel Laskey

I’ve been in China for 7 weeks, 2 weeks at the summer camp in Beijing and 5 weeks in Chenxi. The majority of foreigners who come to teach in China get placed in the big cities, where all the western amenities can be found with ease however i live in Chenxi, a ‘small’ town where very few westerners have ever set foot. Life in Chenxi so far is proving to be a very interesting, rewarding and difficult experience.

The first two weeks of your stay in China will be spent at the summer camp in Beijing and i can guarantee your first impression will be sheer amazement, the city is awesome and the mix between traditional China and the result of the economic boom is just fantastic. While in China i have been to 3 other cities, Changsha, Huaihua and Yuanling, although on a lesser scale the mix between old and new is very evident.

The second thing you will notice is that people stare at you constantly, however you get used to it and it should certainly not put anyone off coming to China, the majority of people that stare are just intrigued by you. It gets rather awkward when people are seemingly risking their lives driving along a road looking the complete opposite direction just to get another glimpse of the local white guy!

While in Beijing you will teach at a school for 2 weeks, this is a special summer camp and the kids that attend actually want to be there and want to better their English. Teaching at Yangzhen Number 2 Middle School was one of the best experiences of my life, i had the same class for 60 lessons and got to know the kids extremely well. Ultimately the aim of the summer camp is to prepare you for teaching in your host school and it does exactly that plus a lot more. My first impression of Chinese students was that they are well disciplined and are eager to learn English and that is true to a certain extent, you may find that when you move to your host school that the children are not as capable as those you taught in the summer camp, this is certainly true with me. I teach children aged 12-15, and the best advice i can give is experiment with different teaching styles and be prepared.

Chenxi is part of Hunan province and a simple google search will tell you that Hunan is famous for its spicy cuisine. This is no lie! The food here is extremely spicy, but the taste is amazing. Every day i go to a stall outside the school for some spicy roast potatoes, every day the owner adds more and more of his spicy sauce like it’s some sort of test! Speaking of tests, another thing i have found, if you go out to a bar or a club the Chinese people will want to test your drinking ability by constantly bringing you more beer. If you like beer, like me, this is a good thing.

Finally, when i read everyones ‘first impressions’ last year i said to myself it sounds too good to be true! I can honestly say coming to China is the best choice i have made in my life. You won’t regret it!

If you have any questions feel free to email me daniel.j.laskey@gmail.com

‘gan bei’
Daniel