Alumni Comments 2014

Good morning Sally!

I can never thank you enough for letting me join this year’s Summer China Travel and Teach Program! For me, and I’m sure for everyone else, it was an experience of a lifetime.

First, the teaching: The two teachers I worked with were both very welcoming and supportive. We had fun working together. And the students...Just like First Graders at home! They enjoyed the lessons and wanted to be involved with whatever we were doing. At recess they wanted to share with me their games or projects, things they had brought from home, or just give me a hug. Just thinking about all of them puts a huge smile on my face!

And then there was the travel, the sites, the experiences, the food. Looking through my pictures and remembering all the places we were and all that we did, I am amazed at how much you were able to cram into that relatively short time for us to experience and see. Amazing, amazing! There were the sites we all knew about, but then there were the places and history that we weren’t familiar with. Such a wonderful learning experience for us!

One of my favorite memories will always be the Chinese people themselves. Everywhere we went they would greet us with smiles and hellos. I especially remember parents sending their children over to us to say hello and talk with us, while the parents stood in the background beaming with pride.

There were times when it was uncomfortably warm, or we'd feel exhausted, and of course we missed our families at home, but this experience was well worth all of those.

All in all it was a wonderful, memorable, amazing, educational experience! I am working hard at convincing my husband the two of us need to go to China together. I miss China! I want to go back! Thank you for all of your hard work, and all you did for us. I feel blessed to have been part of this years team.

Ann E.

Nanjing 2014

Hello Sally!

I'd like to say thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. I had a wonderful time and I truly hope to return to China again in the near future.

1. The program at the foreign language school in Nanjing over all was good. They were very helpful with preparation and the staff room was adequate to fit most of our needs

2. The management at the school can improve in their announcements and any changes they'd like to bring to the table should be given in advance (as oppose to on the day of).

3. Culture classes were fun; calligraphy would be my favorite, but paper cutting would have to be my least favorite. Culinary classes would be a lot of fun.

4. I personally enjoyed the food at our school and the soda was very thoughtful to have in the workroom. It was a nice change of pace.

5. The accommodation in the cities that I toured in were wonderful, especially in Nanjing (this was my, and most of the teachers I spoke with, favorite city).

6. The tour guides were wonderful and my favorite would have to be Daniel (Tong).

Again, thank you again. Sally you were fantastic pairing up people in the hotels so you definitely deserve a pat on the back. Many of us had a wonderful time!!

Abraham G.

Nanjing 2014

Sally-

First of all, thanks once again for a great summer in China! I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed Nanjing!

Everything was so well-organized. This was my third summer in a row and I still saw tons of new things and places. I love how we travel together for the first week so that we can get to know each other and bond, and then after the teaching portion is over we once again travel together to celebrate!

The hotels in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xi'an and Beijing were excellent. Nanjing's hotel was not quite so nice but made up for it by being in an excellent location. All of the museums and tours were great. The buses and flights were excellent. The whole program is fantastic!

I thought that everything went very smoothly on the school site. The teachers and staff were very helpful. The students were great!

The teaching schedule was great. The classrooms were all equipped with overheads. I love the way that all of the buildings on campus were interconnected so that you didn't have to go from the fourth floor down to the first floor and then back up to the second floor in another building. You could just go from the fourth to the second and walk over.

Great opening ceremony! We were treated like royalty

Sorry, not a big fan of the school food. I am a very picky eater, but I always managed to find something to eat (mainly the American-style food: fried chicken, rolls, etc.). I had a watermelon soda everyday at lunch! I usually only drank the water in the workroom- I wouldn't miss the soda there.

The hotel in Shanghai was very nice- the location (next to a train station) was not the best, but there was little time to explore around the hotel anyway. The hotel in Hangzhou was excellent! The breakfast was wonderful! The walk to West Lake was a little farther than the 15 minutes they said (more like 30 minutes) but still a nice walk! The location of the Nanjing hotel was excellent (next to the lake, shopping and subway station). Xi'an's hotel is in the perfect location! Some people complained about their room, but mine was excellent. The hotel in Beijing was very convenient to the subway and was very clean. Breakfast here, too, was wonderful!

Suggestions for future teachers: Just the same things that have already been said on your website: bring comfortable shoes for lots of walking, don't bring an umbrella (you can buy one there for 10 yuan), if you bring children's books to read in the class, plan to give them to the Chinese teacher or the students so that you will have more room in your luggage for all of the things you will buy while in China... be prepared for one of the best times of your life!

Dwayne K.

Nanjing 2014

I thought the program itself was organized very well. I liked being informed beforehand of the itinerary and it being announced every day as well. I always knew what was coming and never really felt unsure which is really comforting being in such a new environment. I felt like I was prepared for the good and the bad of this trip to the best of your abilities, which I appreciated tremendously. I could tell just how much work you put in as I continued through the program, which was one of the best times of my life! I cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity

The school site program management was well done. I felt like the co-teachers were very accommodating and welcoming. The timing of the day was really well paced. Overall I had such an amazing and eye opening experience teaching! I loved every minute of it!

I really enjoyed the culture classes. I felt that the culture classes were a unique way to get a feel for the culture that simply traveling wouldn’t allow me to do.

I am personally not a picky eater so I was able to eat reasonably well at school, although there were many teachers at my school that could not handle the food at all. I think some of this was due to the repetitiveness of the food. It felt like we were having the same thing each day or every two days, which may be due to the style of chinese lunch (family/potluck style) as compared to the one meal lunch we are used to in the states. My favorite dish was the egg and tomato dish as well as anything involving noodles or dumplings. I also really appreciated the cooks’ attempts to make food that suits our American pallets! I thought it was so sweet of them to make fried chicken and bakery treats! I would definitely continue to recommend that because it gave us a little slice of home and broke up the monotony. My least favorite dish was the fish and some of the tofu but I don’t think this was due to poor cooking, I think it was just personal preference

Once again, I am not a very picky person. I was prepared for 2-3 star accommodations and that is what we received. I thought they were satisfactory. The hotel in shanghai was really great! The hotel in Hangzhou was good. The hotel in Nanjing had an excellent location, I could not ask for better but it was probably ranked the lowest in terms of quality. I did appreciate that as soon as anyone asked for something it was addressed. A lot of people seemed to complain about the cleanliness of the hotel but I didn’t feel that it was unclean. It just wasn’t as fabulous as some of the other places which considering we stay there for the longest time it should probably rank higher. The location of the hotel in Xi’an was absolutely fabulous! I would not change a thing there! The Beijing hotel was nice in terms of proximity to the subway but the actual location itself wasn’t close to anything of interest (not many restaurants, bars or karaoke).

I thought the tour guides were tremendous! My favorite tour guide was Wei in Beijing. I really appreciated her honest approach toward the history of China. She seemed to not be biased and looked at both sides of the story, which was really refreshing and she was just so helpful and sweet! She helped anyone who asked her navigate the subway and always helped to translate what we were eating at dinner which was very helpful! ☺ I also really enjoyed our personal tour guide in Xi’an. He once again was very personable and sweet, willing to translate what we were eating and constantly checking on us making sure we were safe. Chai/Henry our constant tour guide was also great! Very nice and helpful, always willing to call people/places to get things done. Overall each and every one of the guides were very helpful and knowledgeable about the cities we visited and I felt safe in their company.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • I would definitely suggest to really emphasize bringing snacks to china because as much as I loved the Chinese food I had while I was here it did get old. I would suggest to others to bring a jar of peanut butter with them because although you could find it places, it’s always nice to have on hand.
  • I would suggest getting a translating app ( I used google translate which the translating itself needs wifi but if you pre program frequently used phrases they can be saved to be used later without wifi). This was really helpful when using taxis because all I would have to do is to show them my phone with the translated phrase “take me to ____” and they typically knew where they were going.
  • I would also suggest teachers to make sure they grab the hotel cards with the address on them to use for any future taxis.
  • I would also possibly create a list of simple chinese phrases (where is the subway, how much, etc as well as Sally’s number and the number of the tour guide) beforehand that you could pass out to each of the teachers that they can keep with them in case of emergency.

Overall I think this program was unbelievable and very well planned. Once again I cannot thank you enough for this amazing opportunity!

Jennifer S.

Nanjing 2014

Thank you again for organizing such an amazing trip to China. I went into it believing I would only go once and I walked away from China with a strong desire to return. I give you both a lot of credit for my positive experience. Of course, the beauty of China and its people helped making our trip so successful.

Organization was wonderful. All went smoothly. I don’t see any need for improvement. Management was good. Communication was effective. My one recommendation would be to allow a more open communication about classroom management. I was at times uncomfortable with the way my link teacher managed the classroom.

I enjoyed tai chi and the lectures. The ceramics class was my least favorite. I would have liked to have an opportunity to learn Mandarin and to practice writing Chinese characters.

By far my favorite dish was shrimps. I also enjoyed the dumplings and regretted that we only had them once. I was surprised that toward the end I grew a bit tired of the cafeteria food, but I think this is normal and should not be seen as criticism.

I enjoyed the Beijing hotel the most. Suzhou accommodation was good, especially considering the location, but it bothered me that the carpet in our room was stained.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • In general I would say that the program is so well-organized that I would recommend just relaxing and enjoying. I personally tend not to be a worrywart and ended up doing things I was recommended not to do, such as using tap water to brush teeth, accessing my online bank account while in China, and drinking beverages with ice cubes.
  • I drew a line at eating street food even though I was very tempted but the look on my fellow traveler’s faces was enough to scare me off. I believe that every participant has to find her groove but to me China felt like a very safe and unthreatening place.
  • In terms of teaching I’d recommend to come prepared with a song for the final performance.

Elke S.

Suzhou 2014

The organization has really been perfected over the years. Everything runs so smoothly. The schedule is excellent. Work at the school site is excellent. The teachers are accommodated in every way.

I really enjoyed the lectures on history and culture of China the best. It would be interesting and good practice for the Chinese teachers if more of them gave short lectures on different cultural topics.

I did not enjoy the food at the school. It was pretty much the same everyday. I don't eat pork or shellfish so that eliminated half the options. My favorite food was the beef and onion dish we had once. I did not like the taste of Chinese curry. More vegetable noodle dishes would be good. The variety of fruit was good. I loved how in Nanjing they gave us ice creams everyday.

Hotels were very good especially the one in Beijing. It was amazing. The hotel in Suzhou is in an excellent location.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Spend all your free time exploring the city. The subway is great. Enjoy the culture of China. The walkway around the lake is beautiful. SIP is fun at night. The walkway along the river by the wall near the hotel is really nice especially at night.
  • I really enjoyed how there was more interaction between the Chinese teachers and us this year. I really enjoyed the welcome and farewell dinners we had, very well organized.

I love China, the culture, the friendliness of the people, the teaching experience, the enthusiasm of the students, the food, the shopping, the touring, and this opportunity given by this program is wonderful. Thank you again for the 3rd time to participate.

Robin O.

2014 Suzhou

The schedule for student classes and rotations were very clear. I liked having the culture classes in the middle of the day 12:00-1:00. We had a hour to eat lunch before and a hour after to do more planning.

Robin and I talked about not having Lewie to provide strategies for the teachers. We thought maybe Lewie could be taped and shared for the first day of teacher prep.

Jason and Mr. Mao were so helpful. Any issue I had they addressed them. I liked having Susan, my Chinese English teacher, partner with me for both classes.

My favorite culture class was the fan painting. The clay class could be replaced maybe with a cutting class.

The food was fine. There was shrimp almost everyday so maybe a little more variety. Lots of vegetables worked out nicely. The coffee was great to have everyday. There was always plenty of bottled water. The fresh fruit was great!

The hotels were good. The hotel in Suzhou and Beijing were near the subway system so that made navigating the cities more convenient. My favorite hotel was in Beijing.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Bring all of your lessons, you tube videos, pictures, etc backed up on a flash drive. Music, words and karaoke, needs to be properly downloaded to be shared for the performance.
  • Come with an open mind and a willingness to explore and try new things. Come prepared to experience what these beautiful cities have to offer.

Leslie T.

Suzhou 2014

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • If insects are attracted to you, be prepared with repellent that contains DEET.
  • If you are particular about food taste and/or have a sensitive stomach, purchase lots of snacks and pack them in a carry on.
  • Only drink bottled water/sterilized water, hot tea, be careful of the fruit drinks. They look pretty and fun, but one teacher became extremely ill after drinking one.

Denise C.

Nanjing 2014

I think the program you planned for American teachers to teach and travel in China is a valuable cultural experience. The travel before and after the teaching experience provided teachers a wonderful opportunity to visit many popular places in China. I particularly enjoyed returning to China to see the changes that had taken place over the last several years. Charlie was my favorite tour guide. The location of our hotel was excellent due to the close proximity to the cultural alley across from the hotel, downtown and the city wall near the bridge. I enjoyed walking around Suzhou with my roommate, Robin. We thought you did a great job matching roommates. Also, I enjoyed visiting all the beautiful gardens and museums in Suzhou. Thanks. As a vegetarian, I was not happy with the cafeteria food. There were too many meat dishes and not enough tofu dishes. The vegetables were extremely oily. It was not appetizing food. I liked the culture class around differences between China and the U.S. Thank you, Sally for the opportunity to participate in this program. I will recommend this program to my co-workers.

Joan G.

Suzhou 2014

The overall organization of the program was excellent, from its initial planning stages in the United States until completion of the last tour in Beijing. There were no lags in information sharing and everything ran smoothly from the beginning until the end of the program.

The management of the program on the school site was superb. Everything was taken care of and all requests were addressed as best as possible. My computer broke the day I arrived and I was helped immediately, which was quite amazing considering all that had to be done.

The culture classes were quite interesting. Instead of the paper cutting class, I think it would be helpful to have an introduction to Chinese language (simple phrases that would help the teachers in everyday situations).

The food at school was challenging for me. That being said, I am a picky eater and I knew that would be the case. Most of the other teachers enjoyed it. As a suggestion, just having a dish of plain chicken/meat might be a good idea for those individuals who have a difficult time with Chinese food. It was nice to have the soda every day as it gave a much needed caffeine boost. I only drink diet however, so unfortunately I couldn’t reap the benefits. I realized very quickly that diet soda is hard to come by in China!

The accommodation in the cities that we toured in was very good. Only in Xi’an did I feel uncomfortable, as the room reeked of smoke. The hotel was full so we couldn’t change rooms, and spraying the room did not help. Otherwise, the locations and services were great. Having wifi in the rooms instead of just the lobbies would have been great. We all want to be able to talk with our families, and with the time difference and lack of privacy, sitting in the lobby to skype was not ideal.

The tour guides were superb. All were very knowledgeable and friendly. I can’t say that I had a favorite!

Constructive suggestions:

  • Don’t underestimate the walking involved…
  • Pack a lot of snacks from home
  • The hotel rooms are very damp. If you wash things in the room, expect days for them to dry
  • Credit cards: be prepared for very few merchant to take them, if at all. They use the chip system there and if your credit card doesn’t have the chip, they are unable to manually charge your card. Use cash. There are ATMs everywhere, or the beautiful hotel across the street from our hotel in Nanjing changed dollars for us without a problem.
  • Custom-made dresses: For those women who want a traditional Chinese dress but do not have the typical Chinese body type (most people do not, trust me), there is a great little shop around the corner from our hotel in Nanjing, directly across the street from Starbucks. Ask LaVees for the name. She can make a dress is about three days. Beautiful!
  • Purses: Bampo. Beautiful purses made in China. On the main strip in Nanjing. Just before Pizza Hut, but on the left-hand side of the street.
  • Clothing shopping: Be prepared for differences in sizes. 2XL – 4XL are probably comparable to Medium to Large in America. 6XL is not uncommon. So much for body image.
  • Teaching advice: Share and share alike with your fellow teachers. If it works, adapt a lesson for yourself.
  • Get a VPN before you leave the States so you can access Facebook, YouTube, and other sites that are normally restricted.
  • Use a lot of videos and songs in your lessons.

The time goes by soooooo fast. Enjoy every second!

Lori E.

Nanjing 2014

The program was exceptionally organized. The management of the program on the school site was wonderful.

I loved the culture classes, but they were, at times, difficult to follow. I enjoyed making the knotted bracelets, but it was challenging to follow the instructor because the directions were so specific. Perhaps they should have been written out in English? I felt similarly with the painting class, although that was easier to follow directions. My favorite class was kung fu! I truly enjoyed all the classes, but perhaps we could select which classes we wanted to participate in…that would mean the class sizes would be smaller and we would get more one on one time with the instructors.

The food at the school was suitable. My favorite dish was the sugared tomatoes, potatoes, and red cabbage. I am a vegetarian and expected to have difficulties finding food to like, but I thought the school did a nice variation of foods. I would have liked to seen more steamed or raw vegetables. Also, I liked the dumplings but they were always filled with meat so I had to stuff mine with tofu and cabbage. Perhaps that could exist!

I thought our hotel in Nanjing was in a prime location. I LOVED staying so close to the lake and ran there every night. I also thought that our hotels in Beijing and Xi’an were also in good locations – close to the subway and easy to navigate. I felt exceptionally rushed in Shanghai and Hangzhou. That might be due to the nature of the situation – we just arrived, we were unfamiliar with the country, etc. I didn’t really feel like I left the hotel on my own unless I was accompanied by the tour in those cities.

I spent so much time preparing my lessons before arriving in China…but I didn’t really use any of them! I think it might help if teachers from the previous years told more specifics about what they taught. I really misjudged the levels of my students (before I met them of course) and wish I had prepared differently.

Michelle G.

Nanjing 2014

I thought it was very organized and it was a thrill to be accepted. I thought we received everything in a timely manner and everything was very detailed. I had a good experience with Bravo travel and all the details of getting my VISA, etc. I am sure there are millions of details in planning a trip like this, it takes a lot of time too.

I thought we were treated like professionals and really enjoyed working with your father, son, Leslie and all the foreign teachers and staff.

I enjoyed the fan painting class, Tai Chi, and the class on how China has progressed. Would have liked to hear a little more about Tai Chi.

The hotel in Beijing seemed to be the nicest one of the tour days. I think hotel guests should not have to pay a corkage fee in the lobby, which happened in Beijing. Enjoyed having wifi in the rooms in Beijing.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Info on the web site was very helpful.
  • There are APPs for money conversion, RMB to US dollars. Loved using this, it was very helpful for larger purchases.
  • Umbrella, best thing to pack or buy in China. Good for sun and rain.
  • Bring a lightweight cover to wear with sleeveless tops/dresses
  • We bought a bath mat in China (very cheap) as the ones in the hotel were a bit moldy.
  • Shoes were a great bargain in China for those who have small feet!
  • Having a flash drive with all my teaching activities was GREAT to have and my Chinese teachers loved that I shared the entire contents with them. (teaching activities, stories, songs, short videos )
  • When making a connecting flight from an international flight, I would allow 4 hours min. This was not an issue for me, but at least one person missed her flight on the return, due to not allowing enough time for flight delays, etc.

All in all, a truly special trip. I am so THANKFUL and happy that I was selected and would recommend it highly to every teacher I know!

Great job of roommate selection too. Leslie was outstanding as our teacher rep.

Kathleen R.

Suzhou 2014

I thought the organization was great. I understand that some information just comes as the coordinators receive the information. For me, I know I just felt lost before getting there, in terms of how I should be teaching and what I should be teaching. Once I arrived at the school and was able to work with my grade level teachers, I was fine. However, it would have been beneficial to see some samples of the lesson plans from past teachers, to see how their day was planned. Not to copy, just as a guide. Perhaps this was available, and I may have overlooked it ☺. That is a definite possibility.

The management at the school was great. Faye and Maggie were amazing and on top of things. The only thing that I could see for improvement is some of the communication. For example, knowing ahead of time that 1st grade students would be going on field trip before arriving to teach for a full day. We could have possibly made some alternative arrangements ahead of time. It’s not a big deal, but it would have been nice.

I thought the culture classes were fun. My favorite was making the bracelets. The paper cutting is the one I would replace.

I thought the food was fine. I would have eaten more if it were at least warm when we arrived. My favorite dish was the one that seemed like shredded potatoes. I am not sure what it was called. I also liked the green veggies. My least favorite was the fried chicken.

I though the accommodations were fine. I especially enjoyed the Super House International in Beijing, of course. In my opinion, for the amazing experience we received, you suck up the small stuff and keep it moving!

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • I would tell the future teachers to READ every email and the whole website! Look at all of the videos. Understand that this is an experience of a lifetime.
  • This trip is not for the inflexible. You must be willing to bend like a rubber band ☺. There are going to be hiccups in transportation, food, times of events, communication, your hotel, etc. You (future teachers) are not going to be in America. It is not your country. Do not expect it to be like your country. Embrace the culture, the people, and all of your experiences along the way. Stay away from as much negativity as possible.
  • You will have rough days, on which you will need some time to yourself. Take it! It’s not easy traveling and living with that many people, but if you accept it and give into the experience, you will not be disappointed. Sally, Lewie, and many others have your back. Trust in them. Thank you!

Marcia M.

Nanjing 2014

The organization of the program was very well run. We were well informed of the activities for the day and our needs were taken care of at all points. Our tour guides, bus drivers, Mr. Mao, and Jason were EXCELLENT at keeping us entertained, safe, and stress free. I especially liked that if we had additional requests or suggestions the tour was able to accommodate. (Extended time at some locations, karaoke, suggestions of good places to eat on our nights off, etc.)

The management of the school site was well run. I felt very appreciated and welcomed there by the administration, the link teachers, and the general teachers. The school site provided us with ample space, materials, and support. I was especially surprised at the extent, which they would go to facilitate their students’ learning and our teaching. (ex: I wanted to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with my students. The school not only paid for all of the materials, they sent someone out to purchase all of the materials for me.) In terms of health, the school was very responsive to helping all of us stay comfortable and safe. They had topical bug bite creams and even throat lozenges for sore throats that was readily available to us

I enjoyed all of the culture classes, but I went into the trip wanting to soak in as much culture as humanly possible during my short time in China. Picking a favorite, my favorite would have to be the tai chi class. It was so different and a really great experience to have while in China. It would have also been nice to have a Chinese writing class, a conversational Chinese language class (Jason informally did this with me!) where you could learn simple phrases like “I love you”, “I miss you”, etc., and maybe even a dance class of some sort. Personally I actually wished there were more cultural classes offered.

I was amazed that they not only cooked us fresh food everyday, but that we had such a wide variety of choices and that they made a completely different meal for us than the general population at school. Our group had a few vegetarians and the school was really good at making sure to provide vegetarian options for them. We really were catered to. I enjoyed the shrimp most of all.

We had overall good experiences in all of our travel locations. The hotels were better than I expected, not of American expectations, but for what I had expected for China, definitely comfortable. The last hotel especially was a little older and had a few problems (bugs in the lobby, no internet in rooms, leaky and noisy pipes, problematic toilets) but the hotel was responsive to making repairs and the location was great.

Charlie was by far my favorite official tour guide! He was knowledgeable, helpful, and cracked some funny jokes. I felt like he genuinely cared about us and wanted us to have a good time and enjoy China to our fullest potential. Unofficially, Mr. Mao and Jason were pretty great as well. They told us all the inside scoops of where to go, what to avoid, and how to do things. We were very fortunate to have such a great team around us.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Bring bug spray!
  • Bring band-aids!
  • Make sure your shoes have good grips on the bottom, it gets slippery when wet.
  • When teaching, prepare to be flexible!

Hope this is helpful. I had a great experience and will recommend it to all my teacher friends!! Thanks again for all the hard work that you put into this program it really shows!

Lacey J.

Suzhou 2014

Overall the program is organized wonderfully. Sally and her crew really do think of everything. The information packet covers most things! Getting the visas can be challenging…before going to the consulates especially in New York, each teacher needs to have a flight and hotel itinerary with their name on it. An extra day or afternoon of free time in Xi’an would have been nice; it seems like a beautiful city but didn't have time to explore it.

The Nanjing Campus was great. Teachers were friendly and support staff were super helpful. It was nice to have Sally every other day for support and Louie was an awesome guide as well. Since some supplies were there already it would be nice to know that basic supplies are not needed like pens, rubber bands, magnets, paper etc. Fruit and ice cream were great, thanks for making us feel at home on the campus and treating us so well.

I really enjoyed the paper cutting and calligraphy, not a fan of the kung-fu. Maybe a ping pong class or pottery making would have been fun.

No need for soda but maybe the coffee drinks instead. The food was good; I really liked the dumplings and eggrolls. More steamed vegetables that weren't in so much sauce would be nice for people having stomach distress.

Hotels were great especially the hotel in Hangzhou. All hotels were within walking distance of fun stores/restaurants except Shanghai – this hotel seemed to be quite a distance from the main part of town, It would have been nice to have an extra day in Shanghai as well, even if just a half day to walk around.

Tour guides were awesome! I loved Daniel in Xi’an – he was so fun and had a great energy about him!

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Bring extra toilet paper for the hotel and packets of tissue for traveling around…hotel rooms run out of paper fast and most public restrooms do not have any toilet paper at all.
  • Oatmeal packets were great for the mornings when I didn’t want to go downstairs for breakfast
  • Waterproof shoes are a good investment – like crocs or boat shoes
  • Bring some shoes that you might want to leave behind in china- older or cheap shoes because they might get ruined or gross from the rain or the public bathrooms, this also gives you room for souvenirs on the way home
  • Bring two big wheelie suitcases – one with all your personal belongings and the other with all your school supplies leave all the school supplies behind in China, you’ll appreciate having the empty one on the way home for all the gifts the students give you (which I was not prepared for) and the cheap shopping you’ll do while you’re there. I light carry-on is a must for all the domestic flights in china and bus rides.
  • As for teaching don’t try to plan daily lessons, you’ll want to be flexible while you’re there. Rather bring game ideas and materials for them like bingo boards, and fly swatters. Also printed pictures and a PowerPoint of pictures of American themes or topics you might want to teach. Kids loved trying American Candies and learning about our culture- Pictures/videos are the easiest way to show them ideas or new words and if you prepare them ahead of time you will be able to enjoy your lunch hour and walk around or nap rather than worry about planning as much. The internet there and printer can be unreliable.
  • Try not to bring handouts that need copies. If you need copies for the first day or two like for people bingo/people hunt make 60 copies at home and pack them.
  • I brought name tags that clipped on the students to wear everyday...It really helped since they moved around a lot.
  • Bring Menus, kids loved learning about our foods since they eat so differently and looking at real menus was fascinating to them- I let them keep them if they wanted to. Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches was a hit, I heard making no bake s’mores with fluff was fun too.
  • Fake money as prizes or pennies they can keep worked well too. Raffle tickets with a prize bag to pick from worked the best in my 5th grade class
  • The kids learn so much just from you being there so don’t sweat the small stuff. Simple games where they are talking and listening is the best thing to do with them. Remember it’s a summer camp so they should be having fun and you’re in China so you should be too!!!!!
  • Download a translator app for restaurants/shopping and get a vpn for the internet if you want to use Google and have unrestricted use of the internet. I also downloaded an app for my phone to make free international calls/texts like viber- works through wifi in the hotels.
  • Wear the hotel slippers…after a week you’ll know why they’re there.
  • Bring any/all meds you might need stomach, head, cold..you won't want to go searching for it if you're sick and almost everyone gets one or the other over the month.

Jenna G.

Nanjing 2014

SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE TEACHERS:

  • Travel light and bring several “how to make” kits with an accompanying simple and short video (Youtube), and ask your fellow teachers if they have any excess prizes or stickers they’d like to donate for your students in China. Bring some teacher materials that you intend to leave behind, such as a a timer, posters (U.S. culture, English grammar), masks and/or simple props for your stories that students can use as props, and age-appropriate stories.
  • Bring TONS OF TALKING GAMES, such as camp games that help them get out of their seats, laugh, develop their social and English skills, and other flash card activities and games to help strengthen their English. The boys and girls do not like to work in mixed groups, so keep that in mind
  • Bring an American flag to donate to the school and showcase along with the Chinese flag (which you may borrow from Maggie at the school; arrange this with Mr. Mao) at the Opening Ceremony in Suzhou. Two American teachers will march bringing these in. What fraternity and good will this express!
  • The teacher help and materials available to us in the teacher room: internet access (limited access and slow, and the hotel internet access is better), paper (white and colored, very thin), colored markers, “Scotch” tape, computer and printer, assistants to help us out, stapler, and a few other things). The classroom had no internet access, and they did have a document reader, computer and AV projector, a black board and white chalk (bring some from home, specially colorful chalk).
  • Bring or buy for a few $$: scissors, glue, index cards, if you use a MAC bring an ethernet plug for your laptop (about $40 at an Apple Store). A sample of the product you want the students to end up with, and bring those materials with you, if necessary. Bring tons of pictures that you can talk about and share with students, powerPoint presentations about yourself, your school and students, your family and friends, your community, your favorite vacation places, singers, activities and restaurants, and the USA, and also, popular music.
  • Last advice: the better prepared you are with your materials, the more time you have to take in the experience. It has all been very worthwhile to have done this program.

Laura R.

Suzhou 2014

The organization was excellent. Everything was well thought out and ran smoothly. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. It was an unforgettable experience. I loved the tours! Lewie taught me a lot and I am very grateful. I still use his techniques when I am teaching newcomers ELD and Spanish 1.

Both flights went smoothly, even when one flight was delayed (from Xian to Beijing, I think?) we all made it on board. I had no problems getting my visa and prepaying for my flight. Bravo Travel Agency did a great job. All the emails that were sent beforehand really helped a lot to prepare.

The management at the elementary site went quite smoothly. My Chinese co-teacher, Stephen, was very helpful. My only issue was that it was difficult to be teaching grade 5 and subbing for grades 2 and 3. I would recommend having the sub teacher sub for the same grade level they are teaching. It would be a little less stressful that way.

My favorite was the water color painting. My only advice would be to break us up into smaller groups. It was a bit chaotic during the culture classes.

Almost all of the accommodations were fine. The hotel in Beijing was nice and located near a subway line, which was great. However, I did not feel safe walking outside at night other than going to the subway. Anywhere beyond the subway at night was a little sketchy. The hotel in Nanjing had a phenomenal location! The AC worked very well in the room. Loved the park, being close to subway, the shopping on Nanjing Rd, the proximity to markets and laundry. Unfortunately, the hotel itself was not so desirable.

Suggestions for future teachers:

  • Take soft toilet paper and lots of antibacterial gel/wipes
  • Take baby wipes (cleans your feet; cleans perspiration; freshens you)
  • Take a lot of food that lasts long (ie. peanut butter/jam, instant oatmeal, Top Ramen, soup) in case you get sick
  • Cortisone (for itchy bug bites)
  • Allergy meds
  • Washcloth (none of the hotels had them)
  • Extra towel (our hotel gave only one towel per day and you will take two showers a day; use one to squeeze water out of clothes you wash by hand)
  • Lots of visuals for teaching (colored pics printed already)
  • Lots of games for teaching
  • Gatoradeo
  • If you have room, pack a clothes drying rack (one of those light aluminum ones) if you intend to hang dry clothes

Just a few recommendations regarding teachers:

  • Because we share a room, teachers should be more respectful of each other's "space". For example, when you hang dry clothes, remember to put them away as soon as they are dry so they are not left for days all over the room.
  • Split the room up so you each have your own "area". The rooms are not that big.
  • Do not continuously ask your roommate to borrow things. If you did not bring something, borrow once then buy it the next day, unless told otherwise. I know these sound like common sense, but some people may need to be told.
  • Also, please do not let people of the opposite sex spend the night in your hotel room. This is not only disrespectful to your roommate, but not very responsible. (Unless you all agree to the arrangement beforehand.)

All in all, it was a great experience and I will recommend it highly to teachers in my district. As soon as you have the website up, let me know so I can let some interested teachers know.

Carmen W.

Nanjing 2014