Back in March of this year I stumbled upon an opportunity to teach English in China while living there for an extended period of time & learning the culture through a program called Mind Xplorer. Without second guessing it, I applied and was accepted! I spent the entire month of June in China’s capital, Beijing where I taught grade school students basic English Mon- Fri and spent my time doing cultural activities on the weekends. I lived with a host family which was such a unique opportunity that I wouldn’t change for the world! It was an amazing experience I have to share more about with you all. Read through to find out how you can intern in China too!
My host mom (second to left) and host dad are both journalists and published authors! I told them I’m interested in both those careers, so my host mom was kind enough to take me along with her my first weekend in Beijing before our cultural activities began. She took me to her friends photo studio where the family would be taking portraits for a publication she wrote.
Chinese people are extremely hospitable, they welcomed me as one of their own from the day I got there. I was offered slow brewed coffee, which I was later told is growing in popularity in China where tea reigns supreme. I sipped and observed my surroundings, trying to absorb as much of the culture as possible. After the family portraits were done, the photographer asked if I’d like a photo of myself, and you guys know I couldn’t resist!
My first two days in China were very chill, I got to know my two little host brothers Peter, 9 and Eric, 3. Monday morning I reported to the Mind Xplorer office bright & early for orientation where we learned about basic Chinese culture and manners. A couple things that I found most interesting is that Chinese people rarely drink cold beverages, they stick to warm drinks which are better for the body. Chinese people are spontaneous and rarely plan far in advance, they go with the flow! Most table manners we abide by in America are null & void. Slurping, chewing loudly and making noises are a sign to the chef that you are enjoying the food & grateful!
(Above: Me with my 5 year old students on the last day of class. So hard to say bye!)
Tuesday was my first day of work, and boy was I nervous! I’ve worked with children many times before but never teaching, especially not in a foreign country. Luckily my coworkers & principal were extremely kind and made my transition very smooth. Each class period I worked with a different class, varying in ages from 3-12, alongside their regular English teacher helping with pronunciation, grammar and even teaching them about American culture. The kids were so knowledgable about various cultures globally and were so eager to learn more, it made me realize how self-centered Americans are. It made me want to learn more about global history and expand my horizons.
On our first weekend, Mind Xplorer planned an excursion to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Hundreds of generations of Emperors lived in this HUGE fortress during the Ming and Qing dynasty. I’m not kidding when I say huge, it literally took about 2 hours to explore from one side to the other, and about a half hour just to exit!
It was so amazing to be standing where Emperors stood hundreds of years ago, and learn more about the lifestyle during those times at the various museums throughout the palace.
After our cultural excursion, my fellow interns and I found an open plaza with various stores and street vendors selling everything from souvenirs to live scorpions on a stick! We grabbed some grub, a couple of beers, played some drinking games & got quickly acquainted. My favorite part of this trip was meeting people my age, with similar interests from all over the U.S! If you never got the opportunity to study abroad in college & always wanted to, you would love a program like this.
(Above: A beautiful view we passed on our walk from The Forbidden City to Tiananmen Square)
As I’m sure you can image, the Chinese are way more advanced with their technology and you can definitely see it on the train. Being from NYC, the metro system in Beijing was literally a breath of fresh air. (No seriously, you could actually breathe down there lol) I never had to wait more than two minutes for the next train, the announcements before each stop were in Chinese AND English, thank Goodness! Plus, at any single train station you will never come across more than two different train lines so it was practically impossible to get lost, even for a foreigner.
(Above: Live T.V ads throughout each train station)
Our second weekend excursion was visiting the National Museum of China. I absolutely loved it! China’s history is far longer than our history, so there was so much to take in. I would definitely recommend a visit here if you’re ever in Beijing, there is nothing like immersing yourself completely in a culture while being in that country.
(Above: Myself and my two girlfriends I met in China, Priscilla, left and Melissa, right. I miss them & our heart to hearts lol)
After the museum, the interns went on a hunt for this hidden American brewery one of us had heard about. We traveled through so many sketchy alleys to get there it started to seem like a myth lol but just when it got unbearably hot and we were about to turn back BOOM. We were there. The door was so discreet we would’ve passed right by it if it wasn’t for the group of Americans stumbling out. It was a little pricy, but with over 30 flavors of beer including banana beer (my fave!) it was well worth it. There was a couple from the U.K celebrating their wedding reception with a chill BBQ on the outdoor patio who welcomed us to enjoy their chicken & veggie shish kabobs, it was the perfect end to the day.
Our Sundays were free to spend quality time with our host family, but this particular Sunday my parents had to work so I met up with Priscilla to explore a cool area she heard of called Ho Hai. It was just supposed to be a cool shopping area but it ended up being so much more than we expected! It turns out all the stores and restaurants are surrounding a huge lake, making for some beautiful scenery.
Even in touristy areas, you don’t see as many foreign people as one would expect, so we definitely got some stares which I didn’t mind. With my hair, I’m pretty used to it lol. My favorite part of these shopping areas are the various different types of local and foreign snacks they have like fresh mango smoothies, rice cakes and dumplings. You should definitely come with an appetite!
Of course, AFTER we stuffed our faces we found a beautiful restaurant literally floating on the water. How beautiful!
You could also rent a boat and head out on the water. They had paddle boats and motor boats you could rent by the hour. We chose to stay on foot so we could take in as much as possible and shop before nightfall.
(Above: Beautiful rose shaped ice cream)
One thing I couldn’t get enough of in China was random strangers stopping me to take photos with their babies! I’m obsessed with children, and Chinese babies are just the cutest lol. I felt like a mini celebrity which I’m definitely not complaining about.
I also got stopped by Street style photographers who wanted to capture my outfits! It was so awesome because it gave me a taste of what my future will be like.
I could go on for days about my trip! But alas, I will bring it to a close here. It was one of the best experiences of my life and really helped me figure out what I want to do with my life. I am so extremely grateful to Mind Xplorer for this experience, and I am SO proud of myself for having the courage to take this leap of faith. I was so scared to be in a foreign country basically by myself for such a long period of time, I almost didn’t apply but I’m SO glad I did. If you want to try something but are too afraid, PLEASE go for it! You won’t regret it, and it may be one of the best decisions of your life.
If you are interested in doing an internship teaching English to grade school students with Mind Xplorer I highly encourage you to apply! You must be between the ages of 18-28, be fluent in English and you must commit to the program for a minimum of 30 days. That’s it! You don’t even need a degree. Take a chance, it might just change your life!