For most people, China is a completely different world. A holiday? No problem. To live? Sounds crazy! But for eighty buzzing interns wanting to gain teaching experience, Chengdu in China is their new home for four and a half months.
I happen to be one of those crazy eighty that decided to make this jump to China. Now, just how am I coping without a proper cuppa or slice of cake, you ask? Here’s how…
Moving into my new home, I was really impressed with the accommodation I’d been provided with. There is a beautiful, peaceful garden right outside, perfect for all my writing and reading needs!
Sharing the dormitory with us is a group of young Olympians and their trainers, preparing for the next games. Reza is one of the trainers that I’ve been talking to, he’s come from Iran to help the 14-17 year old athletes reach their goals!
Living in China for five months or more can be very daunting, especially if you’re on your own. Luckily for me, I’ve surrounded myself with an amazing friendship group that I’ve formed over the last two months.
There are so many fun opportunities here, from experiencing the beauty of nature by climbing mountains to the nightlife and partying the night away in one of Chengdu’s many clubs or bars. I’ve even managed to navigate around and find some new favourite coffee shops and restaurants that not even my students knew about.
I was once told, ‘only eat in the restaurants that are busiest.’ Having tried and tested many noodles, I can honestly say that the more lively restaurants are certainly the best. It also saves you having an upset stomach the next day! They are often the cheapest too; you really don’t want to be paying more than 15RMB for a bowl of noodles (miàntiáo).
There’s also an international supermarket in the midst of Taikoo Li – a Japanese shopping mall. It offers familiar brands from home and has a gorgeous bakery which smells amazing! So, if you’re in the need of something familiar, this is the place to go.
If you’re missing home there are plenty of places to check out offering you home comforts. I discovered the cutest book store called The Bookworm which offers a full English Breakfast AKA ‘The Sloopy.’ Just like home!
You will also get a taste of many different flavoured teas; so if you love a brew (like me!), this is a perfect day out!
Before you leave China, make you sure you learn how to play mahjong 麻将! Students and locals alike will be eager to teach you this indulgent game. It’s a great way to spend the afternoon and once you get the hang of it, you will be craving to play it every second of the day!
Although mahjong is often played for money, the gang and I just play for fun.
Taxis, trains and the metro?
The first thing to do when living in China after getting a bank account and SIM card is to get a bus and metro card. Having one of these cards makes it so much easier to use transport in central Chengdu and it’s cheaper too!
If you use the bus, you can even get free journeys within the first two hours of paying. Transport is quick and easy here – but be prepared for it to get busy during peak times on buses and subway.
I have finally worked out the bus routes (a challenge as it’s all in Chinese) but if you’re not so confident using buses, the metro signs are all in English, phew!!
Chinese may be one of the hardest languages in the world to learn but that becomes much easier when you live here.
For me, it was very difficult to learn at the beginning but with the help of my students, friends and all the locals, I feel like I can now order simple food from a restaurant and interact very easily with my peers.
“If you can, come prepared and learn some basic Chinese before you come as it will help out a lot!”
For a newbie like me, teaching gets a lot easier over time. When you become more settled and build friendships, it will become so much more homely. There isn’t a day when I walk around my campus and don’t get greeted by at least 5 people!
Tourists – wait what?
Although I may look like a tourist, I like to think of myself as a resident of Chengdu.
There’s so much to see and do here so you will never get bored. I’ve found myself at a Chinese rock festival taking in the atmospheric beats. I’ve discovered a local cocktail bar and danced all night to Michael Jackson and I’ve climbed a mountain!
“What more could you want from a working holiday?”
When I’m not checking out the local music scene, I often find myself at People’s Park. There are so many magical parks in which to go exploring. They’re full of culture and often have temples!
Visiting the parks is a nice getaway to read a book, go for a stroll and offer refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.
As Chengdu is surrounded by mountains, there are plenty of opportunities to go hiking and camping! Make your way to Leshan to see China’s biggest Buddha; Go to Mount Emei to be surrounded by the cheekiest monkeys in the East!
My students have been very generous and invited me to all sorts of places in and around Chengdu which has made me feel right at home.
“It feels like a dream come true!”
With all the Chinese public holidays, it gives you a chance to be a tourist in these places; my most recent visit was to Zhongjiang, where I stayed and lived like a local!
The only question I have yet to answer is, do I stay in Chengdu longer? Who knows what will happen next?