Chinese language student Louisa from the UK is participating in the Homestay Tutor program while studying at Shanghai Jiaotong University this year. She was previously an English teacher in Beijing but chose to complete a study-homestay program in order to be fully immersed in learning Chinese.
Last year I was an English Teacher at a public school in Beijing and during the year I fell in love with China. Teaching was great, but I wanted to invest more time into learning Mandarin. In a way being in a homestay is like being in a fully-immersive crash course on Chinese culture, which is what I wanted when I was choosing where to live this year in Shanghai.
It is also a super cost-effective way to study in Shanghai! Living here can be expensive, so it is amazing to be able to get accommodation and my food covered for only 8 hours of work a week. As we also get a living allowance, which covers other day-to-day expenses, it is possible to not have to work alongside studying. They can also help you find casual work opportunities if you want to save up some cash for travel!
Tutoring is easier than I thought, a big reason for this is that they give evaluations for the children and also guidance on what you should focus on in your lessons.
As I have taught before, I did have some experience, but I wouldn’t let lack of experience dissuade anyone as they also provide training for those less experienced.
Overall I have found teaching as a tutor really rewarding, as you get to see the kids learn and grow and improve their English. You also get to build relationships with the kids that are really special, we call the children our little brothers/sisters and at times it definitely feels like they are!
I have felt really welcomed by my Chinese family, the mother in my family speaks good English and is always willing to help me. I have found that the people in China are generally really hospitable, so even though there are the usual cross-cultural miscommunications all of it can be solved with a cup of tea and a quick chat.
Since coming to China I have travelled to a bunch of different places within China; including Harbin, Xi’an, Tibet and Chengdu.
All of these places have special memories for me, but Chengdu was particularly special. I have loved pandas since I was a child, so getting to travel and see them happy and in-person was a definite highlight.
I 100% recommend doing a homestay. It is definitely a challenge to relocate to a different country, especially one that is so different from your own culture. But ultimately it is well-worth any hardships, because you learn so much and grow so much as a person once you are here.
If you want to enjoy China you need to be open-minded and willing to try new things. You will enjoy things much more if you allow yourself to enjoy the culture and share your home culture with your Chinese friends.